In ancient Persia, it was a food reserved for royalty.
Today, it's a snack people eat millions of tons of annually.
People have enjoyed walnuts since about 7,000 B.C. What's more, they originated in Persia, where the culture prized walnuts so highly that only royalty could eat them.
For thousands of years, people have used walnuts as food and medicine. The ancient Greeks even used walnuts as dye for hair and clothing.
I've long recommended walnuts. They're packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart function, decrease inflammation, and boost mental health. We also know that walnuts contain omega-6 fatty acids, which improve eye health. They contain melatonin, which helps regulate our sleep. And walnuts lower the marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein.
Walnuts are also packed with serotonin – what I call the "molecule of happiness." The neurotransmitter plays a role in regulating a diverse array of the body's functions, including sleep, sex drive, appetite, and mood regulation. Serotonin also creates feelings of calm and happiness.
A study from Spain found that people who ate a one-ounce combination of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds every day had more serotonin than people who did not.
Last month, we saw a study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology about how nuts help your heart. Researchers looked at folks who ate nuts over the course of 32 years. Those who ate a one-ounce serving of nuts five times a week had a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Now, this is an "association" study. In other words, it doesn't claim a cause-and-effect relationship... only that people who eat a lot of nuts also have fewer incidents of heart disease. But we have reason to believe there's an underlying cause. The type of fat in nuts is unsaturated, which we've mentioned before is the healthy type of fat. Nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which lower blood pressure, improve heart function, and reduce inflammation.
If all that isn't enough to start snacking on nuts, there's even more evidence out last week about their benefits...
A new study out of the University of Illinois looked at walnuts and our gut. The researchers wanted to know how the nutrient-rich nuts affected our gut microbiota. Remember, our gut microbiota means the trillions of bacteria living within our intestines.
The study took two groups of volunteers and fed one group walnuts over two separate, three-week-long periods. They saw that those who ate walnuts had corresponding increases in three types of gut bacteria.
Animal studies show that one of those bacteria, Faecalibacterium, reduces inflammation. It also appears to regulate insulin.
What's more, these bacteria that increased during the study all produce the same chemical: butyrate. Butyrate improves colon health.
The study also found that walnut eaters had lower levels of secondary bile acids. These are products of digestion, but too many damage our guts. In fact, secondary bile acids contribute to colon cancer.
Keeping these bile acids low and encouraging growth of beneficial bacteria could be the key to many of the health benefits we see in walnuts.
If you want to help your heart and your colon, do what I do... Eat a couple handfuls of nuts daily.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: An orchestra arrangement for a bison.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 10, 2018