Nuts: Do They Make You Fat?
I have a couple of friends who refuse to eat any nuts or nut products, because they think consuming nuts will make them fat. One friend doesn’t consume any fat at all, but I see her eating all kinds of unhealthy sugary fat-free snacks, unaware that it’s all that sugar and empty calories that are contributing to the fact that she is overweight. Then I have another friend who is scared that a few nuts will pack on the pounds but goes ahead and consumes lots of fattening cookies, meats and cheeses.
Can nuts be a healthy food? That depends. Can they cause you to gain weight? That depends, too.
The first question is important, because consuming whole, natural foods usually corresponds with healthy weight loss.
Yes, nuts are a very healthy food. The FDA even states, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” They provide many vitamins like vitamin E, which helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Nuts are also high in B vitamins like thiamine (helps to break down sugars in blood) and niacin (helps to raise levels of good cholesterol), and contain a good supply of protein, fiber and omega fatty acids.
When are nuts unhealthy? When they are covered in salt, sugars, artificial flavors and oils (especially hydrogenated). Your best bet is to buy raw and unsalted. Don’t worry though. If you don’t like them now, your tastebuds will adjust. You can even mix them with dried fruit for a scrumptious little treat. And, if you are pressed for time, there are a few snack bars that you can try. Lara Bars are a great brand and good substitute for unhealthy protein bars. You can read more about them here.
And, if you just have to buy salted or roasted nuts, make sure they don’t contain any of the unhealthy ingredients mentioned above. One other benefit to buying raw and unsalted is that you probably won’t eat as many since roasted, salted nuts can be addictive!
That brings me to the second question – Can nuts cause you to gain weight?
If you are eating plenty of whole foods, and nourishing your body, mind and spirit, then consuming nuts will not cause you to gain weight. They will actually cause you to eat less, because the fat and fiber in nuts will help to keep you fuller longer. I hesitate to recommend a specific amount, because everyone is different. Athletes will be able to consume more, because they will use it up as fuel faster, and some people are better able to digest more nuts than others.
How Can You Tell What’s Right for You?
A general rule of thumb is that 1-2 handful of nuts a day is a healthy amount and will not cause you to gain weight. A better approach is to really listen to your body and see how you feel. I personally can’t digest any more that 1-2 small handfuls, because I will feel very weighed down, and my digestion gets very sluggish. On days where I engage in more strenuous exercise, I notice that I can consume a bit more. You really have to experiment and see.
Besides just reaching for a handful of nuts, there are many other ways to enjoy these delectable morsels.
- Chop and sprinkle over oatmeal or your favorite cereal
- As a topping on your yogurt or banana ice cream
- Sprinkle on your favorite salad
But Nuts Are Expensive!
Yes, good quality nuts can be more expensive, but there are a few ways you can buy them without feeling as if you are breaking the bank.
- Shop around, and buy in bulk - Costco sells large bags of nuts for a really good price. I don’t think they sell organic, but they do sell raw nuts. If you shop online, you can probably find good deals and another option is to buy large quantities with friends or family.
- Try Seeds - Most seeds are less expensive than nuts, just as nutritious and can be a substitute in many recipes. Sunflower, pumpkin, chia and flax are a few of my favorites.
How to Store Nuts
Because nuts contain oil that can go rancid pretty quickly, the best place to store them is in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container. Then, they can last up to a year. Raw nuts will last longer than salted, and whole nuts will last longer than chopped.
In a nutshell, I guess you can say that along with eating a variety of healthy, natural whole foods, nuts can help to keep you healthy and slim. Hopefully I’ve dispelled some commonly held beliefs and have inspired you to add a little nuttiness to your day.
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