The key to eating anything is focusing on moderation, even when it comes to nutrient-dense nuts.
Nuts have long been dubbed a healthy snack for those trying to lose or maintain weight, but some experts say some people fear it.
“Nuts are very calorie-dense and often, people stay away from them if they are looking to lose weight,” said registered dietitian Anar Allidina. “Studies have shown that including nuts in your diet can help with meeting your weight-loss goals.”
The problem is portion control
Eating anything in excess can lead to weight gain, so this isn’t about nuts in particular. The tricky part with nuts, Allidina added, is that most people don’t know how to control portions.
“A handful (1/4 cup or 28 grams) is the recommended portion per day for nut intake,” she explained. “Overeating any foods can result in weight gain and this includes nuts as well.”
To avoid overeating, measure out 1/4 cup of nuts and portion them into small containers to take with you as a snack or to add to a salad or a stir-fry.
“Keep in mind that portion needs to be accounted for nut butter as well. If your intake of nuts and nut butter during the day is high, then this can potentially lead to weight gain.”
One review of more than 30 studies in 2013 found people who ate nuts did not have an increase in body weight, body-mass index or waist circumference compared to those who didn’t eat nuts, Science Alert reported.
The site added another study found when people repeatedly ate nuts with the goal to lose weight, they lost more body fat compared to those who didn’t eat nuts. Some experts believe one of the reasons nuts won’t lead to weight gain is because our bodies don’t absorb all of the fat.
Others, like Ryerson University nutrition professor Dr. Rena Mendelson, previously told Global News it’s not that nuts offer nutrients that other foods don’t, but people who regularly eat nuts may eat healthier overall.
“It’s very likely that people who chose nuts chose them over other treats. Choices are as important as anything to health outcomes and that shows up in study after study. What’s important to recognize is no single food is likely to account for health, but a pattern of eating,” she said.
Choose the right nuts
Dietitian and blogger Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen, told Global News people are still fear fat in general, even in nuts. “But fatty foods can also help us feel full for longer so we don’t over indulge on certain foods and better control our appetite,” she said.
“Eating a handful of nuts each day are also a great snack substitute for less satisfying nutritious foods like cakes, chips and chocolate.”
Previously speaking with Global News, Cleveland Clinic Canada registered dietitian Jennifer Sygo said nuts are packed with protein and are rich in vitamins, minerals and flavonoids.
She recommended eating macadamia nuts, walnuts and almonds.
Almonds are high in vitamin E and magnesium and are natural antioxidants, she said. Almonds can also help with heart health and healing skin over time.
Allidina said we should also try to stick with unsalted nuts.
“The flavoured and salted versions can contain sugar, salt and additional oils that tend to have higher calories,” she said. “If you have nut allergies or work in a nut-free environment, stick to unsalted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds — they offer a similar nutrient profile and make a perfect nutrient-dense snack during the day.”
If your focus is weight loss or maintaining weight, replace your afternoon sugary snack with 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit such as an apple, she said.
“The protein, fat and fibre from the nuts/seeds and fruit will keep you feeling full for longer and give you sustained energy for you to power through until dinner.”
Sharp said high nut consumption also has to be paired with other healthy activities.
“It’s not necessarily the high nut consumption, but really just the excess calories that can lead to weight gain,” she said. “It’s more about how we eat a food coupled with a lack of physical activity and not that the food itself that causes weight gain.”
—With files from Carmen Chai