Nuts and spices often get overlooked as simple flavor enhancers, but modern research is revealing that many of these pantry staples are superfoods packed with health-promoting properties. In particular, walnuts and certain spices stand out for their ability to reduce disease risk and support overall wellness. In this article, we’ll explore the science-backed benefits of walnuts and spices, as well as easy ways to incorporate more of them into your daily diet. Read on to learn how these flavor powerhouses can help you live a longer, healthier life.
The Nutritional Powerhouse: Walnuts
Walnuts are nutrition all-stars, providing a hearty dose of plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, and essential fats. Here are some of the top reasons you should be eating walnuts regularly:
High in Plant Protein
With around 5g of protein per ounce, walnuts have the highest protein content of any nut. They make an excellent plant-based source of protein for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking to cut back on meat. The amino acid profile of walnut protein closely resembles that of meat, making walnuts a complete protein source.
Loaded with Polyphenols
All nuts contain polyphenols, which are antioxidant plant compounds linked to health benefits like reduced inflammation, better gut health, and lower disease risk. However, walnuts contain unique polyphenols called polyamines that are especially good at protecting your cells from aging and boosting longevity. Polyamines help “uncouple” mitochondria, allowing them to function optimally and avoid oxidative damage.
Increase Butyrate-Producing Gut Bacteria
Eating walnuts feeds your gut microbiome, specifically increasing levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and other butyrate-producing bacteria. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that provides fuel for your colon cells and has anti-cancer effects. Feeding your good gut bugs with walnuts allows them to churn out more butyrate to keep your colon healthy.
Protect Against Colon Cancer
In studies with mice, those fed diets containing walnuts had 50% fewer colon tumors compared to mice not eating walnuts. Researchers found that walnuts altered the gut microbiome in a protective way. The polyphenols and healthy fats in walnuts nourish bacteria that ferment fiber into butyrate, which powers colon cells and suppresses cancer growth.
Preserve Brain Function
The PREDIMED study found that people eating a Mediterranean-style diet with 30g of walnuts per day (1 ounce) for 4 years significantly improved their memory and cognition compared to controls. Walnuts’ polyphenols, omega-3s, polyamines and butyrate likely contribute to reducing neuroinflammation and preserving brain health.
The Key is Eating Walnuts Every Day
To get the anti-aging, anti-cancer, and brain-boosting benefits of walnuts, aim to eat around 1⁄2 cup or 1 ounce per day (about 14 halves). Walnut oil doesn’t have the same benefits, since it’s missing the fiber and polyphenols. Try incorporating more walnuts into recipes like salads, oatmeal, pesto, and energy bars. Soaked or sprouted walnuts are good options if you have sensitivity to the tannins. Eat walnuts daily for a longevity boost!
Spice Up Your Health: The Medicinal Powers of Everyday Spices
Transitioning from the nut aisle to the spice rack, let’s explore the science showing that many common spices rival pharmaceutical drugs when it comes to health effects. Here are some of the top spices to incorporate into your cooking routine:
The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a potent anti-inflammatory that can cross the blood-brain barrier and help protect the brain. Turmeric enhances mitochondrial function, energy levels, joint health, and flexibility. For best absorption, always pair turmeric with black pepper. Curry eaters have a 90% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, likely thanks to turmeric and black pepper.
The highest polyphenol content of any spice, cloves protect cells through mitochondrial uncoupling. Clove polyphenols also act as prebiotics, feeding beneficial gut microbes. During medieval times, cloves were one of the most highly prized and expensive spices.
Part of the basil plant family, peppermint leaves are rich in polyphenols. Mint makes a refreshing, antioxidant-packed tea. Try pairing it with cloves and cinnamon for a super-spice elixir.
This uniquely flavored spice contains high levels of polyphenols and makes a perfect addition to tea, marinades, stir fries, and more. It’s also a key ingredient in the traditional Vietnamese soup, pho.
Go for the unsweetened kind to get the full polyphenol power of chocolate. Cocoa teems with flavanols and procyanidins that are heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. A sprinkle of cocoa can make your morning coffee even healthier.
Ginger boasts a long history of medicinal use for soothing nausea. It’s also a mitochondrial uncoupler and anti-inflammatory. However, some people have IgG food sensitivities to ginger that can aggravate bloating and IBS when consumed in excess.
This aromatic spice is antimicrobial and lowers blood sugar. Numerous studies show taking 1 gram of cinnamon daily can reduce fasting blood glucose levels by 10-30% in those with type 2 diabetes. It also enhances the sweetness of foods, so you can use less added sugars.
Skip the chili flakes and go for chili powder made from ground, de-seeded chilis. The capsaicin in hot peppers boosts metabolism, reduces appetite, and supports cardiovascular health. Sprinkle chili powder on proteins, eggs, avocado, sweet potatoes, and more for a metabolism and flavor boost.
So Many Benefits, So Little Time
As you can see, spices and nuts offer a host of scientifically-validated benefits from fighting inflammation to enhancing longevity and brain health. Incorporating more of these superfoods into your diet is among the tastiest ways to optimize wellness. Be adventurous and try out some new recipes featuring theseFunctional medicine doctor and cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry discusses the surprising health benefits of nuts and spices. He reveals that certain nuts and spices contain compounds that can boost longevity, improve gut health, enhance brain function, reduce disease risk factors, and more. Dr. Gundry provides details on the specific nuts and spices that are nutrition powerhouses, such as walnuts, turmeric, cinnamon, and chili powder. He gives recommendations for how to easily incorporate more of these foods into your daily diet and cooking routine. Dr. Gundry aims to educate readers that making small changes like eating more nuts and spices can pay big dividends for supporting overall health and preventing chronic illnesses.