Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy fats and other beneficial plant chemicals. Nuts add robust nutritional value to your diet, and eating nuts regularly is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. You might be tempted to avoid calorie-rich nuts if you are trying to lose weight. However, eating nuts regularly has been linked with better weight management and prevention of weight gain. All nut varieties seem to have positive benefits. While most types of nuts have been studied, research that clearly identifies the best nuts for weight control is lacking.
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Research on Nuts and Weight
A September 2008 review in "The Journal of Nutrition" reported that eating nuts regularly was associated with little or no weight gain and a lower body-mass index. A study reported in June 2009 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that women who ate nuts 2 or more times weekly had a slightly lower risk of obesity and less weight gain over an 8-year period compared to women who ate nuts rarely. In this study, the benefit of peanuts was not as strong compared to other nuts. However, frequent nut-eaters exercised more, ate more fruits and vegetables, and were more likely to smoke -- factors that may have influenced the study results.
Effects of Eating Nuts
A surprising yet consistent research finding is that adding calorie-rich nuts to the diet does not lead to the expected weight gain. One possible explanation is that the protein, fat and fiber content of nuts makes you feel full after eating -- helping to control your appetite and significantly reducing calorie intake in the hours that follow. Also, because the chewing process doesn't completely break down whole nuts, 10 percent to 20 percent of the fat from whole nuts escapes digestion. Finally, limited and short-term studies suggest that regular consumption of nuts might mildly increase the number of calories your body burns at rest -- although this has not been proved conclusively.
Better Nut Choices
Several varieties of nuts, nut butters and nuts in general are associated with beneficial weight outcomes. While peanuts didn't perform as well as other nuts in some studies, no nuts have been shown to aggravate weight gain or increase obesity risk when eaten in moderation. The nut form may matter, however. Nuts in the shell take more time to eat, an obvious way to slow down and eat less. The crunching and chewing required when eating whole nuts may also help you feel more full. Raw or dry-roasted nuts are lower-calorie choices compared to nuts coated with candy, chocolate, sugar or honey.
Moderation Is Key
Whether nuts will benefit your weight-loss efforts hinges on the essential concept of moderation. The portion of nuts most often recommended is an ounce daily -- roughly a small handful. Tossing almonds into your salad or adding walnuts to your oatmeal may simplify your portion control. Eating nuts from the jar or can isn't a helpful strategy, as it invites overeating and may sabotage your weight-loss efforts. For best success, include nuts regularly but in moderation.