What’s the Deal with the Calories in Nuts?
By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist
Nuts are an energy dense food which means they pack a lot of calories in a small serving and they are high in fat, this is why they were considered taboo for dieters. However, studies find that eating nuts does not lead to weight gain and may instead help with weight control, perhaps because nuts are rich in protein, fat, and fiber which influence the satiety & appetite signals in the brain, making people feel fuller and less hungry (1-4).
Let’s remember that not all fats are created equal. Indeed, nuts are rich in fat content, but for the most part, of the healthful kind. These unsaturated fats including both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are essential for our bodies and tend to promote health. Some polyunsaturated fats in the Omega 3 family that are found in walnuts, chia, flax and fish oil are especially beneficial due to their anti-inflammatory properties. The fats that we want to limit in our diet are the trans and saturated fats that have long been associated with health issues. But even these types of fats are not all created equal, and some, in the right context can be harmless.
Nuts are also nutrient dense foods which means they pack a lot of healthy nutrients per serving. This is why they are associated with so many health benefits and longevity. Along with the healthful fat content, nuts are an abundant source of important nutrients such as fiber, protein and phytochemicals. They are also a good source of minerals
including potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and vitamins such as vitamin E, folic acid, niacin and B6.
So, I would say the calorie cost of nuts may be a price well paid. But of course as with any other food in your diet, it is important to pay attention to the serving size. A small handful of nuts, approximately 30g each day is not associated with weight gain and may help reduce the risk of obesity. Substitute them for a less healthy food such as muffins, biscuits, cakes, chips, or chocolate.
1. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011;364:2392-404.
2. Mattes RD, Kris-Etherton PM, Foster GD. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr. 2008;138:1741S-5S.
3. Bes-Rastrollo M, Sabate J, Gomez-Gracia E, Alonso A, Martinez JA, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15:107-16.
4. Bes-Rastrollo M, Wedick NM, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Li TY, Sampson L, Hu FB. Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1913-19.