Want to lose weight? Go nuts!

Senior Lecturer in Nutrition Dr Jessica Jin explains why eating nuts can help with weight management...

Recent figures have revealed that two out of every three people in the UK are considered either overweight or obese. Our population is facing a major weight management challenge and increased risks of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, strokes and Type-II diabetes.

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One of the factors contributing to obesity is taking in more energy than the body needs on a daily basis. So, cutting down energy intake by either restricting energy-dense foods or reducing the size of food portions seems to be a practical way of achieving weight loss in the long run.

However, some high-energy foods like nuts and seeds, which are often labelled as ‘brain food’ by scientists, present a dilemma.

Do we need to restrict their intake in the same way that we do for sugary and fatty foods in order to keep a healthy weight? If that is the case, then would we miss out on some of the benefits that nuts can have on our health?

Recent research has shown that for certain types of nuts, like almonds, walnuts and pistachio nuts, an intake as high as 60-100g (12-20 teaspoons) does not increase body weight, even in people who are overweight or at risk of developing Type-II diabetes.

This can partly be explained by the fact that those nuts make people feel fuller after consumption, so their intake of other foods during the day is therefore reduced which gives a good energy balance in their diet.

What is more interesting is that the energy absorption from nuts, particularly almonds, is not entirely efficient due to their rich content of fibre. So whatever your weight is, there is no need to restrict the number of nuts on your plate.

The beauty of nuts is not limited to their ‘null-effect’ on weight gain. Nutritionists have highlighted other benefits such as reducing the chances of developing heart disease and Type-II diabetes for both healthy and ‘at-risk’ people.

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Studies have shown that people consuming the most almonds, walnuts and pistachio nuts all experienced reduced blood glucose levels either when fasting or just after a meal. They also found positive changes in the levels of their blood lipids and other risk factors for similar diseases.

These benefits are ascribed to the diverse and dense nutritional components of nuts such as their high fibre content, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

More research needs to be done about other types of nuts, including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts and macadamia nuts, which have all been studied far less than almonds, walnuts and pistachios.

But for now the good news for dieters is that some types of nuts could be the perfect panacea for your health management.

Posted on Monday 8th April 2019

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