Nuts have been long feared as the enemy of weight loss due to their high calorie count – but thankfully, the truth has now largely won out and people are finally coming to their senses about these glorious little wonders, realising that eating nuts does NOT make you fat! In fact, quite the opposite… not only have studies shown that those who consume nuts are slimmer, but their endless health benefits (ranging from improved heart health, to glowing skin) are now also undisputed. I’m here to share the low-down on these small but wondrous, nutritional powerhouses.
Good for health:
Countless scientific studies have shown that eating nuts can really boost health and prevent illness – most notably, improving general heart health and specifically lowering the risk of heart disease. And the benefits don’t end there…. a meta-analysis review of 25 scientific studies led scientists to conclude that eating 70g of nuts per day resulted in lower total cholesterol and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Ironically, it’s their high poly- and mono-unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol levels in the blood! Other studies suggest that eating just a handful of nuts each day may help reduce not only heart disease and high cholesterol, but also high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and excess abdominal fat (i.e. the metabolic syndrome).
Good for staying slim:
Many think that because nuts are high in calories, they’ll inevitably pile on the pounds! However, research shows quite the opposite to be true. One Spanish study of almost 9000 adults, showed that those who ate nuts at least twice a week had a much lower risk of gaining weight over the next few years compared to those who rarely or never ate them. Another study found that despite having the same calorie-intake, adults who included 84g of almonds into their daily diet in place of some of the carbs, had around a 60% greater reduction in weight and body fat after 6 months compared to those who did not eat them. Bottom line: not only does eating nuts NOT cause weight gain, it may actually help you lose weight (& stay slim)!
Good for training and fitness:
Nuts contain the perfect combination of protein, to protect muscle tissue and repair damaged cells, and healthy essential fatty acids, which have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming some protein before and after a workout has been shown to have beneficial effects. A small amount of pre-exercise protein increases amino acid levels during exercise, which serves as a “biochemical signal” that tells muscles not to break down protein for fuel. After exercise, consuming protein reduces the negative effects of muscle damage on your ability to exercise (e.g. run/ train) the next day. As mentioned, the essential fats found in all nuts, will further protect your muscles against free-radical damage both during and after training, by strengthening muscle cell membranes.
The practical bit:
Nuts are portable, versatile, nutritious and delicious! If you’re looking for the easiest healthy snack to stash in your handbag, briefcase, pocket or office draw – nuts fit the bill. They are the perfect thing to grab for an instant energy-boost during that dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Their perfect combination of protein, healthy-fats, fibre and low-GI carbs, means that they promote satiety and prevent you reaching for unhealthy sugar and fat-laden junk food. Keeping your hunger in check between meals will not only keep your energy levels stable throughout the day, but it’s also an indispensable weight loss strategy!
Each nut has its own specific nutrient profile and health benefits, but any nut will offer heart-healthy fats, Vitamin E (a critical anti-oxidant), fibre, protein and a host of other beneficial nutrients. Whilst all the evidence is definitely in favour of nuts for healthy weight control, you definitely can’t go eating the whole big bag each day! The best way to incorporate nuts into your diet is to either add them (in moderation) to foods you already eat (e.g. sprinkled on top of your morning porridge or Greek yoghurt, or into meal-time salads), or use them to replace unhealthy snack foods you might reach for when peckish, such as sweets, biscuits, or crisps! Keep portions to around 30g per day, and ideally stick to raw unsalted varieties (though dry-roasted and salted is not too bad!). If you’re out and about or buying for work or travels, buy nuts in pre-portioned bags (30-50g) or do your own portioning at home, into small Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers. The amounts to stick to for a 30g portion are roughly: 24 almonds, 18 cashew nuts, 28 peanuts, 14 walnuts and 49 pistachio nuts! So you have my permission now… Go Nuts!!