Walnuts for Stress!

Science Fields

Getting into your dream school is amazing but being a full-time student is not easy. Tests, grades, and academic expectations put a lot of pressure on students, pushing them beyond their limits. 

According to the World Health Organization, at least 75 percent of mental health disorders affect people under the age of 24 years. This means that most undergraduates are at risk for developing mental health problems if they do not have the resources to cope with them. 

Thankfully a new study offers a fast and simple way to keep stress at bay while navigating through academic challenges. The study which is published in the journal Nutrients suggests that eating walnuts may protect against the harmful effects that stress has on the gut microbiota. 

For this study, doctorate student Mauritz Herselman and Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya from the University of South Australia worked with 80 undergraduate students. The researchers clinically assessed students’ stress levels in three intervals: 1) At the beginning of a 13-week university semester 2) During the exams and 3) Two weeks after the exams.

The students in the treatment group were given pre-portioned walnuts (approximately 56 grams) to consume every day for a total of 16 weeks – for the duration of the three intervals. Those in the control group were asked not to eat any type of nut or fatty fish while the experiment was underway. 

While academic stress seemed to have a negative impact on students’ self-reported mood and mental health, eating walnuts curbed these unpleasant effects. Moreover, the study findings show that students in the control group reported an increase in stress and depression symptoms as they got closer to taking their exams whereas those in the treatment group did not. 

Students who crunched away their stress with a handful of these “brain nuts,” also slept better in the long term. According to the researchers, this may be due to the fact that walnuts are a natural source of melatonin which is a sleep-inducing hormone. 

The beneficial effects of walnuts were only observed in female students however you may still want to try incorporating this brain food into your diet regardless. 


  • 1. Herselman, M. F., Bailey, S., Deo, P., Zhou, X.-F., Gunn, K. M., & Bobrovskaya, L. (2022). The Effects of Walnuts and Academic Stress on Mental Health, General Well-Being and the Gut Microbiota in a Sample of University Students: A Randomised Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 14(22), 4776. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu14224776