Weight Loss

Nuts May Help Weight Loss

Americans love snacking. As a society, we eat twice as many snacks as we did a generation ago. Women, on average, nosh on upwards of 400 snack calories per day, according to federal survey data. Men consume almost 600 calories a day in between meals. This isn’t to say it’s a bad idea. In my post on the G.R.A.D.E diet, snacking is integral to weight loss. When done correctly, it can lower hunger and decrease caloric intake other times. Nuts seem to be another wonderful way to do this.

According to the findings published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who added 1.5 ounces of almonds to their diet each day reported reduced hunger, and they compensated for the extra calories from nuts by eating less at other times of the day. Nuts have protein in them, which helps us feel full longer, and fiber, which helps fill us up. And because nuts are high in healthy fat they take much longer to digest than carbs and protein. That can also make us feel full longer which might offset cravings for junk food.

Eating a handful of almonds, walnuts, peanuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds on a regular basis may help prevent excessive weight gain and even lower the risk of obesity. Substituting healthy nuts for unhealthy snacks is a simple strategy to ward off the gradual weight gain that often accompanies aging.

On average, U.S. adults put on one pound of weight every year, according to researcher and epidemiologist Deidre Tobias, a co-author of the study published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. “We wanted to know whether nuts were associated with long-term weight gain,” says Tobias, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Tobias and her colleagues hypothesized that nuts might be beneficial, given the association of nuts with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers looked at the diet and weight of more than 280,000 adults taking part in three long-term research studies. Over more than 20 years of monitoring, participants were asked every four years about their weight and, among other things, how often, over the preceding year they had eaten a serving (about one ounce) of nuts.

The researchers found that making nuts a regular part of one’s diet was associated with less long-term weight gain and a lower risk of obesity. The people who most consistently ate nuts gained, on average, about half a pound a year, while those who ate nuts only now and then gained, on average, about one pound each year. That may not sound like a big difference, but Tobias says, “Those half-pounds add up over time.”

It’s important to note that we’re not talking about piles of nuts – just a small handful a day, which Tobias says is about a dozen almonds or maybe 10 walnuts. In analyzing data about participants’ diets, researchers were able to see that as nuts became a more regular part of people’s diets, their unhealthy food consumption decreased, including foods such as processed meats, refined grains and desserts like chocolates, pastries, pies and doughnuts. 

“When you increase nuts at the expense of these other snack foods, there’s an even greater benefit,” says Tobias. A consistent nut intake of at least a half-ounce a day was associated with a 23% lower risk of putting on 10 or more pounds or of becoming obese over a four-year period.

But nuts’ role in weight maintenance goes beyond merely acting as a substitute for pastries. They are an easy and convenient snack that’s easily accessible at work, tucked into a purse, lunch box or gym bag. They’re always super-handy and perfect for people on the go

And here’s an added benefit: A nut habit is good for the planet. In addition to the impact on human health, using environmentally friendly plant-based protein, such as nuts and seeds, to replace animal sources of protein may contribute to the promotion of a global sustainable food system.

So next time you find yourself craving something between meals, the take-home message here is clear: Go for the nuts, not the cookies.











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