Food of the Month: Cashews

Throughout 2018 I am going to highlight a food or product that helps us fuel our brain and body. 

If you don’t know about The World’s Healthiest Foods website, I love it. George Meteljan has done a great job describing the benefits of individual foods and why they are healthy for us. He mostly focuses on physical health. I will add to this and describe why the food also promotes good mental health. 

Cashews 

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If you enjoy cashews, a handful of them as a midday snack is a great fuel to stabilize the brain before you go home to the kids. First, it's a good protein source with almost 8 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. It's also loaded with good (unsaturated) fats which not only help your heart but also help the myelin sheath of your brain. The big bonus to cashews is that they are high in copper and magnesium. I am often thinking about whether an individual is getting the right nutrients to synthesize dopamine and serotonin and both of these minerals are needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters for our brain. 

Magnesium helps calm, and thus organizes nerve activity; it can help with depression, anxiety and sleep. Copper helps convert dopamine to norepinephrine and serotonin into melatonin. In my office, I check for copper deficiency. People with overt copper deficiency will be able organize chaos and complete tasks (dopamine characteristics), but they don’t get any pleasure out of doing it (low level of norepinephrine). Sometimes they also have problems sleeping.

Since high levels of copper can cause problems for both physical and mental health, if I am going to supplement I do it carefully. I would not recommend supplementing copper without lab work. However, increasing copper through food sources is a different story. When we eat whole foods and have a diversity of foods in our diets, it's challenging to overdose on nutrients. If you don’t like cashews, feel free to eat other nuts as a snack. All of them have a healthier profile than the sugar-carb treats that are so easily shared at work. 

Do you have favorite foods, or foods or products that you're curious about? Post a comment below to let me know what you're interested in learning more about.