Are nuts the weighty problem they’re purported to be? Nuts make you fat, right? They are calorie dense and high fat; how can they not cause weight gain? Too often we fall prey to the “everyone knows” data – data that in fact is completely false. Here’s an example: Diet sweeteners cause weight loss. Of course, they’re zero calorie, how could they do anything else? It would be like saying drinking water, also zero calorie, would cause you to somehow gain weight. Ridiculous, right?
In the case of water, yes, but diet sweeteners are proven to cause weight gain.
And, you probably know where I’m going with this–Nuts DO NOT cause you to gain weight and their health benefits make them an important part of a meal plan to regain your health.
DOZENS OF STUDIES VALIDATE NUTS’ INNOCENCE WHEN IT COMES TO THE SCALE
Study after study evaluating nuts confirms the lack of weight gain associated with eating them. Please note that food quality is everything and the nuts you consume should be raw and organic–not roasted, salted, honeyed or sugared varieties. Dozens of studies have been reviewed, and thanks to the legwork of Dr Greger’s team at nutritionfacts.org, many are cited below.
There was a study where two handfuls of nuts were added to the diet every day for six months. Calorically speaking, participants should have gained more than 15 lb, but instead the men gained less than a pound and the women gained about one quarter of a pound. It was such a small weight change over the course of 6 months that is wasn’t considered to be statistically significant.
Many studies showed no weight gain at all, even after having participants add two handfuls of walnuts a day to their diet.An aggressive study that added three handfuls of pecans, every day for 8 weeks resulted in no weight gain.
Most studies tried to keep participant’s calories the same (the nut and no-nut groups) and just used the high fat nut instead of other calories. Yet in some cases participants lost weight on the nut calories even where they ended up consuming more calories than the non-nut eating group.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EAT NUTS FOR YEARS, NOT JUST WEEKS?
What about long term studies? Again, there is ample evidence to support that even in studies lasting up to 6 years, there was no weight gain. Additionally, the nut eaters enjoyed a lowered risk of belly fat as compared to the no-nut group.If you substitute nut calories with candy however, there is definitely a change. Just two weeks of candy consumption increases body weight but the same calories in nuts yielded no weight gain.
When it came to waist measurement, those eating the most nuts and veggies enjoyed the slimmest waists, while those eating the most meat had the widest.If nut intake is compared to weight, a cross-sectional study found the thinnest people to eat the most nuts and the chubbiest ate the least. Nut consumption, with all its beautiful fat, translated into a lower body mass index overall.
HARVARD RESEARCHERS WEIGH IN
A Harvard study found weight gain to be associated with, not surprisingly, junk food like soda, fries and chips, and meat. Weight loss is associated with veggies, nuts, fruits, and whole grains. Their conclusion: “minimally process foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be increased.”
NUTS DECREASE INFLAMMATION & PROTECT YOUR HEART
A 2012 study concluded that nuts lower inflammation, improve cholesterol and arterial function (heart healthy), and they do it all without causing weight gain.
Literally every study in which nuts were added to the diet without trying to restrict calories failed to show the expected weight gain based on the number of extra calories consumed. Either the weight gain was minimal, there was no weight gain or participants lost weight.
Okay, now the 64 million dollar question:
WHY DON’T NUTS CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
By what necromancy do nuts refuse to cause weight gain despite their high fat calories? There are a few factors:
There was a theory that put forward the idea that the hardness and chewing required of nuts led to more rapid satiation. But when researchers compared a half a cup of peanuts to peanut butter, both added on to individual’s regular dietary consumption, even after a month no substantial weight gain occurred in either group. The “chewing” theory was unsubstantiated.
There’s a “poop excretion theory” that notes the cell walls of almonds, as an example, remain intact in the digestive tract, and we perhaps “lose” through our stool a number of calories.
Are nuts so satisfying and filling that we unconsciously eat less calories of other foods when they’re included in our diet? A fascinating study was done by adding walnuts to a fruit smoothie. They included strawberries, banana, other frozen berries and pineapple juice, plus ground walnuts. The “other smoothie” contained everything the same including walnut flavoring. Both smoothies contained she same calories and tasted identical–this was a double blind study.
What do you think happened?
The consumers of the “no walnut” smoothie were less satisfied than those who had the nuts in their smoothie. The nuts were satisfying and filling and seemed to lead to less calories being consumed overall.
There’s also the fat burning theory – nuts actually boost our fat burning, so despite their hefty fat calories, your body compensates by burning more. Let’s see how this was borne out in the research.
The walnut study compared fat burning and discovered the placebo group (no walnuts) burned about 20 grams of fat while they slept, but the walnut group, who was consuming the SAME number of calories, burned about 31 grams of fat each day. Their bodies burned more fat to compensate for the healthy nut consumption.
NUTS WORK THEIR MAGIC IN 3 WAYS
In summary research found:
- Nuts suppress your appetite
- Nuts cause you to lose fat in your stool
- Nuts boost your fat metabolism
The first two account for about 70% of the “missing” calories, while the boost in fat metabolism accounts for the last 30%.
WHY SHOULD YOU EAT NUTS?
In addition to not making your fat, nuts are loaded with fiber which keeps your digestive tract and microbiome (good probiotic organisms) happy, healthy and anti-inflammatory.
Nuts contain healthy fat and are heart protective in a big way–they are estimated to cut your risk of dying from heart disease in half.
To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten: What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You”
References: Thank you to nutritionfacts.org for providing such a large list of studies supporting the health benefits of nuts.
- Natoli S, McCoy P. A review of the evidence: nuts and body weight. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(4):588-97.
- Martínez-González MA, Bes-Rastrollo M. Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Jun;21 Suppl 1:S40-5.
AlperCM, Mattes RD. Effects of chronic peanut consumption on energy balance and hedonics. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002 Aug;26(8):1129-37.
- Sabaté J, Cordero-Macintyre Z, Siapco G, Torabian S, Haddad E. Does regular walnut consumption lead to weight gain? Br J Nutr. 2005 Nov;94(5):859-64.
- Fraser GE, Bennett HW, Jaceldo KB, Sabaté J. Effect on body weight of a free 76 Kilojoule (320 calorie) daily supplement of almonds for six months. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Jun;21(3):275-83.
- Almario RU, Vonghavaravat V, Wong R, Kasim-Karakas SE. Effects of walnut consumption on plasma fatty acids and lipoproteins in combined hyperlipidemia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jul;74(1):72-9.
- Lovejoy JC, Most MM, Lefevre M, Greenway FL, Rood JC. Effect of diets enriched in almonds on insulin action and serum lipids in adults with normal glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;76(5):1000-6.
MorganWA, Clayshulte BJ. Pecans lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels. J AmDiet Assoc. 2000 Mar;100(3):312-8.
- Garg ML, Blake RJ, Wills RB. Macadamia nut consumption lowers plasma total and LDL cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic men. J Nutr. 2003 Apr;133(4):1060-3.
- Rajaram S, Burke K, Connell B, Myint T, Sabaté J. A monounsaturated fatty acid-rich pecan-enriched diet favorably alters the serum lipid profile of healthy men and women. J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9):2275-9.
- Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, Parker TL, Connelly PW, Qian W, Haight JS, Faulkner D, Vidgen E, Lapsley KG, Spiller GA. Dose response of almonds on coronary heart disease risk factors: blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine, and pulmonary nitric oxide: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Circulation. 2002 Sep 10;106(11):1327-32.
- Claesson AL, Holm G, Ernersson A, Lindström T, Nystrom FH. Two weeks of overfeeding with candy, but not peanuts, increases insulin levels and body weight. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2009;69(5):598-605.
- Foster GD, Shantz KL, Vander Veur SS, Oliver TL, Lent MR, Virus A, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Zemel BS, Gilden-Tsai A. A randomized trial of the effects of an almond-enriched, hypocaloric diet in the treatment of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):249-54.
- Casas-Agustench P, Bulló M, Ros E, Basora J, Salas-Salvadó J; Nureta-PREDIMED investigators. Cross-sectional association of nut intake with adiposity in a Mediterranean population. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Jul;21(7):518-25.
- Li Z, Song R, Nguyen C, Zerlin A, Karp H, Naowamondhol K, Thames G, Gao K, Li L, Tseng CH, Henning SM, Heber D. Pistachio nuts reduce triglycerides and body weight by comparison to refined carbohydrate snack in obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Jun;29(3):198-203.
- Vinson JA, Cai Y. Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits. Food Funct. 2012 Feb;3(2):134-40.
- Fogelholm M, Anderssen S, Gunnarsdottir I, Lahti-Koski M. Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food Nutr Res. 2012;56.
- Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2392-404.
- O’Neil CE, Keast DR, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Nut consumption is associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults: NHANES 1999-2004. J Am Coll Nutr. 2011 Dec;30(6):502-10.
- Mattes RD, Dreher ML. Nuts and healthy body weight maintenance mechanisms. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(1):137-41.
- Berry SE, Tydeman EA, Lewis HB, Phalora R, Rosborough J, Picout DR, Ellis PR. Manipulation of lipid bioaccessibility of almond seeds influences postprandial lipemia in healthy human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):922-9.