It’s no secret that your food options impact your health tremendously: Everything from your weight to your quality of sleep can be traced back to the food on your plate. One reason that diet is paramount for good health is because what you eat impacts your gut, or microbiome.
Gut health is inextricably linked to nearly every aspect of your wellness, including brain function, chronic disease risk, weight managementand sleep quality. While an abundance of gut-healthy foods exists, a new study highlights the surprising health benefits of one common snack. Read on to find out what it is, and how eating it can boost your overall health.
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If you’re looking for better ways to manage your weight or sleep better, consider eating a more gut-friendly diet.
The bacteria in your gut (also called your microbiome) is home to over 50 trillion bacteria—some good, some bad. Consuming a plant-based diet rich in fiber, prebiotics, and fermented foods that contain probiotics feeds the “good” bacteria, helping them flourish and contribute to excellent overall health. On the other hand, eating processed foods causes harmful bacteria to proliferate, negatively impacting your health.
Instead of reaching for the chip bag or cookie jar next time you want a snack, do your microbiome a favor and grab a handful of almonds. Kendra WeekleyRD, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutritionlike best life“Almonds are a wonderful food that provides many benefits for different parts of the body. They have healthy fats, protein, fiber, and micronutrients that can benefit the gut and other organs.”
A recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the impact of almonds on the gut microbiome. Researchers found that eating 56 grams of almonds daily (about 46 almonds) can improve gut health by promoting levels of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced through microbial fermentation of dietary fibers in your lower intestinal tract.
Though the study found that almond consumption caused no changes in bifidobacteria abundance (healthy probiotics in your gut), researchers observed that eating more almonds increased butyrate production, which provides several health benefits. For example, this gut-friendly SCFA is anti-inflammatory, protective against colon cancerand strengthens the cells lining your gut—which in turn supports your gut-blood barrier by preventing bacteria and other microbes from entering your blood.
“Butyrate is produced when bacteria in your gut break down fiber in the colon. Butyrate is the main energy source for happy colon cells, so the more butyrate is fed to the colon, the more efficient and effective the colon can work,” explains Weekley .
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If you don’t love almonds on their own, you can still reap the health benefits of these tree nuts by consuming almond butter or using almond flour. However, the serving size recommendations will change depending on which form you choose. In the study, participants consumed two 28 grams servings of almonds daily for four weeks—roughly one handful twice daily. Using this metric, one to two servings of almond butter or almond flour are safe and effective for gut health.
“Almonds, in addition to a well-rounded diet with other nutrient-dense foods, can promote a healthy gut microbiome, which can aid sleep and metabolism,” Weekley states. “Many studies have linked gut health to better sleep. Also, almonds are digested slower and can help someone feel full longer, promoting weight-loss.”
Be cautious not to overdo it on almonds, though. Almonds are calorie dense, due to their high fat content, so eating too many may lead to unintended weight gain.