Because of their high fat contents, nuts have been at the heart of many discussions about dietary recommendations. Once banished from weight-loss programs, the benefits of nuts have been coming to light of late.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a heart-protecting fatty acid that is vital to heart health. Nuts also contain fiber, serve as a plant-based protein source, and are a great low-carbohydrate snack option. Nuts have been found to decrease LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind) and help reduce the risk of blood clots.
And, not only do nuts have a wide range of health benefits, they can positively affect weight, as well. Recent research has shown that nut consumption actually corresponds positively to a healthier lifestyle, healthier weight and overall better blood work results. Researchers have found no association between high nut consumption and increased rate of weight gain throughout the years, which means eating more nuts does not equal gaining more weight.
In my experience with clients, nuts are a good substitute for other snack options such as crackers and bread products. Instead of feeling hunger and lethargy, my clients who start snacking on nuts report feeling healthier and fuller and lose weight in the process.
Keep Portion Size in Mind
However, I do believe that portion size is an important factor to consider even with something that's healthy. One to 2 ounces (about ¼ to ½ cup) of nuts provides 200 to 400 calories, which is the proper daily portion for this food. That can be a hefty number to just add to your typical diet already, which is why I like to emphasize that nuts should be a replacement food.
For instance, instead of having a sandwich with two slices of bread, use one slice only or ditch the bread entirely and make the meal into a salad or a lettuce-wrapped sandwich — and then add a small handful of nuts to your meal. Or, instead of snacking on crackers, have a banana with almonds. Small choices such as these will help you incorporate more healthy fats into your diet, while helping you lose weight and have more energy.
As an RD and proponent of whole foods, I encourage everyone trying to stick to a weight-loss program to incorporate healthy fats into their diet for satiety as well as sanity. Nuts are a great way to boost your healthy fat intake and make it easier to stick to a healthy-eating plan.