Trying to lose weight, but afraid to eat nuts? You're not alone. What you eat to lose weight can make a big difference in how fast you lose weight and whether you keep it off. Even though they are one of the high potassium foods that reduce blood pressure and osteoporosis, nuts are not included in most weight loss diets. They are felt to have too many calories and fats to be a part of a weight loss diet.
The official public health recommendations are to include them in your diet because of the nutritional health benefits they provide. Their high potassium content helps osteoporosis and blood pressure. Their high polyunsaturated fatty acid and monounsaturated fatty acid content improves heart health. Multiple epidemiological studies have shown them to be a part of the diets of the longest living and least disease prone populations.
The nutritional value of nuts is great, but the fear of weight gain and all the poor health conditions related to weight gain cause most people to exclude them from their diet. Even people not trying to lose weight exclude them. Many years ago nuts were included more often in the American diet. Today very few people include them.
Because of the health concerns about the role of nuts in our diet, researchers are beginning to look at the effect of nuts on weight. There have been a number of studies showing that over time weight gain is less in those who eat nuts regularly, but there have been only 4 randomized studies of the use of nuts in a weight loss program.
The largest study (1) to date was published in February 2012. However, it still was a small study compared to the nurses' study we discussed last week. This study only included 123 participants, but it would have picked up a difference in body weight of 3%. And the participants were in the longest lasting study to date, being 18 months in duration. Previous studies were smaller and shorter lasting.
This study put 2 groups on a weight loss diet with 1200 to 1500 calories per day for women and 1500 to 1800 calories for men. One group ate 56 gm a day of almonds and the other ate no nuts at all during the study. The groups were examined at 6 months and at 18 months. Weight, fat loss, lean mass, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure were measured. The group not receiving nuts lost a small amount more weight than the nuts group at 6 months, but at 18 months there was no difference in weight loss. The nuts group had a better triglyceride and total cholesterol level at 6 months, but there was no difference at 18 months. After 18 months there was no significant difference between the two groups in any of the aspects measured.
So if you are trying to lose weight, you will not lose more weight by eating nuts. But you won't hurt your weight loss goals either. And you will be improving your nutritional status. You will be lowering blood pressure, improving bone density, lowering risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease if the nuts are part of a high potassium weight loss diet.
To find tables with nutrient values of high potassium foods and low potassium foods click here or on the “List of Posts” tab.
1. A randomized trial of the effects of an almond-enriched, hypocaloric diet in the treatment of obesity. Foster GD, Shantz KL, Vander Veur SS, Oliver TL, Lent MR, Virus A, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Zemel BS, Gilden-Tsai A. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):249-54. Epub 2012 Jun 27.