Why eating nuts can aid weight control.

A few things you may not know about almonds

The nutrition basics:

  • Almonds have a proven heart health claim. This is due to being high in monounsaturated fat and their vitamin E content. They are the tree nut with the highest amount of vitamin E. Proven to lower total and LDL cholesterol.
  • 1 handful of almonds contain a similar amount of polyphenols to 1 cup of green tea. 
  • They are low in glycaemic index and when eaten together they can lower the impact on blood sugars of other carbohydrate foods. 
  • 1 serving (1 oz) contains 12 vitamins and minerals (including folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and potassium) and 6 g protein. This protein helps provide a powerful satiating effect, so they keep you fuller for longer.
  • They are the nuts with the longest shelf life.
  • You need 2 types of almond trees present for pollination, as the bees need to carry pollen from 1 type of almond tree to another.

Heart Health:

2 large studies show the heart health benfits of nuts:

1. Nurses’ Health Study (over 86,000 nurses followed over 14 years)

2. the Adventist Health Study (followed over 27,000 men)

Dietitian UK: Why almonds are so good for you

In total these studies assessed the diets of over 110,000 men and women and after adjusting for other risk factors they linked the intake of five or more servings of nuts per week to a 35 – 50 percent reduction in risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death.

If nuts are high in fat, won’t eating them make me fat?

It sounds like common sense doesn’t it. However the evidence begs to differ. Nut eaters tend to come out at a lower body weight than non-nut eaters. Here is one example for you:

A 24 week weight loss interventional study on obese women compared:

Group A who ate 84g of almonds per day, equivalent to 3 portions of almonds per day. 

A low calorie diet 

39% total fat, 25% MUFA and 32% carbohydrate

Group B on a low calorie, complex carbohydrate diet. 

(18% total fat, 5% MUFA and 53% carbohydrate)

Both diets were equivalent calories and protein. The results showed a 62% greater reduction in weight/BMI, 50% greater reduction in waist circumference and 56% greater reduction in Fat mass in the almond-group.

Int J Obesity Related Metabolic Disease (2003): 27: 1365.

The Reasoning:

Firstly….You don’t absorb all the calories from nuts. That fact blew me away the first time I heard it and understood it. In fact I know now that we absorb different amounts calories from different nuts. The research is ongoing on this and some of it so new it is yet to be published. for the same nuts there is then a difference in the amount of energy we absorb for different nut products – whole, chopped, nut butters.

Secondly…. the calorie content of foods is not that accurate. It is calculated using conversion factors rather than being measured.  Digestibility is not taken into account. If we measured the urinary and fecal energy after eating almonds we would get a more accurate figure, but just getting someone to eat only almonds so we can so this is an extreme task. Some new research has looked at another way of doing this using a base diet with and without almonds. This highlighted that there is a definite difference between the food label calorie content and the measured calorie content of nuts.

The real calorie content of nuts is 5-21% lower than the labels tell us. It varies depending on the type of nut and the processing of the nut. 

Take Home Message:

Nuts are good, no, GREAT for you when eaten in sensible portion sizes. Obviously overeating them can lead to excess calorie intake and weight gain. However,  when eaten daily, in portion controlled amounts, they can help with weight control, satiety and provide a good heart health benefit too.

I personally love the portion tins you can get. 

Portion:

A portion is described as: 1 oz, 2 tbsp, a small handful, 30g.

In actual numbers of nuts this is:

23 almonds, 18 cashews, 12 hazelnuts, 8 brazil nuts ,35 peanuts, 15 pecan halves or 14 walnut halves.

Dietitian UK: Nuts portion guide

 

 

Disclaimer: I recently attended a Round Table event for the Almond B0ard of California. Some of the information in this post has come from that day. This post was not paid for, nor was I asked to write it, it just interests me!

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