It is 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 the heart pump normally and may help prevent blood clots, according to WebMD.
Now, a new study has found that walnuts’ heart-healthy 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 stem from changes in the gut microbiome.
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The researchers conducted a genetic study of the gut microbes of 42 participants.
They compared a group that ate one cup of walnuts a day with others who did not eat walnuts.
People who eat walnuts have higher levels of Gordonibacter, a bacteria that helps the body absorb plant compounds.
Eating walnuts also shows higher levels 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 reside in the gut.
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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 gut health is poor, the health of the whole body can be affected.”
About 70% to 80% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut, according to the NIH.
“When gut health is poor, the health of the entire body can be affected,” Erin Palinsky-Wade, RD, a Based in New Jersey nutritionist with a focus on diabetes and nutrition, told Fox News Digital.
“Inflammation in the gut can affect everything from mood to the risk of chronic disease, including the risk of heart disease,” she continued.
“For these reasons, cooling inflammation in the gut and promoting a healthy gut microbiome may help reduce future risk of disease, including the risk of heart disease.”
Nuts as a healthy snack
Palinski-Wade is a big supporter of walnuts like 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 fuller longer,” she told Fox News Digital.
“Walnuts are also an easy snack because they are ready to eat, 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 snack on their own or as an addition to yogurt, pasta or mixes.
Additionally, walnuts can be baked into muffins, blended into smoothies, or sprinkled on salads.
“One of the biggest benefits of walnuts is 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 instead of a cream-based spread and dip, sprinkling walnuts on a salad as a substitute for bacon bits or cheese, or incorporating chopped walnuts into dishes to provide a source of plant-based protein while cutting back on high-fat animal proteins,” she continued.
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However, those following a calorie-restricted eating plan should know that walnuts contain 523 calories per one-cup serving.
“Although health benefits have been observed with one cup of walnuts per day, this serving size may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those on calorie-restricted meal plans,” Palinksi-Wade said.
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She said, “Walnuts are still good for health in a daily one-ounce serving (about 14 walnut halves), which can be easier to fit into most meal plans.”
To read more parts of Fox News Digital’s Be Well series, Press here.