Contrary to the popular belief that nuts and seeds are too fattening for those who want to lose weight, research suggests that nuts and seeds are actually beneficial for weight loss. Most important, nuts and seeds are healthful, natural foods that are full of beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals. In any case, it’s not the fat content of a diet that makes it healthy or not, it’s the nutrient content, specifically micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals). And based on their nutrient content, nuts are a health-promoting source of calories.
Nuts and seeds contain a wide spectrum of micronutrients including:
Nuts and seeds promote heart health. Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that nut consumption is beneficial for heart health. Eating five or more servings of nuts per week is estimated to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 35 percent.1 Eating nuts and seeds protects against sudden cardiac death and reduces blood cholesterol and inflammation.1-3
Individuals trying to lose weight should not try to avoid nuts. In fact, in obese individuals, adding nuts to the diet aided in weight loss and also improved insulin sensitivity, which could help to prevent or reverse diabetes.4
Of course, nuts should not be eaten to excess. Nuts and seeds are high in nutrients but also high in calories, so they should be eaten with consideration for one’s caloric needs. One ounce daily is usually appropriate for women trying to lose weight and 1.5 – 2 ounces for overweight men. Conversely, nuts and seeds should be eaten in larger amounts for slim, highly physically active people who can use the extra calories.
In the Adventist Health Study, a number of lifestyle factors were found to be associated with longevity. Those who had a high level of physical activity, followed a vegetarian diet, and ate nuts frequently lived on average eight years longer than those who did not share those habits.5
Similarly in the Nurses’ Health Study, nut consumption was identified as a dietary factor associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancers.6 New research continues to confirm these observations.7
So many of us eat peanuts or peanut butter, but just how great are peanuts as a health food?
In a nutshell, peanuts are healthful, but don’t contain as much healthful ingredients as other nuts. Since raw peanuts don’t taste good, practically all are roasted. The problem is that they are usually over-roasted and lose their nutritional value and form acrylamides (carcinogens).
Nuts and seeds should be eaten raw or only lightly toasted. Roasting nuts and seeds forms a potentially harmful compound called acrylamide, and reduces the amounts of minerals and amino acids. Salted nuts should also be avoided.
In addition, eating nuts and seeds with leafy greens can enhance the body’s absorption of fat-soluble nutrients from the greens. Therefore, a nut-based salad dressing is an excellent way to absorb more nutrients from your salads.20
You're nuts if you don’t eat nuts!