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Are Nuts Good for Losing Weight?

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You’ve been working hard in the gym and are starting to dial in on your diet. You’re wanting to know which foods you should include in your diet and which ones to stop eating.

When on a healthy diet, many people still shun nuts for fear that they will promote weight gain. Whilst they are high in fat there’s evidence to suggest that this nutrient dense food can improve health and keep you fuller for longer.

Can you add nuts to your diet and still lose weight? In this article we’ll take a look at what the research says.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Nutritional benefits
  • How nuts can improve health
  • The research on nuts and weight loss
  • How to incorporate nuts into your diet

The Health Benefits of Nuts

In this article we’re not really talking about any specific nut – were talking about all of them. Almonds, walnuts, cashews – these are classed as tree nuts. Although strictly a legume we’re also including peanuts too. You’re spoiled for choice really.

Each nut has its own nutrition profile, but generally you can expect a rich source of fats and fiber. Dependent on the type of nut, you can expect to find between 46% and 76% fats [1]. Most of this is classed as mono-unsaturated fat (MUFA) which includes oleic and palmitoleic acid, as well as omega 3 fats.

Nuts provide a rich source of protein, in particular the amino acid arginine which is important in regulating vascular health [2].

On top of this, they are a good source of polyphenol antioxidants and a range of minerals such as magnesium, zinc and manganese. This healthy mineral content classes the food as ‘optimal’ [1].

Frequent consumption has been found to reduce the rate of coronary artery disease [3]. It can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes [4]. The bioactive compounds have been found to hold anti-inflammatory properties that help regulate cholesterol as well as types of cancers.

Nuts have also been shown to increase feelings of fullness that reduce subsequent food intake. This could be useful in reducing body weight in the obese. Hull et al [5] found that when a group of women were given a mid-morning snack of almonds they ate less at lunch.

Contrary to expectations, evidence from both studies and clinical trials suggests that regular consumption of this food neither contributes to obesity nor increases health risk.

Does this mean then that this food could help you lose weight? Let’s take a look. 


nuts-for-health

Nuts Can Boost Weight Loss

A study in Obesity [6] supported the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a heart-healthy diet and also reduced weight gain.

In one study, a sample of nearly 9000 Mediterranean men and women had their diet followed over a two-year period.

Nearly 1000 people gained over 5kg in weight. But those that ate nuts 2 or 3 times per week were much less likely to gain weight. Those that didn’t eat nuts were found to gain 424g more than nut eaters.

Another study, this time from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [3], found that regular nut consumption could assist with weight loss. In their report, an inverse association between frequency of nut consumption and body mass index was suggested – with those that ate more of the food having an overall lower body mass. 

One of the largest studies in this field of research found a small but significant inverse relationship between weight gain and nut consumption [7]. Those that ate four or more servings per week were much less likely to add weight over a 6-year period.

It appears that this food not only reduces weight gain – it may even promote weight loss too. In a recent review of over 30 clinical trials, those that added nuts to their diet lost not only an inch from their waists but an extra 1.4 pounds too. It might only be a small amount but it all adds up [8].

Whilst the mechanism behind why it might promote weight loss is unclear, the tendency to reduce overall food intake is probably because of it’s fat and fiber content. 


oleic-acid-nuts

How to Incorporate Nuts into Your Diet?

The big take home message here is that small but regular amounts of nuts – small handfuls at most, are best. More is definitely not better. With a high calorie content at over 600kcal per 100g you definitely don’t want too much in your diet.

We recommend you carry a small, pre-measured bag of nuts with you – they provide the perfect snack on the go. You can also add them to Greek yogurt or add a small handful of berries if you need to up the nutrient content or sweetness.

The key to success with this food is to aim for plain, mixed nuts that are raw or possibly dry-roasted. Try to avoid oil-roasted, salted or flavored varieties and stick to the basics.


Summary

Tree nuts are a high fat snack that provide a number of nutrients and bioactive compounds. They are energy dense, but when eaten in moderation can improve a number of health-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol disorders.

Research shows that a handful of nuts a few times per week can reduce overall food intake which helps to reduce potential weight gain. Some studies have even shown that it can promote weight loss.

Realistically, this food will not help you lose weight if eaten too regularly or in large quantities. It is best to be eaten as a small snack to offset hunger during mid-morning or mid-afternoon, but if eaten cleverly might well boost your fat loss goals.


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References

  1. Ros, E et al. Health beenfits of nut consumption. Nutrients. 2010; 2(7): 652-682
  2. Brufau G et al. Nuts, source of energy and macronutrients. Br. J. Nutr. 2006; 96: S24–S28
  3. Sabaté, J. Nut consumption and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78 (3 Suppl): 647S-650S.
  4. Jiang, R et al. Nut and peanut butter consumption and ris kof type 3 diabetes in women. JAMA. 2002; 288(20): 2554-60
  5. Hull, S et al. A mid-morning snack of almonds generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women. Eur J Nutr. 2015; 54(5): 803-10
  6. Bes-Rastrollo, M et al. Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007; 15(1): 107-16
  7. Martinez-González, MA et al. Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Jun;21 Suppl 1:S40-5
  8. Flores-Mateo, G et al. Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013