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The Wondrous Walnut

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Walnuts are a new player in gut health

Walnuts are commonly known for being an abundant source of omega 3 oil; just one 1.5 oz. serving provides the recommended daily value. But that’s not all they have to offer! Research has shown that they are a player in maintaining conditions like heart health, cognitive function, diabetes and some cancers just to name a few. Now, emerging research on the gut microbiome sheds light on how certain foods, like walnuts, may impact gut health.

Let’s back up a bit- what is the microbiome or microbiota and why is it important? In short, the microbiome is made up of trillions of both helpful and harmful microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses with the largest amount found in our intestines. In a healthy person, they co-exist to fuel the immune system, break down toxins and even help with vitamin synthesis. You can help build your microbiota by feeding them indigestible carbohydrates, AKA prebiotics, which are found in foods like garlic, bananas and asparagus.

A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition, suggests that walnuts may play a role in increasing that good bacteria that makes up the microbiome of the gut. Eighteen participants were provided meals for 3 weeks that included 42g of walnuts per day. The intervention was then followed by 3 weeks of meals without walnuts, and calories were the same for both diet periods of the study. Stool and blood samples were collected at the beginning and end of each 3 week period. They found that good bacteria increased by 49-160% during the walnut period while LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) decreased by 7%, adding another advantage to including walnuts in your diet.

While the list of benefits of including nuts in the diet is long, remember, nuts are high in calories due to their healthy oil content, making portion control key. Walnuts have 190 calories per 1 oz. serving which includes 18g fat, 2g fiber, 4g carbohydrate and 4g protein. If snacking on them isn’t your thing, it’s easy to incorporate them as part of dishes with recipes like walnut pesto, or toss on top of fruit for added crunch.

Published July 1, 2018

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