Walnuts may be Good for the Gut and Help Promote Heart Health

Katie Bohn wrote . . . . . . . . .

Walnuts may not just be a tasty snack, they may also promote good-for-your-gut bacteria. New research suggests that these “good” bacteria could be contributing to the heart-health benefits of walnuts.

In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers found that eating walnuts daily as part of a healthy diet was associated with increases in certain bacteria that can help promote health. Additionally, those changes in gut bacteria were associated with improvements in some risk factors for heart disease.

Kristina Petersen, assistant research professor at Penn State, said the study — recently published in The Journal of Nutrition — suggests walnuts may be a heart- and gut-healthy snack.

“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthy snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” Petersen said. “Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating two to three ounces of walnuts a day as part of a healthy diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Previous research has shown that walnuts, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, may have heart-healthy benefits. For example, previous work demonstrated that eating whole walnuts daily lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

According to the researchers, other research has found that changes to the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract — also known as the gut microbiome — may help explain the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts.

“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State. “So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 42 participants with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65. Before the study began, participants were placed on an average American diet for two weeks.

After this “run-in” diet, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet. The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.

In all three diets, walnuts or vegetable oils replaced saturated fat, and all participants followed each diet for six weeks with a break between diet periods.

To analyze the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, the researchers collected fecal samples 72 hours before the participants finished the run-in diet and each of the three study diet periods.

“The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past,” Petersen said. “One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining. We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus.”

The researchers also found that after the walnut diet, there were significant associations between changes in gut bacteria and risk factors for heart disease. Eubacterium eligens was inversely associated with changes in several different measures of blood pressure, suggesting that greater numbers of Eubacterium eligens was associated with greater reductions in those risk factors.

Additionally, greater numbers of Lachnospiraceae were associated with greater reductions in blood pressure, total cholesterol, and non-HDL cholesterol. There were no significant correlations between enriched bacteria and heart-disease risk factors after the other two diets.

Regina Lamendella, associate professor of biology at Juniata College, said the findings are an example of how people can feed the gut microbiome in a positive way.

“Foods like whole walnuts provide a diverse array of substrates — like fatty acids, fiber and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on,” Lamendella said. “In turn, this can help generate beneficial metabolites and other products for our bodies.”

Kris-Etherton added that future research can continue to investigate how walnuts affect the microbiome and other elements of health.

“The findings add to what we know about the health benefits of walnuts, this time moving toward their effects on gut health,” Kris-Etherton said. “The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels.”

Source: The Pennsylvania State University

Nutrition Scientist’s Top Ten Christmas Foods

The festive season is just around the corner and the British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) team of nutrition scientists has compiled its top ten Christmas foods to help the nation enjoy a delicious variety of nutritious seasonal fare.

The top ten highlights a range of seasonal, nutrient-rich foods that are synonymous with Christmas time and BNF also provides suggestions for new ways to prepare some old favourites.

Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation, comments: “The festive season is filled with a whole range of delicious foods, many of which are also nutrient rich and can make a great contribution to the diet. From vitamin C in clementines and fibre in nuts and dried fruit, to omega 3 fats in salmon and B vitamins in turkey. Many of these nutritious, festive foods are also very versatile, making it easy incorporate the flavours of Christmas into your cooking this holiday season.”

The BNF’s top ten Christmas foods for 2019

Brussels sprouts: Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin C and folate, and also provide fibre, which is needed to keep the gut healthy. Although many people will have bad memories of over-boiled sprouts, there are plenty of delicious ways to prepare them – the BNF suggests par boiling and then roasting them with flavourful ingredients such as: chestnuts and nutmeg; pecan and dried cranberries; pistachios and pomegranate seeds; hazelnuts and orange zest; or garlic, chilli and lemon zest and juice.

Carrots: Carrots provide beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A – important for normal vision and a healthy immune system. They can be prepared in lots of different ways – roasted with herbs like rosemary and thyme, grated in salads, mashed with cumin – also delicious steamed or serve raw with hummus for a vegan Christmas party dip.

Chestnuts: The perfect accompaniment to your Brussels sprouts, chestnuts are in season and are delicious added to stuffing, soups and sauces. Naturally low in saturated fat, chestnuts contain fibre and provide potassium which can contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure.

Clementines, satsumas and tangerines: Easy to eat at home and on the go, these are all rich in vitamin C, which is important for supporting the immune system, helping to keep you well during the cold months. A tasty contribution to your 5 A DAY – and the perfect addition to Christmas stockings!

Cranberries: Fresh or frozen cranberries are packed with vitamin C but because they are sharp, cranberry products can have a lot of added sugar. Try making your own cranberry sauce so that you can use less sugar, or make a mocktail with no-added-sugar cranberry drink mixed with orange juice.

Dates and figs: Another fruity festive favourite, dried figs and dates can be added to cereal or porridge for a warming winter breakfast. With their versatile flavour, figs can be incorporated into a variety of sweet and savoury dishes – try fresh or dried figs in salads or with cheese. Dried figs provide potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium and can also count towards your 5 A DAY – three dates or two dried figs count as one portion.

Nuts and nut roast: Whether you are vegetarian or just cutting back on your meat-intake, a nut roast is a delicious centre-piece or addition to the Christmas dinner table, providing a range of nutrients including potassium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, folate and vitamin E. For those catering for a variety of dietary requirements, there are plenty of gluten-free and vegan nut roast recipes available too. Nuts are also a source of monounsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for heart health and a small portion of unsalted nuts is a great healthy snack.

Roast potatoes and parsnips: Christmas isn’t Christmas without some roasties! In the UK, potatoes make a good contribution to potassium and vitamin C intakes and parsnips are also an excellent source of fibre, manganese and folic acid. Opt for a mixture of roasted potatoes, parsnips and other vegetables for greater variety. The BNF also suggests leaving the skins on for more fibre, and advises roasting using plant-based oils like rapeseed oil (often labelled as vegetable oil).

Salmon: Salmon is rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health. It is recommended to include a portion of oily fish in the diet each week, but the average person has less than half a portion. Christmas is the perfect time to boost your intake – canned salmon still counts as an oily fish – you could try mixing it with reduced fat cream cheese, lemon and pepper as a dip or mashing up with leftover potatoes and some herbs to make fishcakes. If your preference is smoked salmon, be aware that this can be high in salt and so should be consumed in moderation. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, walnuts and flax seeds are good sources of the shorter-chain plant omega-3s and can be easily added to porridge or baked into many of your festive dishes.

Turkey: Traditional turkey without the skin is a lean source of protein and is also a source of B vitamins (vitamins B6 and B12) which help to support a healthy immune system. Turkey doesn’t have to be only for the big day (or using up the leftovers) – it’s also great for burgers, Bolognese or stir fries.

Source: British Nutrition Foundation

European Startup Launches “World’s First Nutritionally Complete” Vegan Burger

Eurpean startup Heaven Labs, the company behind the success of the nutritional powder Mana, has just announced what they have described as the world’s first complete-nutrition, plant-based alternative beef burger.

The Mana Burger, according to Heaven Labs, is the first nutritionally complete burger in the world, and is made of proteins from peas, rice, hemp, mung beans, and algae. It is high in fiber, rich in omega-3 DHA and EPA fatty acids, and delivers a 22-g mix of 5 different oils: algae oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil. It contains 14 vitamins and 24 minerals, natural dyes from beetroot, red pepper, and caramel, and is both low-carb and low-sodium.

We asked the company about the USP of the new burger. Founder Jakub Krejcik said: “The ManaBurger is the first nutritionally complete plant burger in the world. This means that it contains the ideal balance of all nutrients, including protein, fat, fibre, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. It is composed exclusively of lab-tested ingredients and developed according to a unique, scientific process.

“And if that’s not enough, it tastes, smells, and “feels” like real beef. At our recent product launch, over 250 journalists, fans, and influencers tried it, and they all gave rave reviews. Many even said that it was the best plant burger they’ve ever eaten. We therefore believe that we have a one-up on the competition, not just in terms of nutrition, but taste. In addition, the burger is allergen-free, so it can be enjoyed by almost anyone.”

When asked why they are describing it as nutritionally complete, Krejcik answered: “We claim that the burger is nutritionally complete based on its nutritional composition (found on our website), laboratory analyses of all our raw materials in state-certified laboratories, and clinical studies of the EFSA, which recommends daily values for consumption of individual nutrients.

“By EFSA standards, the burger offers 159 health benefits. Most manufacturers do not claim these benefits because they do not have such detailed knowledge of the composition of their products.”

Created in 2014 by Jakub Krejcik out of his garage with little startup capital and no assistance from investors. Mana says that in recent years the company has triggered a shift in the way people think about eating, selling 300 tons of food across the European Union each month. To date, it has sold more than 11 million meals worldwide.

Source: Vegconomist

Pecan Is a Healthy Holiday Treat

Want a holiday snack that’s packed with nutrition? Pick up some pecans.

Nuts are considered heart-healthy. They’re part of the blood pressure-lowering DASH diet and full of “good” fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, said Ginny Ives, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.

Pecans are a standout nut, though.

“They actually have the most fiber of any other nut,” Ives said, with about 3 grams per 1-ounce serving, “and they’re also the lowest in carbs.” They’re a good source of thiamin, zinc, and the trace minerals copper and manganese.

“They also contain micronutrients known as phytonutrients,” which have been shown to reduce inflammation, she said.

Pecans, as well as nuts in general, can help in weight maintenance, Ives said. They’re high in fat, which helps people feel full. Eating them as a snack or adding some to a salad or cereal “can help our food to stick with us a little longer and help us to feel more satisfied, so we don’t overeat.”

An ounce of pecans – 19 pecan halves – has 196 calories, so don’t go overboard. Ives recommends a single 1-ounce serving a day and said they’re great toasted. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees, occasionally shaking the pan. You can store pecans for up to two years in the freezer.

Source: American Heart Association

Nutrition Experts Forecast 2020 will Usher in the Ultimate Food Revolution

Move over highly processed foods and empty calorie carbs and make room for plant-based protein and nutrition-packed grains. These are just some of the food items that registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) predict consumers will be seeking out as we enter the next decade of the 21st century. We’ll likely be seeing more of a healthy revolution in 2020 and beyond, according to the annual Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey. With 1,259 RDNs responding, the “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey reveals the hottest food and nutrition trends to look for in 2020 – including the increasingly-popular “keto” diet, fermented foods, non-dairy milks, and plant proteins – to name a few. This year green tea pushes out coconut products from the top 10 superfoods list, while a “healthy” label holds strong as a leading consumer purchase driver, surpassing cost and taste, yet again. All the data share a similar theme: a clean-label and healthy are in – highly-processed and complex ingredients are out.

Top 10 Superfoods for 2020

Powerhouse foods that provide desirable benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation bookend this year’s top 10 list, with fermented foods – like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi and miso – at the #1 spot and flavonoid-rich green tea at #10. It’s no surprise, as consumers make gut health and reducing inflammation a priority in their quest for health and wellness. Non-dairy milks move up on the list to the #8 spot, underscoring the growing popularity of plant-based swaps.

Here’s the full list of superfood predictions for 2020:

  1. Fermented foods, like yogurt & kefir
  2. Avocado
  3. Seeds
  4. Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries
  5. Ancient grains
  6. Blueberries
  7. Nuts
  8. Non-dairy milks
  9. Beets
  10. Green Tea

Top 10 Consumer Purchase Drivers

The survey results reveal consistency in the millennial-driven search for foods that fit their health and wellness lifestyles. When asked what motivates consumer food purchase decision, the findings show what food manufacturers should focus on to win these customers. Convenience, cost and taste have always been key, but for two years in a row now, “healthy” is second only to convenience, and tops cost and taste.

Here’s a look at the list of top 10 purchase drivers for 2020:

  1. Convenience
  2. Healthy
  3. Cost
  4. Taste
  5. Natural
  6. Clean-Label
  7. Organic
  8. Gluten Free
  9. Non-GMO
  10. Dairy free

“The 2020 survey results send a clear and consistent message. Consumers want to live healthier lives,” says Louise Pollock, President of Pollock Communications. “They have access to an incredible amount of health information, and they view food as a way to meet their health and wellness goals. Consumers are taking control of their health in ways they never did before, forcing the food industry to evolve and food companies to innovate in response to consumer demand.”

Keto is King – Deprivation Over Decadence

With the ketogenic (keto) diet reigning at the #1 spot again in 2020, this diet trend looks like it’s here to stay, followed by intermittent fasting and clean eating. While these diet trends may not be endorsed by all RDNs, it’s clear that consumers have no issue with elimination diets – scrapping foods they believe won’t help them meet their health, wellness and weight loss goals. Moderation is making way for deprivation and consumers have never felt better about it. They realize that what they eat affects how they feel. RDNs agree that consumers will be significantly reducing carbohydrates, grains and sugar in favor of vegetables, fat and meat in the coming year.

Top 5 Nutrition Recommendations from RDNs

According to the survey, celebrities, friends/family, blogs and social media are still the top sources of nutrition misinformation for consumers. Instead, consumers should follow the experts’ advice! RDNs give these five health and wellness eating tips for 2020:

  1. Eat more servings of vegetables per day
  2. Increase fiber intake
  3. Limit highly processed foods or fast foods
  4. Limit foods with “added sugars”
  5. Choose non-caloric drinks, like unsweetened tea and coffee

Source: Pollock Communications