Adding nuts to a salad, smoothie or enjoying it as nut butter also makes them a versatile food to meet most people’s healthy weight needs. When you eat nuts, it also helps to ‘crowd out’ other foods that are less healthy. Nuts help you feel full, curb sugar cravings, while also providing sustained energy release.
Because nuts are high in energy, they are deemed to be high in calories.
But wait, aren’t foods that are high in calories supposed to cause weight gain?
Turns out it’s not that simple. I’ll explain why.
What’s a Calorie & Why It Doesn’t Matter
Nuts are high in calories. It’s true. Yet here’s why that doesn’t bother me. Calories have received a bad rap for decades and undeservedly so.
Calories are a unit of energy which is defined as the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of a quantity of water by one degree celsius.
This is the reductionist definition of explaining ‘energy in/energy out’ as it relates to food.
But on nutritional biochemistry and the inner workings of the body, I’m here to drop a bomb.
And here it is - food isn’t just fuel, it’s information. Yes, there’s a thermodynamic process whereby our body ‘burns’ food in order to give us energy. However the food we eat serves various other purposes beyond giving energy.
Nuts are a good example of where the ‘calorie’ argument for weight gain falls flat. Contrary to public belief, epidemiological studies confirm that regular nut consumption is unlikely to contribute to obesity and may even help in weight loss.
The food we eat and the context within which we eat it plays a role in how our body metabolises the nutrients within.
While nuts are high in calories (energy), they are also very nutrient dense. In this sense, if you’re going to eat high calorie foods, they should also be highly nutritious as well.
Nuts & Weight Loss: The Research
Several scientific studies have demonstrated the efficacy of nuts in weight loss. A recent literature review revealed that nut consumption was positively associated with healthy weight, healthy diet compliance and better satiety.
Nuts by and large are dietary contributors to healthy weight management. Countless scientific studies show the effects of nut consumption on glucose control, reduced appetite, adipose (fat) tissue changes and alterations to the gut microbiome. All of these metabolic parameters impact obesity risk. Therefore nuts should be considered as part of a natural weight loss intervention.
Let’s take a look at a few of the best nuts for weight loss, according to the research.
High in minerals, healthy fats and fibre make almonds an easy choice for healthy weight maintenance.
How almonds can support weight loss:
- Magnesium for blood glucose balancing
- B vitamins for sustained energy
- High fat for improving satiety
- Dietary fibre for healthy bowel function
A recent study revealed that 43g of almonds a day had a blood-glucose lowering effect on participants. Another study from 2019 assessed a group of female participants who consumed a mid-morning almond snack to observe the beneficial health effects. In this study, the participants reported reduced hunger and reduced cravings for high-fat processed foods compared to the control group.
Older studies echo the beneficial effects of almonds as well. Wein et al. (2003) reported almonds were associated with lower blood pressure, higher weight loss and lower body fat in a small study group.
Almond Weight Loss Snack Idea
A quick and delicious snack of almond stuffed dates is an all-time favourite. Line up some pitted dates and stuff each one with a roasted or raw almond. Or, for a luscious twist, fill the dates with a spoon of almond butter instead! Enjoy a few of these of an afternoon to get your daily added fibre, minerals and vitamin E.
A weight loss snack couldn’t be simpler and more satisfying than this.
Full of alpha-linoleic acid, selenium and moderate protein, Brazil nuts are an understated nut with the potential to support you on your weight loss journey. Brazil nuts are among the lowest carbohydrate nuts around, making them popular for those following a ketogenic diet.
How Brazil nuts can support weight loss:
- Ketogenic-diet friendly
- High selenium for optimal antioxidant defense
- High in magnesium and zinc for blood glucose regulation
- Polyphenols for immune support
Including Brazil nuts as part of a macronutrient balanced diet can help protect the brain and nervous system and reduce inflammation.
This is important during weight loss, as toxins and heavy metals accumulate in fat cells. As the body shifts weight, these toxins are liberated into the bloodstream and need to be eliminated out of the body.
Consuming high-antioxidant foods, such as Brazil nuts help protect the body from damage as these compounds are expelled. Brazil nuts which are high in selenium and Beta-sitosterol are a great way to support a healthy weight loss process.
Brazil Nut Weight Loss Snack Idea
For a low carb, chocolatey, antioxidant hit, give this Brazil nut blitz smoothie a try. In a blender - combine 1/2 cup Brazil nuts (about 8), 1 cup coconut or almond milk, 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon shredded coconut and a pinch of sea salt. Delicious!
Macadamias are another keto-friendly nut. Macadamias are very high in fat with a delicious buttery texture. The health benefits of macadamias include cardiovascular support, balancing cholesterol levels and supporting weight management.
How macadamias can support weight loss:
- Ketogenic-diet friendly
- High in monounsaturated and saturated fats to lower inflammation
- High in manganese to support blood glucose balancing
A 2020 study established that a macadamia-supplemented diet, high in monounsaturated fats improved cholesterol levels and overall heart attack risk factors when compared with a control diet.
Another small study published in the journal Lipids, demonstrated that short-term macadamia consumption improves inflammation and risk factors associated with heart disease.
Macadamia Weight Loss Snack Idea
Try a super simple crushed macadamia, avocado and smoked salmon roll-up. Place a wedge of avocado in a slice of smoked salmon lengthways and roll up (like a cannoli!). Dip both ends in a roasted macadamia crumb and enjoy.
Pecans are the ultimate buttery-rich nut, satisfying and perfect to help maintain a healthy weight. Sweet and savoury dishes benefit from the added crunch and dose of healthy fats from pecans. Try toasted pecans mixed through a salad with a green goddess dressing for some extra healthy fats.
How pecans can support weight loss:
- Ketogenic-diet friendly
- High in manganese for antioxidant defenses
- High in B vitamins for energy production
Pecans are the top runner as a low-carb, high fat and keto-friendly nut. Perfect to aid in losing weight. Pecans are an abundant source of manganese, B vitamins and monounsaturated fats. This means pecans may help to bolster the antioxidant defense system in the body, while providing sustained energy during the day.
People struggling with weight are also often at risk for developing diabetes. Pecans are well known to reduce diabetic outcomes and have a protective effect on the pancreas, according to the research. In fact, one study demonstrated just 2 tablespoons of pecans per day saw a reduction in inflammation and better insulin function in a group of diabetic participants. A functional food that promotes better insulin sensitivity? Look no further than the small but mighty pecan.
Pecan Weight Loss Snack Idea
Walnuts are amazing for brain health, yet did you know they’re also great for metabolic health? Plenty of studies endorse walnuts as being beneficial in reducing visceral adiposity (belly fat). Walnuts are therefore useful in reducing excess centralised fat tissue. Extra weight from this area is the most important weight to shift for optimising your health.
Up there alongside peanuts, walnuts have a very high protein content per gram. A tablespoon of walnuts yields around 7g of protein. Half their total nutrient content is of healthy polyunsaturated fats. Walnuts which boast a high protein and low carb ratio make them a wonderful weight-loss food. When approaching a weight loss intervention, it’s important to eat enough protein to encourage fullness and to support any increase in exercise needs. Nuts that are high in protein help ensure muscle mass is maintained, while also supporting brain and energy requirements.
How walnuts can support weight loss:
- Source of zinc for metabolism and immune function
- High in alpha-linoleic acid for reduced inflammation
- High in B vitamins for energy production
Walnuts have a special nutrient composition, with very high monounsaturated fat levels. Notably, the alpha-linoleic acid content has a positive association with weight loss, as reported in some studies.
A study involving 245 women assessed the effects of walnut consumption on weight parameters. Greater weight loss was associated with walnut consumption in the study group compared to the control. Walnuts possess 2.5 grams per serve of alpha-linoleic acid, which make them a very useful functional food in the weight loss intervention.
Walnut Weight Loss Snack Idea
For a sweet treat, that’s low-ish carb, why not make ahead some cinnamon roasted walnuts?
In a skillet or fry pan, heat 1 cup of walnuts, add a drizzle of maple syrup, a dash of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon and sea salt. Sizzle together for a couple of minutes, transfer to a bowl to cool. Enjoy.
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