It’s well known and long-established that walnuts can help improve heart health.
Walnuts contain alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps keep the heart pumping normally and may help prevent blood clots, per WebMD.
Now, a new study has found that walnuts’ heart health benefits may be linked to better gut health.
Researchers from Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, wanted to determine whether the heart benefits of walnuts stemmed from changes in the gut microbiome.
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The researchers conducted genetic testing of 42 participants’ gut microbes.
They compared a group that ate one cup of walnuts per day to others who did not eat walnuts.
The people who ate walnuts had higher levels of Gordonibacter, a bacterium that helps the body absorb plant compounds.
Walnut eaters also showed a higher level of the amino acid L-homoarginine, which promotes heart health.
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome includes the billions of bacteria and microorganisms that are found in the intestines.
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The National Institutes of Health noted that “the gut microbiome plays an important role in human health and influences the development of chronic diseases, ranging from metabolic disease to gastrointestinal disorders and colorectal cancer.”
“When the gut health is poor, the health of the entire body may be affected.”
Some 70% to 80% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut, as the NIH stated.
“When gut health is poor, the health of the entire body may be impacted,” Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, a New Jersey-based dietitian with a focus on diabetes and nutrition, told Fox News Digital.
“Inflammation in the gut can impact everything from mood to chronic disease risk, including the risk of heart disease,” she went on.
“For these reasons, cooling inflammation in the gut and promoting a healthy gut microbiome can help reduce future disease risk, including the risk of heart disease.”
Walnuts as a healthy snack
Palinski-Wade is a big proponent of walnuts as part of a healthy diet.
“Walnuts are rich in healthy fats along with plant-based protein and fiber, providing a trio of nutrients that can help you feel full longer,” she told Fox News Digital.
“Walnuts are also an easy grab-and-go snack, as they are ready to eat, shelf-stable, and provide adequate energy in a small portion.”
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Palinksi-Wade said she often recommends walnuts to her clients as a standalone snack or as an addition to yogurt, pasta or trail mixes.
Additionally, walnuts can be baked into muffins, blended into smoothies or sprinkled into salads.
“One of the greatest benefits of walnuts has been shown when their healthy fats are used to replace saturated fats in the diet,” she said.
“Some examples include using walnut butter as a spread or dip in replacement of cream-based spreads and dips, sprinkling walnuts on salad in replacement of bacon bits or cheese, or incorporating chopped walnuts into dishes to provide a source of plant-based protein while reducing high-fat animal proteins,” she continued.
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However, those following a calorie-restricted meal plan should know that walnuts contain 523 calories per one-cup serving.
“Although health benefits have been observed when consuming one cup of walnuts per day, this serving size may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those on calorie-restricted meal plans,” said Palinksi-Wade.
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She said that “walnuts are still beneficial to health in a daily one-ounce serving (about 14 halves of a walnut), which can make it easier to fit into most meal plans.”
To read more pieces in Fox News Digital’s “Be Well” series, click here.