One minute we’re told ‘eat nuts, they’re good for you’ and the next we’re warned about the high calorie content in our favourite, nutty snack. So do nuts make you fat? The short answer is no. In fact, research shows us that nuts may help with weight loss when included in a balanced diet. I hear you… Surely it’s counterintuitive to eat calorie-dense nuts to lose weight?
Over the past two decades many scientific studies have looked at the effects of nut consumption on body weight and found diets enriched with nuts (30 to 100g a day) do not increase body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, or have unfavourable changes in body composition such as fat mass.
Surprised? Yes, high fat nuts are actually not fattening! With nearly two thirds of adults overweight or obese, it’s essential that we base our food choices on nutrient-rich, whole foods. Nuts represent a core food in the diet of Australians, yet on average Aussies eat just 6grams of nuts a day.
Consultant Dietitian for Nuts for Life, Belinda Neville, says nuts are a nutritional powerhouse. “Tree nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and walnuts contain at least 28 different essential nutrients and bioactive substances including healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, protein, fibre, folate, vitamin E, phytosterols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Belinda. “It’s therefore no surprise that research has found this relationship between nut consumption and weight management.”
Here are five reasons why nut eaters typically weigh less:
Research has shown that the fat in nuts may help release a hormone called cholecystokinin in the gut which tells your body that you are no longer hungry.
Studies have shown that around 20% of the fat in nuts is not absorbed by the body. The fat in nuts is trapped in fibrous cells which stops our bodies from absorbing the fat, excreting it instead. Nuts eaters have more fat in their stools than non nut eaters.
The high levels of protein and fibre in nuts may act to satisfy hunger and reduce appetite. The effect appears to be greater when nuts are consumed whole compared to butters or spreads. Nuts also have a glycemic index (GI) lowering effect – slowing digestion down, helping control blood glucose with sustained energy release and appetite control.
Research has shown that metabolism increases immediately after eating nuts by around 5-10% so you burn more energy digesting nuts.
When you eat nuts, satiety signals are sent from the brain. That’s because they sound crunchy and typically the more you crunch, the less you eat. It’s also been shown that diets including nuts are considered to be more enjoyable, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan for longer.
In a nut shell, one of the biggest diet myths is busted – eating nuts does not lead to weight gain. So grab a healthy handful (around 30g) of nuts every day and notice the difference.
Tip for storing nuts: To keep your nuts fresh, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring them back to room temperature before eating or warm them in the oven or microwave. The volatile oils creating the taste and aroma of nuts will be… well…nuttier!