The perfect food — in more ways than one

I’ve long hailed nuts as the perfect snack. They’re rich in healthy fats, high in antioxidants, low in carbs… and a small handful can curb hunger effectively enough to save even the most desperate dieter in a pinch.

But according to new research, nuts — and specifically walnuts — have been hiding yet another trick up their sleeve. And it’s an impressive one, too.

The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry published the results of a recent animal study from researchers at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. This study featured two groups of rodents — one with a diet that contained walnuts, the other walnut-free. Scientists assessed the type and number of bacteria present in the colon of each group, and compared the findings.

And guess what? They found that the rodents that started eating walnuts benefited from significant increases in several strains of good bacteria, like Lactobacillus. And the overall diversity of the bacterial population in this group increased as well. (Which, as you may recall, is probably the most critical factor in the quest for a healthy gut.)

The conclusion? Among its many other talents, walnuts may also be an effective prebiotic — serving as food for bacteria and helping to boost the size and activity of good flora colonies within the gut.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. This conclusion is based on a rodent study — which means that it doesn’t guarantee benefits to actual human patients. And you’re right.

But ultimately, there are a million good reasons to include walnuts in your diet already. (Like a significantly lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome to name a few.) Guaranteed or not, the potential of a healthier gut is just icing on the proverbial cake.