Nuts for weight loss!? Surprising isn’t it? The conventional idea about nuts is that they are rich in fats and a source from which oils are extracted. So how can they help with weight loss?
Nuts are dry fruits with one seed which hardens at maturity and can be consumed. Nuts are consumed as whole, either fresh or roasted, or as a part of desserts, snacks or savoury items.
They are also available in spreads or as oils. Nuts are rich in nutrients. They are a rich source of dietary fibre, proteins, vitamins, minerals and other bioactive components.
Apart from chestnuts, all other nuts have a high total fat content ranging from 46% in cashews to 76% in macadamia nuts. However this fat content is not harmful because most of it is made up of unsaturated fats (fats whose structure is not completely filled with hydrogen bonds) which are healthy fats.
Mechanisms by which nuts can aid in weight loss
Following points will help you understand how nuts aid in weight loss rather than weight gain:
• Satiety– Satisfaction after consuming a meal leads to reduced frequency and size of subsequent meals. Nuts are a rich source of energy. Around 55-75% of the energy contributed by nuts is compensated by a low energy intake.
• Physical properties– The physical properties of nuts also affect appetite sensation. Nuts are crunchy. Therefore the chewing activity involved in consuming nuts activates different sensory systems that modify appetite.
• Glycemic load– Glycemic load is the number associated with a particular food based on how it raises a person’s blood sugar level after consuming it. Low glycemic load diets lead to greater weight loss and loss in total fat mass. Nuts help in reducing glycemic load.
• Energy utilization: Nuts, despite of being high on fats, allow only a certain amount of their energy to be utilised as parts of the nuts are not digested. Thus there is only limited access to the nut’s energy content.
• Energy expenditure: Research proves that regular consumption of nuts leads to higher energy expenditure (burning of energy provided by calories).
5 Nuts That Can Help In Weight Loss
We will now go through scientific evidence regarding the effects of consumption of nuts on weight loss and related parameters.
Almonds are cultivated popularly in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. They are rich in Vitamin E and minerals.
Almonds are good for the brain and heart and also serve as a remedy for respiratory disorders, diabetes, anaemia etc.
A 24 week clinical trial was conducted to compare the effect of an almond enriched low calorie diet to a carbohydrate enriched low calorie diet on weight loss.
It was observed that almond enriched diet led to 62% greater reduction in weight, 50% greater reduction in waist circumference and 56% greater reduction in fat mass in comparison to carbohydrate rich diet.
Also this diet led to reduction in diabetes and blood pressure medication in type 1 diabetes patients. This effect was primarily due to satiety and low availability of calories from almonds.
Almond consumption also improved insulin and blood glucose levels. It also caused a drop in cholesterol levels.
Another study investigated the effect of an almond enriched low calorie diet versus a nut free diet on body weight and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Both the groups experienced almost the same but significant weight loss at the end of 18 months.
However almond diet improved the cholesterol level. According to the study, inefficient absorption of energy from the nuts and increased satiety by consumption of almonds is responsible for weight loss.
What does this mean?
Based on evidence from these two studies we can conclude that almonds do lead to weight loss and reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Pistachio belongs to the cashew family and is a rich source of energy, vitamin E, minerals. It is said to be beneficial for heart health and weight management.
A study was designed to explore the effect of pistachio snack consumption on body weight and fat profile in obese patients.
Individuals were asked to consume either of the weight reduction diets which contained either salted pistachios or salted pretzels.
Both the groups lost significant amount of weight however pistachio was found to improve cholesterol levels. Overall researchers concluded that pistachios can be consumed as a snack to control calories without any concern that it may cause weight gain.
What does this mean?
The results of this research study suggest that consumption of pistachios can aid in weight loss by controlling appetite.
3. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are native to Australia and therefore also go by the name Australia nuts. They are also cultivated in Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.
They are sweet and crunchy to taste. They are rich in energy, nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.
80% of the fats in macadamia nuts is palmitoleic acid- a healthy unsaturated fat. A study investigated the effect of palmitoleic acid on blood fat levels by providing a diet of macadamia nuts.
It was observed that blood cholesterol levels reduced in coconut and macadamia nuts group.
Also there was significant reduction in body weight and BMI (a number used to classify an individual as normal, underweight or overweight) in macadamia nuts group.
What does it mean?
According to the study macadamia nuts can help in weight loss and improve cholesterol levels.
Peanuts or groundnuts are not technically nuts; they belong to the legume family. They are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins.
Peanuts are helpful in treating cardiovascular conditions, stroke, Alzheimer’s and preventing gallstones.
A study investigated the effect of low fat (without peanuts) and moderate fat (with peanuts) diet on cholesterol level of obese and overweight individuals.
After 6 weeks of weight reduction diet, participants were asked to follow same diet for weight maintenance.
Similar weight loss was achieved by both the groups, the loss being slightly higher in moderate fat group. However the moderate fat diet improved cholesterol related parameters.
The effect of long term peanut consumption on energy intake and body weight was explored in a study conducted at Purdue University.
In the 30 week study subjects were asked to consume peanuts without any restrictions for 8 weeks. Then for 3 weeks they were asked to include peanuts in their diet and for 8 weeks they were asked to replace equal amounts of fats with peanuts.
In the first case, it was observed that energy intake was reduced significantly by peanut consumption and observed weight gain (1 kg) was less than expected weight gain (3.6 kg).
However when fats were replaced with peanuts energy intake and body weight was maintained.
Energy expenditure was increased by 11% by regular consumption of peanuts. It was concluded that peanuts cause satiety and thereby reduce energy intake.
What does this mean?
Studies show that peanuts help in weight loss by promoting satiety.
Pecans are nuts native to Mexico and southeastern parts of USA. They are rich in antioxidants, especially Vitamin E, which helps in protecting the heart and preventing proliferation of cancerous cells.
They are also rich in minerals which are necessary for basic body process such as wound healing and immune function. They are famous for their cholesterol lowering properties.
A research study was designed to observe the effects of monounsaturated fat or healthy fat from pecans on cholesterol and fat levels in healthy men and women.
Individuals were asked to follow either a diet where certain food items were replaced with a portion of pecans that are equal in calories or a pecan enriched diet.
Both the diets improved the cholesterol and fat levels but pecan enriched diet was found to be more effective. Despite of alterations in fat levels no increase in body weight was observed.
It was concluded that pecans can be included as a cholesterol lowering agent in the diet of healthy individuals.
What does this mean?
This research study throws light upon the cardioprotective effect of pecans and also presents the fact that consumption of these nuts does not cause weight gain in healthy individuals.
Other health benefits of Nuts
Apart from lowering body weight, the nutrients present in nuts hold a number of health benefits:
- They ameliorate cardiovascular conditions and related diseases.
- Consumption of nuts reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- They serve to be therapeutic for hypertension.
- They prevent proliferation and risk of developing cancer.
- Nuts have a protective effect against gallstone diseases.
- Nuts are rich in antioxidants and possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Eating a moderate amount of nuts is beneficial to prevent weight gain. Needless to say, discontinue eating nuts if you observe any allergic reactions. People suffering from diverticular disease of colon should avoid eating nuts.
Overall we have covered adequate number of studies to prove that nuts are beneficial for weight loss. However, you may still find research articles stating that nuts cause weight gain. We do not refute that argument.
In fact most doctors recommend consumption of dry fruits and nuts for patients recovering from chronic illness so that they receive a large amount of energy from a small serving size and it would help in weight gain.
The idea of consuming nuts for weight loss is to promote satiety. Nuts consumed before a meal will reduce your subsequent energy intake. So this practice is best followed with a diet low in calories.
There is no definite serving size of nuts to be consumed, so we would suggest that you should calculate the calories involved in one serving. And no need to worry about the fat content of nuts, they are good for you and healthy for your heart.