February 05, 2014

Nuts: Can They Help You Lose Weight?

Note: you may have to be a bit more particular as to where you get your nuts.
Photo: oddsock 

So you've probably read over and over that nuts are good wholesome whole food you should be eating.

Rather than do the whole tedious round up, I'll just let the able Jane Brody of the NY Times step in. She can sum up the ginormous 119,000 subject Nurses study findings for us on the health benefits of nuts:

"The more often nuts were consumed, the less likely participants were to die of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, and not because nut eaters succumbed to other diseases. Their death rate from any cause was lower during the years they were followed. (The nuts in question were pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts and walnuts.)"

(Though if you are allergic to nuts, I imagine all this "you should eat nuts!" stuff must get awfully tiresome. You must be wanting to scream "NO I F--CKING SHOULDN'T EAT NUTS OR I'LL DIE YOU MORON!!!"  dozens of times a day.  Feel free to do so now if that makes you feel any better).

But, for the rest of us, yeah: Nuts are no longer considered a "bad" fatty food that you should avoid (if you are old enough to remember those ancient times). Now nuts have somehow changed into a virtuous snack with untold health benefits.

But can they help you lose weight? For reals?

Nuts and Obesity Research

We all know nuts have a crap load of calories--160-200 for a 1 ounce serving.

Note: somehow I thought I got to eat a full quarter cup for 1 ounce, but when I weighed it I came out to 1.2 Ounces.  Damn.

Personally, I AM STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to eat nuts straight out of the container any longer.  They go into the f--cking cup, and when that cup is done....

...well, anyone who knows me knows I don't necessarily stop. But at least I know I am being lame and greedy about it.

At 170 calories per ounce, how could my beloved Cheap-Ass but Tasty Costco mixed nuts possibly make sense for weight loss?

But research suggests I can keep on scarfing them.

The latest study, out just a few weeks ago, found that nut eaters were less likely to be obese.  Another previous study on nut consumption and weight gain also found "frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more)."

It may be that people who are nutty for nuts are also exercise and fitness nuts. SO many studies confuse causation and correlation, and gleefully point out that people who do something that is supposed to be good for your health tend to be healthier than those who blow off that advice.  Which proves absolutely NOTHING, because these are not the same populations.

But unlike spinach or kale-eaters, or non-smokers or High Intensity Interval Sprinters, I don't  think there is quite the same "I must make healthy virtuous choices" personality thing going on in the nut-eating population.  Nuts have long been perceived as tasty and fattening, and many of us thought for a long time we were best to save them as treats.  Just my hunch, but... I do indeed think there is something Magical about the nut thing.

Are Nut Calories Processed Differently?

Yes they are!  Which apparently I found out a couple years ago researching a post called "Calories are Sneakier Than We Thought."  (It's actually worth a read if you weren't around then; there are other calorie "bargains" besides nuts.)

In fact, there were some interesting specifics I'd forgotten, like: a USDA study headed up by Janet Novotny found that when an “average” person eats almonds she receives just 128 calories per serving rather than the 170 calories on the label.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

So screw you, mean and misleading nutrition label!

Notice how I am bypassing the whole "can you eat them roasted and lightly salted because they taste so much better that way" question?  I don't think I have any motivation to research that particular issue as I probably won't like the answer and don't plan on going raw any time soon.

There is one final, important nut-related question to answer though:

So Where Do Squirrels Hide Their Nuts in the Winter?

photo: sea turtle

Do you guys eat nuts? Do you believe they can help with weight loss?


  1. I am a big fan of cashews and roasted almonds dusted with dark chocolate. They are a nom-worthy snack that I often work into my plan for the day. I couldn't say whether they've contributed to weight loss, but they have helped me hit my macronutrient goals (moar protein/fat, less carbses). I also have to weigh them out and put the bag away, though. Otherwise I look up and half the container is gone. :-P

  2. when it comes to nutrition and the media, people are complete morons and they follow blindly to anything that dr. oz says with zero thought or research on their part. in my personal opinion, if you're eating within your caloric range - nuts or no nuts - you will be fine. i eat a handful of nuts daily. same with avocados - i eat 1/2 every day even though they've been demonized as being too "fatty". these are essential fats that are good for you. since eating avocados, my hair and skin have improved greatly!

    people just need to be mindful of what they're eating, eat in moderation and eat a balance, clean meal. that's it.

    Vodka and Soda

    1. Ahhhh...another after my own heart. I usually eat about 1/2 avocado a day as well.

  3. I have to eat usually walnuts as a garnish on something I have purchased. I can not be trusted with the bag, jar or can of nuts because I eat them all. So I get nuts only once or twice a week. I have considered having somebody act as my dealer selling me tiny bags of nuts, cranberrys, cheese and crackers at inflated prices from a dark alley every day.
    You would not believe the snow coming down here right now (Toronto). Its like it is being shot out of a snow blower there is so much of it and it is moving so fast.

  4. You are what you eat, yes? And I think being a bit nutty is a GOOD thing!

    If nuts are both protein and fiber filled along with the deliciousness of good fat - what's not to love? Like you, though, Crabby - I have a very difficult time limiting my consumption to "reasonable" amounts. And, yeah - I have to carefully measure or even COUNT morsels. That part sort of bums me out.

    But, having read your post I find I'm not quite so phobic about the calorie count. So - thanks!! (kind of, because now I also have that Almond Joy / Mounds jingle stuck in my head....)


  5. Lately my go-to snack has been peanut butter. I eat the all-natural nothing but nuts kinds without any added anything at all ever. I take about a tablespoon or so at a time. I sometimes put it in a bowl and add a few raisins for an even snackier snack. It's very satisfying.

  6. Like Leah, I eat nothing-but-nuts peanut butter all the time. Cashews are my second favorite (although I don't like cashew butter, odd!) and I eat them by the handful.I never fell for the "fats are baaad" thing, so I've never tried to restrict my eating of nuts.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  7. Confession: I often eat nuts for breakfast. I'm not a morning person and breakfast is always a challenge for me. A handful (or two) of nuts is enjoyable and keeps me going until lunch.

    Also, Husband likes to have snacky things around the house, and I prefer nuts to a lot of other options. I figure that at least there is some nutritional value there.

  8. Yes, i eat nuts, and yes, i think they are healthy for you. Also, a small serving can be more than enough. Food psychologist Brian Wansink has found, if he gives a tiny portion of a snack to people in mid-afternoon, and then has them do a distracting small task for 15 minutes, they report themselves just as satisfied with their snack as those who get a full size portion of the same snack.

  9. I actually prefer Snickers for my nuts. I do occasionally eat cashews and peanuts (with salt!).

  10. Loooooove nuts. Right now my nut of choice is pistachio. Mmmmm.

    (and if they help with weight loss, so much the better ;)).

  11. I have trouble wrapping my mind around the relationship between high calorie nuts and weight loss. If nuts were a "free" food (Weight Watchers) I would eat pounds a day.

    The first study does indicate that tree nuts look like a better bet, but peanuts are better than no nuts. I wonder if that is because people tend to eat peanut butter and there are often added salt and oils?


  12. I put just peanuts peanut butter in my chocolate protein shakes and I love it. In no particular order I am a fan of cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios. I don't measure them, but I do count them out. They must be in increments of five...I usually have ten to fifty, depending on which nuts they are.

    No idea if they help with weight loss...but they make a great snack!

  13. Sorry guys, would have popped in sooner but I was downtown shopping for, of all things, a COCKTAIL DRESS.

    Long story, which I will subject you to later. Came home empty handed, but that was probably a good thing given the choices I almost made.

    But anyway, glad to hear you guys are as "Nutty" as I am! I took my 1/4 cup with me in a baggy, intending to have it in a couple hourse as a mid afternoon snack, and devoured the whole bag before I got down the stairs to the front gate. Sigh...

  14. Don't forget the all important coconut flavored almonds! I love nuts and eat them almost daily, whether it's just in my yogurt or as my afternoon snack or something.

    And btw, I have a pair of those squirrel underpants. True story - gift from my best friend.

  15. A cocktail dress? Really ??

    But back to the nuts.... Big fan here too, though I don't so often tend to eat them alone. Mostly it's mixed in with some natural yogurt or muesli, or porridge. I do buy jars of almond butter / cashew butter whenever I see them - they are quite rare in the shops.

  16. LOVE nuts & nut butters but I have to portion control big time!!! I just got a shipment of these cool pistachio snacks - will post about them & great stats & great for kids too - PORTION CONTROL!!!!!!

  17. I eat nuts all the time - I've just had to learn to measure them out less they get away from me. I like eating a few before I go to bed at night.

  18. I love nuts, and peanut butter sandwiches are my favorite long ride snacks. I go for salted. I figure I sweat out lots of salt & need to get it back somehow.

    I'm with the others, by the way - hope we get to hear about the cocktail dress soon!

  19. I love them but I tend to go on a kick of one type, say almonds and then I can't eat almonds for months and months. Right now I'm on a pistachio kick, and I bought them in the shell, apparently the act of opening up the shell and eating the nut as opposed to them already shelled helps you to not eat as many, ummm okay? Who thought that was truthful. Anyhow, I like to eat walnuts too, and pecans, macadamia nuts are fabulous as well but that's another one that I will eat on a kick and then completely be sick of, right now I can't even look at an almond without gagging.

  20. I like all nuts, except peanuts and make my own nut butters. Portion control is a bit of a problem, especially on the day I roast them. All displayed there, on the cookie sheet...so easy to eat a cup in a few minutes. Sometimes they make up 50% of my daily calorie allotment but I only roast a portion about once every month or two.
    I am behind with reading but cocktail dress? Did I miss the backstory despite the fact that I am reading in reverse order?


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