Nuts Will Not Make You Gain Weight
You can’t have your cake and eat it as the expression goes, but you can have nuts and not worry too much about weight gain even thought they are high in calories and fats! One of the most interesting observations that I have made over the years is that people are able to eat peanuts and tree nuts in significant quantities and still lose weight in spite of the significant amount of calories that come with every handful. Nuts of all kind (what we categorize as nuts are not actually nuts at all- almonds, walnuts and pecans are technically fruits, cashews are seeds as are candlenuts, pistachios and pine nuts, macadamias are kernels and peanuts are actually legumes) are high in many valuable nutrients and have tremendous health benefits. Many nuts are rich sources of vitamins E and vitamin B2, and are rich in high in protein, making them quite popular among those who choose to avoid or limit their meat intake. Nuts are also high in folate, fiber, and vital minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. Nuts are also very high in fats namely essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic and most of the fats found in nuts are unsaturated and include monounsaturated fats which are extremely beneficial. Studies have found that people who consume nuts on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease1 and that certain nuts such as almonds and walnuts can lower LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol)2,3. In addition to their heart friendly benefits, nuts are also recommended foods for individuals with Type 2 diabetes thanks to their very low glycemic index. The problem is that because of their high caloric nature, many are afraid to add them to their diet for fear of gaining weight. Interestingly enough there are several studies that have validated what I have seen for several years now, namely that you can ingest a significant number of calories from nuts and not gain weight.
Studies On Nuts And Weight Gain
During a thirty week study of fifteen healthy normal weight adults at Perdue University participants added approximately 2000 kJ worth of peanuts to their regular diet for eight weeks and then for the next eight weeks peanuts replaced an equal amount of other fats in their diet. Researchers found that the subjects compensated for 66% of the energy provided by the nuts and body weight gain was far lower than expected with an average gain of only 3.6 kg. However when customary dietary fats were replaced with calories from peanuts body weight was maintained perfectly. Resting energy expenditure was increased by 11% after regular peanut consumption for 19 weeks and more importantly the high consumption of peanuts did not turn them off to its taste or lead them to consume other snack foods during the study. The study concluded that despite being high in calories, peanuts have a high satiety value and chronic ingestion evokes strong dietary compensation and little change in energy balance.4 Another study found similar findings with almonds. This study’s aim was to determine if adding 1440kJ (about 343 calories) of almonds in a daily diet would elicit positive energy balance and body composition change. For the duration of the 23 week study with twenty women there were no changes in bodyweight from daily almond consumption, but an inefficiency in absorption of energy from almonds was noted. The study concluded that a daily 340 calorie serving of almonds enough to brig about positive cardiovascular effects could be added to the diet with a limited risk of weight gain.5
Why Nuts Don’t Make Us Gain Weight
Why is it that nuts seem to defy the laws of thermodynamics that do not apply to other foods? We don’t exactly know why you can ingest more calories than the body needs to maintain an energy balance from nuts and still not gain weight but some data points to the fact that eating nuts increases the amount of energy our body expends and there seems to be evidence that our bodies do not absorb calories from nuts very efficiently. In either case these mechanisms seem to offset most of the calories ingested or the weight loss studies conducted all found that dietary compliance was improved when nuts were permitted. I personally include in all weight loss dietary recommendations for my clients for the health benefits and the fact that it does provide a welcome guilt free treat that actually helps you stay on your diet as well. Just be sure to get the unsalted variety!
Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training 10 Minute Workouts™ and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. Get a copy of his free weight loss ebook here.