You’ve probably heard that nuts are good for your health. They’re often touted as a high-protein, low-sugar food that’s the perfect addition to any meal and makes a great on-the-go snack.
But which type of nut is the healthiest?
The competition is tough. But according to a new study showing that walnuts have a protective effect against inflammatory bowel disease, walnuts might come in at No. 1, at least as far as gut health is concerned.
The effect of walnuts on ulcerative colitis
The study, which was performed by researchers at UConn Health and Texas A&M University, tested the benefits of walnut supplementation on mice with ulcerative colitis (UC), a type of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by sores in the digestive tract. The animals were given a diet that consisted of about 14% of their daily diet, which would amount to about 20 walnuts a day for an adult human.
Published in the journal Nutrients, the results showed that after two weeks the mice given walnut supplements had less injury to their colons, and the repair process seemed to be accelerated. In fact, the researchers even suspect the walnuts were able to prevent the damage in the first place, which means eating plenty of these tree nuts could potentially be a way to prevent gut health disorders like UC in the first place.
What makes walnuts so gut-health-friendly?
So what, exactly, makes walnuts so darn healthy for our digestive system? For starters, they have the most beneficial combination of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (a 1:4.2 ratio, to be exact). They contain phytochemicals and nutrients that demonstrated abilities to help prevent common disease like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and they’re also a great source of fiber, which has already been shown to improve symptoms in people with inflammatory bowel disease.
According to one of the researchers on the study, it could also have to do with how walnuts are metabolized, specifically as it pertains to the microbes in the gut. As one of the lead authors on the study told UConn Today, “…we are hoping that we’ll be able to determine the active compounds—nutrients, phytochemicals—in walnuts that cause protection.”
Next, the same group of researchers is testing the effects of walnuts on humans with ulcerative colitis. That study will instruct participants to eat 2 ounces of walnuts every day for three weeks before a scheduled colonoscopy.