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. Proponents of most diets feel nuts have too many calories and fats to be a part of a weight loss diet.
Recommendations And Attitudes
The official public health recommendations are to include them in your diet. This is because of the nutritional health benefits they provide. For example, their high potassium content helps osteoporosis and blood pressure. Also, their high polyunsaturated fatty acid and monounsaturated fatty acid content improves heart health. Accordingly, 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. Similarly, even people not trying to lose weight exclude them. Many years ago Americans included nuts more often in the their diet. But today very few people include them.
Nuts Effect On Weight
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. A number of studies now show that over time weight gain is less in those who eat nuts regularly. But at present, the medical literature includes only 4 randomized studies of the use of nuts in a weight loss program.
In February 2012, researchers published the largest study (1) to date. However, it 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. It was 18 months in duration. In comparison, similar 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. The other group ate no nuts at all during the study. The authors examined the groups at 6 months and at 18 months. They measured weight, fat loss, lean mass, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
The group not receiving nuts lost a small amount more weight than the nuts group at 6 months. But at 18 months the groups had no difference in weight loss. The nuts group had a better triglyceride and total cholesterol level at 6 months. But the groups had no difference at 18 months. To summarize, after 18 months the two groups had no significant difference 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 potassium and sodium values of high potassium foods and low potassium foods click on the “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab at the top of the page. Then click the link to a table with the food you are interested in.
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.