Nuts and Weight Management

by Leanne Ward
Nuts and Weight Management

For many years we thought that if you eat fat – you’d get fat. So we limited all types of fat, including the good ones. The latest research not only shows us that healthy fats are good for us – it also shows us that the heathy fats in nuts are associated with preventing weight gain. So to put it simply, yes nuts are high in fat but the good kind which can help manage our weight! Read on to find out how…

The latest research (based on 65 nut and weight studies) shows us that overall, the consumption of nuts was associated with a small average reduction of 0.32% for weight, 0.67% for BMI and 0.84% for waist circumference (note: weight loss NOT weight gain!). This research is further supported by a meta-analysis that combined the results of 33 clinical trials with 1806 participants. They found that nut consumption was associated with a non-significant decrease in body weight of 0.47kg, BMI of 0.40kg/m2, and waist circumference of 1.25cm. Pretty good evidence to eat a healthy handful of nuts every day! Just in case you needed any more convincing, research also shows us that regular nut consumption can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and has also been linked to a lower risk of developing obesity and diabetes.

Not only are nuts good for weight management, they also contain essential vitamins and nutrients such as protein, fibre, healthy fats and even carbohydrates. You could even say that nuts are nature’s superfood. There are many reasons that nuts help with weight management but I will list my favourite 3 reasons below:

  • Reduce appetite and provide satisfaction: The healthy fats, fibre and protein in them help to regulate appetite by making us feel fuller for longer. When you eat healthy fats, this helps to release satiety hormones in your digestive system which help you feel fuller for longer (big win for weight management!).
  • Helps to control blood sugar levels: Nuts have a glycaemic index (GI) lowering effect meaning that when mixed with foods containing carbohydrate, they slow the digestion of the meal, resulting in a slower rise in blood glucose levels in the body.  Further to this, recent studies show us that when participants ate nearly two serves of nuts a day (56g), their fasting glucose and three month average glucose concentration were significantly lowered compared with those that didn’t.
  • Nuts don’t allow us to absorb all their energy: Parts of some foods that contain fibre can pass through us completely undigested. As nuts are a wholefood with fibre in them, the digestion and absorption of the energy within nuts is incomplete to some extent. Some of the fat in nuts is trapped in the fibrous structure of the nut so it actually isn’t digested as it passes through the body and is evacuated. Studies show that between 5-15% of the energy in nuts passes through you completely undigested. Further to this, other research has shown that the likely energy availability in nuts is about 20% less than most food composition databases show. So go on… eat your healthy handful each day without fear!

So now you know why nuts are so important for not only weight but for general overall health too. But I guess you’re still wondering how much, and how often.   The Australian Dietary Guidelines state a serve of nuts is 30g and as a dietitian, I recommend eating a small handful (30g) every day to enjoy all the benefits stated above.  By doing this, not only will you reap the vitamin and nutrient benefits, you’ll also be helping your waist line, your heart health and your bowels (fibre for the win!).

So 30 grams seems like a pretty good deal and better yet, it’s any of the 10 nuts listed below (be it natural or dry roasted). As a dietitian, I don’t however recommend salted nuts, chocolate covered nuts or honey drizzled nuts (except on special occasions). For the sake of nuts, a 30g serving of plain unsalted nuts is always best.

If you’re not someone who owns a scale, I’ll list the approximate value of 30g of each nut so you have a rough idea of the serving size for each nut. 10 walnuts halves (that’s 5 whole walnuts in shell), 15 pecans, 20 almonds, 30 pistachios, 15 macadamias,  around 10 brazil nuts (depending on the size of the nut), 20 hazelnuts, 2 tbsp of pinenuts, 4 chestnuts and 15 cashews. If you’re a fan of mixing all your nuts together – this is totally fine as well and 30 grams would equal a small handful of mixed nuts.

If you’re looking for recipe inspiration or want to know more about each different nut, visit https://www.nutsforlife.com.au/nut-recipes/

Ask me any questions you have about nuts below!

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2 comments

Carolyn Waite September 26, 2018 - 8:36 pm

What are your thoughts on activated nuts? Are there any benefits to eating them above raw nuts?

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Leanne Ward October 18, 2018 - 8:49 am

Hi Carolyn, Sorry I missed your comment! There’s no evidence to suggest that activated nuts are any better than raw nuts. The health benefits come from the nuts themselves, not whether they are raw or activated. If you’re eating a healthy diet with a wide variety of whole foods then you’ll be getting all the nutrients your body needs. Aim for a 30g serving of nuts each day (raw, roasted or activated doesn’t matter) and you’ll get to enjoy the health benefits nuts provide.

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