Why Eating Nuts Helps With Weight Loss

By Mel Thomassian (RD)

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Many people leave nuts out of their eating plan when trying to lose weight, because they think they are too high in calories. However, this is a big mistake.

It’s obvious nuts are high in calories, but studies show that those who eat nuts regularly tend to have a lower BMI in comparison to those who don’t.

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 81 healthy adults were told to supplement their diet with almonds every day (320 calories worth); no further instructions about food intake were given. After six months average body weight increased only 0.40 kg. Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at 20 healthy, overweight women who were given 65 grams of almonds for 10 weeks. Weight gain was predicted, but instead their weights went on average from 155.9 pounds to 154.6 pounds. The researchers concluded that a daily (340 calorie) serving of almonds may be included in the diet with limited risk of weight gain

So, it seems clear the impact of nut consumption on weight is either negligible, or non existent.

Also, remember that in these studies, participants were not on any sort of diet. They simply added nuts to their normal way to eating.

Another study, published in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, looked at 65 overweight or obese individuals, and compared the effect of adding 84g of almonds per day, verses self-selected complex carbs. They found that the almond-enriched, low calorie diet lead to greater reductions in body weight, BMI, waist circumference and fat mass.

The evidence is pretty compelling to suggest nuts can, and should, be included in your regular or weight loss diet, without fearing that you will gain weight.

Here Are 3 Reasons Why Nuts Aren’t Fattening:

1. Nuts Are Satisfying
When you eat nuts your appetite is reduced, and that means a reduction in energy intake at subsequent meals over the course of one day.

2. Not All Fat Is Absorbed
Not all of the fat contained in nuts is efficiently absorbed by the gut. It’s suggested that up to 20 percent of the lipid content of nuts will be lost in the stool, which is around 10-20 percent of the energy contained in nuts.

3. Nuts stimulate metabolism
Some studies show that nuts can increase the metabolic rate by more than 10 percent.

To think of weight loss as merely calories in, calories out is a gross oversimplification of reality. And, when you focus too much on calorie intake, if often leads to a low calorie diet, which isn’t necessarily healthy (e.g. so-called “diet” foods). Also, these foods don’t satisfy your appetite which means you’re always hungry, and therefore yo-yo dieting is inevitable.

The key with adding nuts to your diet, is to eat them instead of rather than in addition to less nutritious foods, which you may already be eating.

So, rather than binging on carb-heavy snacks between meals, go for a handful of raw, unsalted nuts, and don’t feel guilty about it.

Number of nuts in a 1oz (30g) serving:

  • Almonds: 20-24
  • Brazil nuts: 6-8
  • Cashews: 16-18
  • Hazelnuts: 18-20
  • Pecans: 18-20 (halves)
  • Pine Nuts: 150-157
  • Pistachios: 45-47
  • Walnuts: 8-11

Image source: Egahen

34 Comments

  1. John Wesley

    I eat 300 calories or a little more of mixed nuts everyday in the morning and I’ve lost 129 LBS since February of 2017. Nuts taste great and are good for you. Walnuts provide me with Omega 3 oil as I don’t care for fish…

    Reply
  2. muscle guy

    I agree with it too, i also use nuts in my diet and not just
    for losing weight. I really love them .. also with some work
    out it can be great…..

    Reply
  3. Susan

    If anyone lives near a Trader Joe’s I highly recommend the “Just a Handful” (1.2oz bags) of unsalted roasted almonds. I have one bag per day as a snack and it tends to be one of my favorite moments of the day! πŸ™‚ I used to allow myself more than one bag a day, but found that the calories added up way too quickly, so I’ve since replaced the other servings with (unlimited amounts of) fresh fruits and veggies.

    Reply
  4. Natural Health

    Hello..

    I think Eating the right foods and exercising can have a positive impact on your weight and help you to reach your weight loss goals.

    Reply
  5. d-girl

    why?

    Reply
  6. d-girl

    Thank you for this article. It just underlines once more that there is such thing as “good fat” and “bad fat”. Although nuts are high in calories because of their fat content they are filled with nutrients and beneficial to us in many more way from what I understand. Nuts are not just great in terms of nutritional values but they taste great as well so according to these studies none of us have an excuse for adding a decent amount of nuts into our daily diets.

    Reply
  7. Seljuk

    This is my typical diet:

    For breakfast, I have an avocado, one cup of almonds, walnuts, or chestnuts or one cup of the three altogether

    For lunch, I eat an apple, orange, and a banana. Sometimes I may use a peach or pear to replace the banana if I needed to cut down on the sugar and body fat. If I needed more body fat, I would replace the orange with a mango. But I always have no more than three fruits for lunch. Except when I’m very hungry then I’ll add a cup of grapes.

    For dinner, I usually have a cup of steamed beans, with three cups of vegetables like broccoli, Chinese cabbage, or string beans.

    I also add no flavor to any of my food. No salt, pepper, or any condiments.

    Reply
  8. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    I have found this too, James, they are one my snacks of choice these days. A serving is about 1/4 cup, though.

    Reply
  9. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    Hi there,
    They are all good. I like to eat a mixture of nuts and seeds every day.

    Reply
  10. James Robinson

    Thanks for taking to time to write an article on this topic as I myself have often wondered exactly how good/bad nuts are. I have personally found that after eating a fair bit of nuts as a snack at work it drastically reduces my hunger (I will usually eat about half a cup some time after breakfast to transition into lunch without being hungry). Now I know that there is some actual fact behind it and it’s not all just in my head lol.

    Reply
  11. Dorothy (Zartuhie61 SP)

    What are the benefits of seed, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, etc., in comparison to nuts?

    Reply
  12. bijou

    This is so true. I was worried too! I used to religiously avoid all nuts because they were caloric. Now that I regularly eat them, I have to make a conscious effort to not eat other foods in addition to nuts. Often my dinner will be an apple and 2 servings of assorted nuts. This might sound like a sparse dinner, but it comes out to be 300-400 calories.

    Reply
  13. Dan

    The meat eater Loren Cordain stated that Palmitic but not Stearic acid down regulates the LDL receptor in the liver, which then raises LDL. Therefore, most dietary guidelines call for limiting, although not eliminating saturated fat from the diet, for instance, by eating leaner meats. They also suggest replacing this fat with the MUFAs from nuts. It is not helpful to eat refined carbohydrates instead. Trans fats, which also lower HDL should be eliminated. I also think that *binge eating* as you alluded to is what causes weight gain, rather than eating fats or carbs per se. I tend to think a low metabolism brought on by a low activity level is what causes easy weight gain rather than whether we choose to eat cookies or nuts. Neither one in moderation causes this formerly obese man to gain weight now that I have greatly increased my activity level. A lot of exercise also reverses the bad effects of saturated and trans fat as well as refined carbohydrates in the diet to some extent. Fibre also lowers the glycemic index of sugar.

    Reply
  14. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    I’m so glad to hear that others are finding this to be the case in real life. I also eat nuts regularly and it doesn’t led to weight gain, but often when you tell someone about this they are too worried about the calorie content to put it into practise in their own eating plan.

    Reply
  15. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    Yes, and your co-worker probably think she is the one eating the food that will help with weight maintenance or weight loss, not you eating “high calorie” nuts!!

    Reply
  16. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    DSP,
    Totally agree with you… we are slowly waking up to that idea that saturated fat is not the enemy we once thought β€” some more slowly than others I think, lol

    Reply
  17. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    That’s so interesting, Lana… what an awesome “secret” for losing weight!!

    Reply
  18. Lana

    That 700 calories of healthy nuts is probably replacing some 700 odd calories of unhealthy carbohydrates. We know that you need fat for energy in exercise. Fat=135-137 ATP! So awesome!

    Reply
  19. Lana

    Wow. I believe that. I eat almonds a lot. I love raw almonds. The funny thing is years ago one of my old roommates used to eat handfuls of almonds a day. She swore up and down it helped her lose weight. I couldn’t understand how eating more than an ounce a day would help her lose weight because it is ultimately a calorie and fat dense food (even if it is healthy fat). Somehow it did help her lose weight. I guess now she has scientific evidence to back up her claims! lol

    Reply
  20. Dan

    I eat 3 ounces of nuts + 2 tablespoons of peanut butter which is almost 700 calories on most days. I like them and hope to improve my heart health. I exercise a lot and therefore I don’t gain weight from these. I can budget them, as well as some not so high calorie sweets (bite size chocalates) into my somewhat high calorie budget and not gain weight. Neither nuts nor some sweets make me gain weight. I rather start to gain weight when I eat a heavy meal (even salad buffets) at restaurants. I usually burn even this off in a few days. I don’t really agree with the idea that any kind of fat or carb per se makes a person gain weight. It is rather the overall diet plus activity level that is key.

    Reply
  21. DSP Rules

    Nuts are great for protein yes, but they are also a great source of fiber and Omega 3 which is a medium chained fatty acid that is readily broken down and used in our systems for energy rather than being stored as fat–which I believe was lightly touched upon in the article.

    Also, when you roast them, you’re changing the chemical makeup of the fatty acid which can make it more difficult for the body to convert to easily useable energy.

    While nuts are high in fat, not all foods high in fat are bad for your waistline–as long as they are the right kinds of fats. But again, moderation is the key. I follow the DSP (Diet Solution Program) and learned that sugar and it’s cousins aspertame, sucralose, and HFCS are contributing to the increasing waistlines of Americans, not necessarily saturated fat.

    So give me a handful of nuts and hold the cookies.

    Reply
  22. Spectra

    I can definitely vouch for this–I eat about 1/2 cup of nuts a day…I go through about 2 to 2 1/2 cans of them a week. I am also very small. I eat the nuts as my main source of protein/fat, but I also eat plenty of other food. I think this just goes to show that biological calorie contents are not always exactly the same as the calorie content that is figured out in the lab. I remember doing a calorimetry experiment in physical chem class where we determined how many calories were in a peanut by burning it and measuring how much it raised the temperature of a known volume of water. I think it worked out to be 7 calories per nut, but obviously our bodies do NOT ignite nuts and use them for energy like that!

    Reply
  23. Bonnie

    Nuts are definitely more satisfying than prepackaged foods. I’ll eat 100 calories worth of almonds mid-afternoon at work, while my coworker eats a 100 calorie bag of processed food. An hour later she’s digging out a second bag, and I’m still fine.

    Reply
  24. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    A serving of almonds is 24 kernels, Mehitabel.

    Reply
  25. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    Good points Bijou, thanks.

    Reply
  26. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    No, the serving of almonds in the studies were 320 and 340 calories. However, the suggested serving size for nuts for the general population is 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces.

    Reply
  27. Melanie Thomassian R.D.

    Superbootcamps and Sprice,
    I think you have taken my comment out of context.

    What I was trying to convey is that eating nuts can help make us feel more satisfied, whereas high-carb foods like cake and cookies don’t, so you can end up taking in way more than you need — perhaps calling it a “binge” is what you don’t agree with, but the definition of binging is a short period of excessive consumption. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone with an eating disorder. Most people have experienced binging at one time or another. But eating regularly, and making healthier food choices can help to lessen this.

    Reply
  28. bijou

    yes, i meant roasting with oil adds calories. on most containers of roasted store-bought nuts, some type of oil is listed on the ingredient list. i stay away.

    according to this link, http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ftmar04.htm, there are 20-24 almonds in a 1 oz serving. the link has a table listing how many units of nuts are in 1 oz.

    Reply
  29. Mehitabel

    How does roasting add calories?? I buy raw almonds and can’t STAND the texture, so roast ’em in the oven to make them crispy and awesome. No oil is added…?

    Other than that, yeah. COUNT them. I think a serving of almonds is something like 7 nuts? Woo.

    Reply
  30. sprice76

    I agree with your comment on binging. Further, I think the term binging is thrown around way too much, and taken way too lightly. Chronic binging is a serious eating disorder, yet in an article meant to give general diet/nutrition advice, there it is. I spent roughly 10 years of my life overweight, and half of those years, obese, and I’ve never in my life “binged”. Not once. Just saying…

    Reply
  31. bijou

    it’s true that nuts are a very nutritious food. but count them out before you eat them! if you eat them straight from the canister, it’s easy to polish off half the container without even realizing it. drinking a tall glass of water while eating a 1 oz serving of nuts also helps with the fullness factor, helping with portion control. and as the article mentions, opt for the raw unsalted varieties, as roasting and other additions (sugar, honey, etc.) add calories.

    Reply
  32. Stephanie

    You mentioned twice that a serving of almonds is 340-320 calories. But a serving is 1 oz…which is half of that??

    Reply
  33. Albert123

    Hi, there. Thanks for the nice article. I agree that nuts are high in nutrients(especially protein) and have disease-preventing properties as well. However, since nuts are high in calories(half cup cashew nuts contain 390 calories and half cup peanuts contain 363 calories, go easy will munching on them.

    Reply
  34. superbootcamps

    The last recommendation is a bit weird as it kind of assumes that people will binge. Is this really the case?

    The fact is that nuts can be considered a food (you can pick them, unless they are the processed, flavoured types) but there will be a fairly large variation in tolerance to them. Some people really do well on nuts and seeds, but others (such as me) don’t need them at all.

    Thanks for the study info.
    George

    Reply