I know, I know. The title comes across as downright counter-intuitive weight loss BS, especially if you belong to the traditional weight loss camp that chucks out from their food list anything that contains high fat. But as a weight loss expert and someone who regularly scours scientific journals I’d say that dieters who believe that fats are evil are not just pushing themselves further away from their weight loss goals but are compromising their over-all health as well. Nutrition authority professor Richard Mattes and his peers recently blast the nuts-will-make-you-fat myth with their review of several scientific studies on the real effects of nuts on weight, so read on.
Clinical Studies Positively Associate Nuts With Weight Loss
Studies on the impacts of diet and lifestyle on serious diseases have extolled nuts for improving circulatory disorders and helping treat morbid obesity, especially in reducing body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity). The researchers behind these studies observed that people who eat enough nuts on a regular basis have a lower BMI, and that adults who skip the nut bowl are the ones that tend to be bulkier.
Several specially designed trials were conducted to determine how much weight their subjects will gain if given a certain amount of nuts over a period of time. So you can see that the scientists who engineered these experiments had hypothesized from the very beginning that nuts will inevitably lead to weight gain. The participants made no lifestyle changes save for eating their quota of nuts. At the end of the trials the scientists were surprised that their subjects either weighed the same or gained a very negligible amount of weight.
Therefore, including nuts in your regular everyday diet, without changing anything else, is not a red flag for weight gain. What happens if nuts become part of a weight loss program?
Nuts as Part of a Weight Loss Program
A group of researchers, lead by Dr Wien of City of Hope National Medical Center, conducted a trial to find out whether almonds or complex carbohydrates are the better weight loss foods in a structured weight loss program. The almond group fared better than complex carb group with a more dramatic weight loss. They experienced greater BMI reduction, lost more inches off their waist, and got rid of more body fat mass.
Then there’s another trial by Dr F. Sacks of Harvard Medical School, that ended up with the fascinating conclusion that a moderate-fat diet, one that gets about 35% of its energy from fat, helps people adhere more to a healthy diet, as opposed to a low-fat diet, one that gets 20% of its energy from fat. This holds true as long as nuts regularly have a fairly large share in the 35-percent fat allowance.
How Peanuts and Tree Nuts Help Melt Unwanted Blubber
If these sets of evidence still aren’t enough to turn you into a nut convert, here are three weight loss properties of nuts that Mattes and his colleagues identified in their paper:
1. Consumption of nuts helps curb the appetite by virtue of their high concentration in nutrients. The dense combination of fat, protein, fiber, and carbohydrates makes nuts score high in the satiety meter. Of course, nuts are high in calories. However, people who snack on nuts end up feeling satisfied longer even with just a handful or two. They also tend to skip on portions in their later meals. The lower calorie intake at subsequent meals more than compensates for the calorie load of nuts.
2. Nuts do not totally disintegrate in your gut, reported a number of studies. This means that you do not get to take in all the calories nuts are supposed to have. The scientists behind the studies noted an increased amount of fecal fat in their subjects that were given 70 grams of different peanut products. This is true especially when you eat whole nuts. The group that was given whole peanuts lost the highest amount of undigested fats. Nearly 20% of the fat from nuts got excreted in their feces, while the three other groups rationed with peanut butter, peanut oil, and peanut flour excreted only about 5-7% percent of the fat in their stools.
3. Eating nuts increases the body’s capacity to burn calories during rest. Your REE, or resting energy expenditure, spikes by 11% if you eat nuts. Imagine that! You lose more weight on a steady basis without moving a finger just by chomping on more nuts.
The Unmistakable Message: Nuts Can Help You Become Slimmer
I picked this particular article from The Journal of Nutrition to illuminate the public about the true value of nuts, the shelled underdogs, in successful weight loss diets. Now you know the truth. Nuts are not fattening. So let go of your nut phobia and start reaping the health and weight loss benefits by incorporating more of these creamy-to-nutty bite-size goodies into your healthy eating plan. Nuts are perfect for vegans.
As much as possible try to eat plain, raw, and organic nuts. Not only do you absorb less of their fats compared to cooked nuts and nut by-products, you also get to burn the ones that you actually absorb. That’s because raw nuts still have their lipase in them, the enzyme that enables your body to metabolize fats found in food. Heat the nuts over 118 degrees and these valuable weight loss enzymes die. Your body will now strain to produce its own lipase to digest the fats present in the nuts (or any fatty previous meal for that matter). The problem is that a lot of people don’t produce enough of these enzymes, particularly those prone to weight gain. So choose raw nuts instead, to unburden your body and to metabolize fats more completely.
This is not to negate the documented studies above. Of course dry-roasted nuts can still offer tremendous help in bringing your weight down. It’s just that it’s the raw nuts that can make you trimmer in less time. So free yourself and get nutty with these healthy treats.
About the Author
Matthew Papaconstantinou, PhD, is a biologist with a special interest in weight loss programs that really work. His regular and meticulous perusal of scientific journals on the fields of healthy weight loss and nutrition keeps him abreast with the latest trends on safe and natural weight loss. His blog offers Weight Watchers coupon codes and a Diet to Go coupon, two diet programs that emphasize consumption of nuts.
1. Nuts and healthy body weight maintenance mechanisms. Mattes RD, Dreher ML. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(1):137-41.
2. Almonds vs. complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Wien MA, and colleagues. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27:1365–72.
3. A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. McManus K, and colleagues. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001;25:1503–11.
Image Credit: PhotoXpress