Scientists crack the source of the health benefits of walnuts: It’s all in the gut (recipes included)
12/09/2020 / By Leslie Locklear / Comments
Scientists crack the source of the health benefits of walnuts: It’s all in the gut (recipes included)

Walnuts are among the most nutrient-dense among the world’s nuts, with researchers linking these little nuggets to several important health benefits such as strengthening our cardiovascular systems, supporting our immunity and reducing our risk of developing certain cancers.

As it turns out, this important trait is due to the nuts’ effects on the gut microbiome or the collection of friendly, beneficial bacteria that live within the gastrointestinal tract. This is because consuming walnuts not only provided the gut microbiota with food in the form of fiber, but it also reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels in adults.

The study’s 18 participants were made to consume diets that had a varied walnut content — one without walnuts and one with daily rations of about a handful of the nuts — for two, three-week-long periods.

Researchers found that walnut consumption resulted in a higher relative abundance of three strains of bacteria, namely Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Clostridium. These microbes are considered to be of interest mainly because they have the ability to produce butyrate, a compound that has been linked to optimal gut health.

“We found that when you consume walnuts it increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health. So the interaction of walnuts with the microbiome is helping to produce some of those health effects,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Butyrate has the ability to help reduce inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity, leading to a growing interest in Faecalibacterium as a potential probiotic bacteria.

Aside from an increase in butyrate, the researchers also found that walnut consumption led to reductions in secondary bile acids which have been linked to higher rates of colorectal cancer and cell damage within the GI tract — a one-two punch for gut health if you will.

But the research team noted that there is still a need for additional research on the matter, especially when it comes to the effect that metabolites have on your overall health.

Aside from helping to influence optimal gut health, walnuts are also known for the following health benefits:

Walnuts can help prevent oxidative damage

They may be small but walnuts can actually help shield the body from the onslaught of dangerous free radicals.

This is because walnuts are actually packed full of antioxidants such as vitamin E, melatonin and polyphenols — all of which have been linked to health benefits including a strong immune system, optimal eyesight and the prevention of some chronic diseases.

Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids

Getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids, as noted by experts, is important when it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease.

While predominantly found in animal sources such as fatty fish, Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in plants such as — you guessed it — walnuts.

According to studies, the Omega-3 fatty acid in walnuts, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is capable of reducing your risk of developing — and then dying — from heart disease by 10 percent.

Walnuts can help support sensible and healthy weight management goals

Despite being one of the most calorie-dense foods on the planet, did you know that the human body does not absorb all of the calories in walnuts? This, researchers say, can help explain why those who often eat these tasty little nuts often have a much healthier weight.

In addition, walnuts contain large amounts of dietary fiber, which can help quell feelings of hunger in individuals, thereby making it an important part of diets geared toward healthy weight management.

Walnuts can help manage — and prevent — Type 2 diabetes

Aside from helping control your weight, walnuts can also help control your blood sugar levels — an effect that may be linked to the number of vitamins, minerals, phytosterols and antioxidants present in them. This is important, since having stable blood sugar levels and a healthy weight, according to experts, can help stave off the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Walnuts support optimal brain function

Looking for brain food? Walnuts are known to contain nutrients that support good brain function such as polyunsaturated fat, polyphenols and vitamin E.

This means that eating even just a handful of walnuts a day can lead to better brain function, including faster processing speed, more mental flexibility and better memory.

Walnuts can help promote optimal reproductive function

This one’s for the gentlemen: did you know that eating walnuts regularly can help address issues in the bedroom?

This is according to a study, which found that the addition of nuts into a man’s diet for three months is enough to trigger improvements in his sexual and reproductive well-being, such as improvements in sperm shape, vitality and mobility.

How can I add more walnuts to my diet?

Walnuts, aside from being very delicious, are also very versatile. In fact, they can be added to almost any dish, whether it be sweet or savory. Because of this, they are incredibly easy to add to your diet.

Fancy a quick yet filling breakfast? Go blitz up a smoothie and top it with a handful of walnuts. Out for a long hike? Grab a handful of walnuts, add some dried organic fruit and you now have a bag of DIY trail mix that’s much healthier than the ones in most “health food” stores.

Thus said, here are some recipes that you can try if you want to add more of this wonderful nut to your diet:

Coffee-Walnut Smoothie

Smoothies are some of the best ways to add this wonderful nut to your diet. After all, they are not only easy to make, but they are also nutrient-packed and delicious — just like this recipe we adapted from Simmer To Slimmer.


  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • Manuka honey, to taste OR 6-7 pitted dates
  • ½ cup organic walnuts
  • 1 medium-sized organic banana, frozen
  • 1 espresso shot
  • 1 tablespoon organic pea protein powder
  • 3 teaspoons organic cocoa mix


  1. Add the milk and all the other ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until well-combined.
  3. Taste the smoothie and adjust as necessary.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

NOTE: If using the dates as sweetener, soak the dates in milk for about an hour before preparation, or overnight, if possible.

Meat-free Spaghetti Bolognese

We all know that nuts can be added to savory dishes but did you know that nuts can be used to mimic meats? That is the case with this lovely Bolognese sauce from One Green Planet, which mixes the delectable taste of walnuts with the umami goodness of organic mushrooms.


  • ½ cup organic walnuts
  • 2 yellow organic onions
  • 1 stem organic celery
  • 1 organic carrot
  • 1 organic red chili
  • 3 organic garlic cloves
  • 2 stalks fresh thyme
  • 2 stalks fresh oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon organic tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed organic tomatoes
  • 10.5 ounces organic mushrooms, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegan Parmesan, for topping
  • Pasta of choice, for serving


  1. Start by roasting the walnuts in a dry pan over low heat until they get some color.
  2. While waiting for the nuts to finish roasting, chop the onion, celery, carrot, chili and garlic into fine pieces.
  3. Set the walnuts aside to cool after toasting, then grind until reduced to a chunky powder.
  4. Fry the onion, walnuts, celery, mushrooms and carrot in a saucepan in a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil.
  5. Once the onions become translucent, add the aromatics: chili, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and oregano. Let these fry for a few seconds before adding the tomato purée. Add the apple cider vinegar once the puree turns into a deep red color.
  6. Stir around in the bottom of the pot to bring forth the flavors. Then, add the crushed tomatoes and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  7. Cook the pasta according to package directions while the sauce is simmering.
  8. Once cooked, drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Top with the Bolognese sauce and vegan cheese.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

Delicious and nutritious, walnuts are antioxidant-rich morsels you and your family should be eating more of to experience their impressive health benefits. Add them to your favorite dishes or snack on them on their own — the choice is all yours.

Sources: 1 1 2 2 3

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