In a new study, researchers found walnuts may not just be a tasty snack, they may also promote good-for-your-gut bacteria.
These “good” bacteria could be contributing to the heart-health benefits of walnuts.
The research was conducted by a team at Penn State.
Previous research has shown that walnuts when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, may have heart-healthy benefits.
For example, previous work demonstrated that eating whole walnuts daily lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Other research has found that changes to the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract—also known as the gut microbiome—may help explain the heart benefits of walnuts.
In the study, the researchers recruited 42 people with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65.
They found that eating walnuts daily as part of a healthy diet was linked to increases in certain bacteria that can help promote health.
Additionally, those changes in gut bacteria were associated with improvements in some risk factors for heart disease.
The findings suggest walnuts may be a heart- and gut-healthy snack.
The team says walnuts enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been linked to health benefits in the past. There were big associations between changes in gut bacteria and risk factors for heart disease.
They say that replacing a usual snack—especially if it’s an unhealthy snack—with walnuts is a small change people can make to improve their diet.
Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health.
Eating two to three ounces of walnuts a day as part of a healthy diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
One author of the study is Kristina Petersen, an assistant research professor at Penn State.
The study is published in The Journal of Nutrition.
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