There’s a lot of controversy about nuts as a snack and whether they’re fattening. It’s actually the opposite. In fact, a 2012 review that appeared in the journal Nutrition found that those who eat nuts regularly are less likely to be overweight and gain fat over time.
There are many misconceptions about nuts, but I refer specifically to the confusion about their fat content. It appears to be similar to many of the myths that plague the fitness industry—people don’t get it, even when they are informed repeatedly how to lose weight and be healthier.
Nuts are energy dense, with between 45 and 75 percent of their calories coming from fat. When people add nuts to their diets but don’t decrease their total calories, they generally don’t gain weight. Not only that, but studies show an inverse relationship between nut intake and bodyfat percentage, and in multiple-year surveys people who ate more nuts had less chance of gaining weight or developing type 2 diabetes.
For example, one study found that participants who ate a moderate-fat diet that included nuts five times a week lost more weight than those who ate a similar lowfat diet that didn’t include nuts. Another common trend seen with nuts is that when nuts are added to a diet in addition to normal calorie consumption, weight gain is considerably less than was predicted based on the number of calories being eaten.
One study found that a group who supplemented their diets with 500 extra calories a day from nuts gained only one kilogram rather than the predicted 3.6 kilograms over eight weeks.
Researchers suggest that eating nuts can keep you lean because the high protein and unsaturated fat content can increase energy expenditure and diet-induced thermogenesis, which refers to the calories you burn processing the food you eat. In addition, nuts are high in fiber, promote insulin sensitivity and curb hunger cravings. There is also abundant evidence that they can lower cholesterol, increase antioxidant status, decrease blood pressure and improve glucose tolerance in diabetics.
So, yes, nuts are a great snack, especially if one of your goals is to get lean or stay lean. Just don’t interpret that to mean that you can eat a half a kilo a day of them and get ripped.