Weight Loss in a Nutshell

Full of protein and nutrients, nuts make a great snack alternative—as long as you’re eating the right ones

Health in a NutshellOnce thought to be a disaster for any diet, nuts are now getting the credit they deserve as a potentially healthy part of any balanced diet. Though they’re a calorie dense food that is high in fat, they contain healthier, unsaturated fats and have been shown to reduce the body’s levels of bad cholesterol. They’ve also been shown to reduce inflammation in the arteries, helping to lower the risk of heart attack and heart disease. Adding nuts to your diet in moderation can even help you lose weight, as they tend to fill you up quickly and are a much healthier alternative to many snack foods.

A study published in the Journal of The American College of Nutrition found people who ate nuts, especially pistachios, almonds and even pecans had smaller waistlines than people who did not.  It is unlikely this has anything to do with the nuts and more as an indicator of more general nutrition choices by these people but it does serve to show in appropriate portions, nuts can be a healthy choice even when you are controlling your calories.

Though most nuts have very similar caloric and nutritional content, some are a bit healthier than others. The following nuts contain the just 160 calories per ounce, making them the healthiest choices for your weight loss snacking:

  • Pistachios – 49 nuts per ounce with 6 grams of protein & 13 grams of fat
  • Cashews – 16 to 18 nuts per ounce with 5 grams of protein & 13 grams of fat
  • Almonds – 23 nuts per ounce with 6 grams of protein & 14 grams of fat

All nuts contain protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, so you shouldn’t hesitate to reach for any kind of nut over a bag of potato chips when you’re feeling the urge to snack. However, the nuts above may be better choices than pecans and macadamia nuts, which have the highest calorie and fat content and lowest amount of protein per ounce:

  • Pecans – 18 to 20 halves per ounce with 3 grams of protein & 20 grams of fat
  • Macadamia nuts – 10 to 12 nuts per ounce with 2 grams of protein & 21 grams of fat

For any nut, the healthiest option will always be the raw, plain kind. Anything sugar-coated or honey-roasted will pack in empty calories, counteracting the natural healthiness of the nut. Pay attention to the nutritional label of any prepackaged nuts you buy and avoid products that contain high levels of sugar and unhealthy fats.

This goes for peanut butter and other nut spreads too—in moderation, they can provide you with just the same nutritional value as regular nuts, but are frequently packed with unhealthy ingredients like hydrogenated oil. Even roasted nuts can carry these unhealthy attributes, as many of them are heated in omega-6 unhealthy fats or hydrogenated oil. To make matters worse, heating nuts to high temperatures can result in the destruction of many of their nutrients.

Nuts make for a perfect snack while trying to lose weight, but as with all great things, they must be enjoyed in moderation. Eating a handful of nuts each day can be great for the body—just be sure that you’re picking the right ones.

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