Nuts can help you drop body fat, lose weight and be healthy.
However, if not done correctly, can also contribute to weight gain, body fat accumulation and digestive issues.
How can it be both?
Well, let's break it down.
First, it's important to note that nuts are a combination food.
That means it's not a pure Macro nutrient, (Protein, Fat or Carbohydrate) - rather a combination of ALL three.
The exact ratio of Protein, Fat or Carb depends on the type of nut.
Look below at the Glycemic Index of popular nuts.
Keep in mind, the lower the Glycmeic Index, the better when it comes to fat loss.
So, what nuts are best for weight loss? For me personally, I will only eat nuts that are below 15GI.
It helps me keep my blood glucose and insulin low to prevent against body fat gain.
For many of my clients, I think it's reasonable to have nuts up to 25-30GI but you must be careful!
Serving Size per Day:
I think a visual representation is important.
Nuts do vary greatly in terms of Macro-nutrient breakdown.
However, in the 26-years I have been in business, I have concluded that most people are not going to use food scales or count out a certain amount of nuts.
It's both inconvenient and obsessive.
In all honesty, I don't usually count them out either.
In fact, unless I am working with someone who is either getting ready for a fitness contest or on a huge mission to change their body, I usually teach an easier serving size approach.
I usually instruct people to have one handful of their favorite low Glycemic Index nut.
It's faster and easier than measuring or using a food scale.
I don't mind if someone eats the entire handful at once or breaks it into two 1/2 handfuls per day.
Furthermore, nuts can be taken as a snack or along with a meal.
Some of my most successful clients use them as a dessert after a meal.
Loaded with Energy, Vitamins and Minerals:
Nuts are very energy dense (which means they contain a lot of calories.)
However, think of this first as a potential good thing.
They are energy rich because they contain a generous amount of fats.
Most of the fat ratio: Omega 3 to Omega 6 is well balanced.
Keep in mind Omega 3 fats are the Super Healthy Fats (good for your cells, skin, muscle and heart).
Omega 6 fats are the less desirable fats (will lead to cellular inflammation).
Most nuts are also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Especially water soluble B vitamins as well as calcium and potassium.
Calcium from vegetables and nuts absorbs into the human body readily whereas calcium from dairy does not absorb well and is almost negligible.
Peanuts: are not a nut
Peanuts are not a nut but rather a legume (bean).
This fact seemed to be somewhat more shocking 10+ years ago, but most people are well aware of this now.
Peanuts in all forms (including peanut butter) are much higher in Glycemic Index since they are more starchy in nature like dry beans.
Perhaps even worse than being higher in Glycemic Index is the fact that peanuts do not contain as much good monounsaturated Omega 3 fatty acids as most other nuts.
Lastly, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that peanuts may contain a carcinogenic toxin called Aflatoxin B1 (NIH report
What does all this mean?
Eating nuts can be a wonderful and healthy addition to any weight loss diet.
They provide many necessary calories (energy) coming from good sources of Omega 3 Fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
However, the types and quality that you consume is very important.
It is possible to eat too many or the wrong kind of nuts which can limit your fat loss success.
However, I do not believe that eliminating them is necessary.
My strategy for most clients?
- Eat nuts every day or every other day - the ones that are lowest in GI (see above)
- Watch quantity - serving size = 1 handful
- Limit peanuts, in all forms due to being higher in GI, lower in good fats and the potential for toxins.