Walnuts and Gut Health

I attended a food and nutrition conference earlier this year including a session sponsored by California Walnuts, but the following thoughts and opinions are my own based on recent research. 

Could eating walnuts increase the good bacteria in your gut? According to a recent study conducted at the University of Illinois, it may be worth adding more walnuts to your diet. The study was partly funded by the California Walnuts Commission, but as with any research, the funding does not determine the outcome. It’s the data that we want to evaluate. Even though this was a small study, preliminary research is showing a healthy connection with walnuts to a healthy gut.

All high fiber foods have a positive impact on the gut microbiome. This study found that consuming walnuts correlated to a higher relative abundance of three bacteria: FaecalibacteriumRoseburia, and Clostridium.

Faecalibacterium is of particular interest because it has been shown to reduce inflammation in animals, and animals with high amounts of this bacteria are also more insulin sensitive.

Also to note is the effect walnuts had on lowering LDL, or low density lipoproteins (your “bad cholesterol”). High LDL is related to heart disease risk. The higher the number the higher the risk. This is all good news for those with high blood pressure, since insulin resistance is a risk for diabetes, and increases heart disease risk. We absolutely know that walnuts are high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Enjoy More Walnuts

Adding a handful of walnuts to your diet each day is pretty easy (or as often as you can) and will not only add fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein to your diet, but may also help reduce inflammation thereby reducing your disease risk. Even though diet may not be the sole treatment for diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes, a healthy diet reduces your overall risk, and helps you live better (and likely longer). It may also help you require less medication.

Nuts are to be included in the blood-pressure-lowering DASH Diet, so try these easy ways to add walnuts to your meals:

  • Add chopped walnuts with fruit to your oatmeal
  • Add chopped walnuts to your tossed salads
  • Keep a small bag of walnuts in your bag or in the car for snacktime
  • Add a walnuts to a sheet pan of cubed vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes
  • Treats should be eaten in small portions, occasionally, but you can add chopped walnuts to homemade chocolate chip cookies, or top each brownie square with a beautiful walnut half.
  • Add walnuts to basil instead of pine nuts for a pesto recipe
  • My co-author Cindy Kleckner’s Penne with Zucchini Yogurt Sauce and Walnuts is easy to make, and delicious!
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