Walnuts contain a number of potentially neuroprotective compounds like vitamin E, folate, melatonin, several antioxidative polyphenols and significant amounts of n-3 α-linolenic fatty acid. The present study sought to determine the effect of walnuts on verbal and non-verbal reasoning, memory and mood. A total of sixty-four college students were randomly assigned to two treatment sequences in a crossover fashion: walnuts–placebo or placebo–walnuts. Baseline data were collected for non-verbal reasoning, verbal reasoning, memory and mood states. Data were collected again after 8 weeks of intervention. After 6 weeks of washout, the intervention groups followed the diets in reverse order. Data were collected once more at the end of the 8-week intervention period. No significant increases were detected for mood, non-verbal reasoning or memory on the walnut-supplemented diet. However, inferential verbal reasoning increased significantly by 11·2 %, indicating a medium effect size (P = 0·009; d = 0·567). In young, healthy, normal adults, walnuts do not appear to improve memory, mood or non-verbal reasoning abilities. However, walnuts may have the ability to increase inferential reasoning.