Nuts in Your Diet Plan: Heart-Healthy Fats for Weight Loss

Weight loss does not happen overnight; it requires an important combination of exercise and a balanced diet. That said, there are certain foods that particularly aid in weight loss – one of the most recognizable ones being nuts.

Popularly known as a part of the superfood clan, nuts contain several nutrients that only makes you feel full most of the day but also keeps you healthy and in shape. Nuts are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats help you shed those extra pounds and burn belly fat (1)(2).

While there are numerous types of nuts marked on the health list, there are specific nuts that help maintain a healthy diet, which is essential in losing weight. Given their ability to keep you feeling full longer, you’ll finally be able to steer clear of all those junk foods and pursue a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Weight Loss Benefits of Nuts

Nuts are a remarkably versatile addition to your diet. They can be convenient to stash in your purse, be plated on top of a mixed salad, or even be an ingredient addition to your smoothie for protein boost (4).

When consuming nuts, it’s important to remember calories. Although nuts are energy-dense food and pack a lot of nutrients in a relatively small size, eating too much of it could result in more calories in your diet. Nonetheless, researchers have found that eating nuts is associated with greater weight loss, improved diet compliance, and increased satiety (4).

Here’s how nuts can help you to succeed in achieving weight loss.

1. Nuts are High in Calories and Fat

Many people avoid eating nuts due to fear and assumption that adding nuts to their diet causes fattening. However, it’s because of its high-fat content that nuts are also high in calories, as fats are known as concentrated sources of energy. That said, a gram of fat is the same as 9 calories (5).

It’s also important to note that nuts are particularly high in unsaturated fat – a type of fat that is associated with protection against different diseases, including heart disease (5).

Even small portions of nuts are high in calories and fat. To demonstrate the differences between particular nuts, here are the corresponding calorie and fat contents for each ounce serving of some commonly eaten nuts (5).

  • Almonds: 161 calories, 14 grams of fat (5)
  • Cashews: 155 calories, 12 grams of fat (5)
  • Walnuts: 183 calories, 18 grams of fat (5)
  • Pistachios: 156 calories, 12 grams of fat (5)
  • Brazil Nuts: 184 calories, 18 grams of fats (5)

2. Regular Nut Consumption Does Not Lead to Weight Gain

As mentioned in our previous point, people associate the idea that eating nuts leads to weight gain. However, many observational studies have contradicted this idea and showed that eating nuts regularly rather prevents weight gain (5).

For instance, a study that explored the diets of 8,865 individuals over 28 months found that those who consumed two or more portions of nuts weekly had a 31-percent lesser risk for weight gain compared to those who rarely ate them (5).

Furthermore, a review of 36 studies revealed that regular nut consumption was not associated with an increase in waist size or body mass index (BMI). Plus, studies that involve adding different types of nuts to a strict diet revealed that consuming nuts does not lead one to an increase in body weight (5).

Although there are also few studies that reported the association of nut consumption with weight gain, the increase in weight is only small, even lower than what was expected and can be considered insignificant for long term. In some cases, nuts can even protect us against weight gain (5).

3. Nuts Contain Good Fats

Bad fats – particularly saturated and trans fats – cause health problems, and these are not found in most nuts. Instead, many types of nuts contain a good amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (6).

There are some nuts, such as walnuts, that boast a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are similar to that of salmon.

On that note, the FDA approved the first qualified health claim in July 2003, wherein scientific evidence suggests (but does not prove) that consuming 1.5 ounces of most nuts per day as part of a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, can lessen the risk for heart disease (6).

That said, packaging for pecans, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts can now confidently make this claim, while macadamia nuts and cashews did not qualify for the claim because of the higher fat content (6).

4. Nuts are Healthy Alternatives for Junk Food

Generally, taking in healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and nuts does leave much room for unhealthy foods like processed goods that are filled with added sugars, refined grains, and saturated fats (7).

The researchers of the 2019 BMJ study published in September found that people who replaced processed meats, desserts, and refined grains for a half serving of nuts were less likely to gain weight after 4 years. This study is important as it is known that U.S. adults gain an average of one pound each year after reaching the age of 30 (7).

5. Nuts Can Help You Feel Full Longer and Reduce Your Appetite

Nuts are good sources of fats and fiber – which are both shown to promote satiety. On that note, a November 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that snacking on almonds reduced the increase in glucose levels that is usually observed after taking a meal (7).

It is known that when blood sugar rises and falls quickly, they can interfere with your appetite and energy, leaving you feeling hungry even after you have taken a meal. However, eating nuts like almonds, for instance, appears to reduce the overall hunger and cravings (7).

One study involves more than 200 participants who were asked to eat a portion of peanuts as a snack. The results showed that they naturally ate less calories later that day. The effect was even more evident when peanuts were consumed as snacks, rather than as part of a main meal (5).

The appetite-reducing effects of nuts are said to be likely due to an increased production of the cholecystokinin and/or (CKK) and peptide YY (PYY) – which both aid in appetite regulation. Simply put, high protein and high unsaturated fat content may cause this effect (5).

Studies suggest that 54 to 104 percent of extra calories that come from adding nuts to the diet are neutralized by eating less of other foods (5).

6. Nuts Causes You to Eat More Slowly

The same 2019 BMJ study suggests that eating nuts involves a lot of chewing. Given this, you’ll have less time, energy, and appetite to consume more food. While it sounds too simple and irrelevant, research shows that people who eat faster tend to gain more weight (7).

In fact, a November 2015 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity discovered a positive association between body weight and eating rate – whereas the quicker nut consumption leads to more weight gained. That said, it’s best to slow down when chewing your food (7).

7. Eating Nuts Can Boost Weight Loss

Many large observational studies have revealed that more frequent nut consumption is associated with lower body weight. Although the reason for this is not clear, it is assumed that it is partly due to healthier lifestyle choices of people who consume nuts (5).

Furthermore, human studies show that incorporating nuts in your weight loss diet does not hamper weight loss. As a matter of fact, it even improves weight loss (5).

That said, one study compared a low-calorie diet supplemented with almonds to the same diet with complex carbs. The two groups of 65 overweight individuals consumed the same amounts of calories, cholesterol, protein, and saturated fat. After 24 weeks, the results showed the individuals on the almond diet had 62 percent less weight and BMI, 50 percent reduced waist circumference, and 56 percent less fat mass.

Best Nuts for Weight Loss

There are a variety of nuts that are associated with weight loss – with some performing better than others. What’s more, a lot of studies have also shown that eating nuts can also possibly help you prevent weight gain with age (3).

There are nuts in shells that, although are more time-consuming to crack open and eat, can help you eat fast and consume less. On one hand, there are also whole nuts that you can eat slower as you need to chew them longer (3).

When eating nuts, it’s important that you avoid eating those that are covered in sugar, chocolate, salt, seasonings, and even honey, as these are all forms of junk food. Instead, go for either raw or dry-roasted varieties. If you prefer an even more toasted taste, you can either toast them in a pan or oven (3).

If you’re planning to start incorporating nuts into your diet plan, below are some of the best nuts to eat for weight loss.

1. Walnuts

Walnuts are known as one of the best nuts for weight loss. Known for their heart-healthy unsaturated fat content, this type of nut a packed with healthy fats like linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), omega-3 fat alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), plant-sterols and vitamins – which all helps suppress hunger, aiding in weight loss. They are also rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that help you lower your inflammation levels and prevent Type 2 diabetes (1)(2)(3)(8).

Walnuts promote healthy body weight by lowering your bad cholesterol level and improving your satiety for longer appetite control (8). Thus, you can lose weight while lowering your risk for heart-related problems (1).

2. Almonds

Almonds are known as one of nature’s superfoods given their very rich content for protein, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants – making them a great addition to your weight loss diet (4).

This type of nut is also considered as one of the healthiest snacking options when you’re aiming to lose weight. Almonds are low in calories, but they are filled with proteins that aid in the development of lean muscle mass. And yes, they also help you fight against bad LDL cholesterol (4).

Moreover, the monounsaturated fats found in almonds prevent overeating while its dietary fiber creates a sensation of fullness, even if taken in small amounts. Interestingly, they also contain an amino acid known as L-arginine, which is very helpful in burning fat (2).

With this, eating three to five almost a day have been associated with greater weight loss and improved fat metabolism. Plus, almonds contain protein and fiber, which keep you satiated for longer and keep your digestive health in check (2).

3. Pistachios

Pistachios are loaded with healthy fats, and their high protein levels make them a great way to cut your cravings for unhealthy snacks in between meals (1). The protein in these nuts also helps build new muscle tissues. “Pistas,” as they are called, contain monounsaturated fats that have been proven to boost weight loss and help control weight loss (2)(3).

An ounce serving of pistachios contains 3 grams of dietary fiber, which is 12 percent of your recommended daily intake. Obtaining enough fiber helps you to feel fuller by sending signals to your brain to steer clear of intense food cravings, thereby helping you lose weight and burn more fat (4).

With this, a study published in Nutrition found that the group that had incorporated pistachios in their diet had smaller waists, better blood sugar numbers, lower cholesterol levels, and less harmful inflammation. In addition, if you want to consume fewer calories and less pistachios, go for ones in shells and take longer to eat. (3).

Interestingly, there are lots of ways for you to prepare and eat pistachio – and not just simply taking bits and pieces out of the pack (3). Their green color and distinct flavor makes them a great addition as an ingredient in smoothies and baked goods like pistachio pudding (3)(4).

4. Cashews

Cashews are rich in magnesium. This mineral allows your body to metabolize fats and carbohydrates, which helps you lose weight more easily. Like the other nuts in our list, cashews offer a good amount of protein to suppress your appetite (1). Moreover, cashews are good sources of protein, which is essential in losing weight (2).

Despite their fatty or buttery-tasting flavor, they are also rich in nutrients like zinc and iron. Similar to pistachios, you can also incorporate cashews – particularly cashew butter – in smoothies and desserts for a healthy snack (3). This will boost your consumption of these healthy nuts (4).

A great thing about eating this nut is that you don’t have to eat so much to achieve its great benefits. On that note, it’s important to keep in mind that different nuts have their own recommended serving size daily. Knowing this can help a lot through the weight loss process (1).

5. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts can boost your metabolism with various nutrients like selenium, thiamine, L-arginine, and magnesium – which can help you burn fat faster and lose fat more easily (1). Selenium, in particular, plays a key role in metabolism, vitamin E absorption, immunity, and reproductive health system. Other than that, selenium can also help prevent cancers like prostate, bone, and breast cancers (3). L-arginine, on one hand, aids in the fat burning process (2).

Keep in mind that you should consume only five to six nuts daily, since, according to the National Institutes of Health, high levels of selenium can harm your health. So, if you’re planning to incorporate brazil nuts in your diet, you can add chopped to your oatmeal with some fruit and honey. You can also roast them for 10 minutes with some maple syrup and salt, or simply eat them raw.

Similar to other nuts, Brazil nuts are excellent sources of protein and fiber, which can keep you feeling full while preventing hunger in between meals, promoting numerous benefits other than weight loss (1).

Nutty Thoughts to Keep

Although a lot of dieters may fear incorporating nuts into their health plans, nuts are typically worth the effort if you know how to eat them. That said, it’s important to eat nuts at a recommended amount to avoid weight gain. Eating a healthy proportion of nuts as a healthy alternative – rather than an addition – to other foods is an effective way to lose fats (9).

Plus, let’s not forget that nuts are also loaded with key nutrients, protein, and healthy fats (9) – all of which are necessary not only for shedding those extra pounds, but to also ensure good health that lasts.


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