Are We Nuts?
Despite eating clean, training, and monitoring your carb intake, you're still not blasting fat! Let me ask you a question, and be honest: Do you eat too many nuts?
I have a confession: I go nuts over nuts and nut butter. Apparently, I’m not alone. After surveying numerous friends, I realized that very few of us are able to control our nut portions.
Kudos if you can eat a small handful of nuts and then put the bag away. For everyone else who eats way more than the suggested portion sizes of nuts—keep reading!
Nuts and nut butters can be extremely addicting. I’ll be honest: Last September, I ate half a tub of peanut butter in one day! I was working at the computer and mindlessly noshed on spoonful after spoonful. I calculated the damage: 1500 calories and 133 g of fat! Talk about nuts!
A study by the American Institute for Cancer Research concluded that 69% of people finish their meals, even if the portions are huge. So chances are that you will eat more than the recommended portion if you are eating your nuts or nut butter directly out of the container in which they were purchased. So pre-measure your 1 oz portion of nuts or your 2 TBSP of nut butter and then put the container away!
- Although eating “good” fats is indeed heart-healthy, you must not forget that fat packs a calorie wallop, in fact 9 calories per gram. Compare this to carbohydrates and protein, which contain 4 calories per gram.
- If you’re hungry, you know you will eat more than 1/3 of a cup. You’ll probably eat an entire cup, which is 545 calories and 45.5 g of fat. Compare this to 1 cup of strawberries, which is 46 calories, 0.4g of fat and only 8.2 g net carbs. So please stop demonizing carbs!!! You’d be smarter to swap 1 cup of nuts for 1 cup of strawberries considering 12 cups of strawberries are equivalent in calories to 1 cup of nuts.
A Few Stats:
- 2 TBSP of all-natural peanut butter is approximately the size of a golf ball and represents 180 calories, 16 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 2 g of sugar and 8 g of protein.
- 1 oz of raw almonds is approximately 24 almonds and represents 164 calories, 14.4 g fat, 0mg sodium, 5.6 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g of fiber, 1.4 g sugar and 6 g of protein.
- 1 oz of raw cashews is approximately 16-18 cashews and represents 160 calories, 12 g fat, 0mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g of fiber, 2 g sugar and 5 g of protein.
Did you know?
- Almonds contain more fiber (~3g/ounce) than any other nut.
- Pistachios are known as the “skinny nut” because they are the lowest calorie nut. One ounce (160 calories) represents 47 pistachios nuts. They also take longer to eat because you must first remove the shell. When you eat slowly, fullness messages are sent to your brain, which requires about 20 minutes to receive this “not hungry anymore” signal.This de-shelling strategy will prevent you from outracing these fullness signals.
- Walnuts contain more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut.
Key Point: Inattention to portion size is a major contributor to weight gain, regardless of whether the food ingested is healthy. If you consume more calories than you burn through activity, you will store fat.
Although nuts provide an excellent source of heart-healthy fats, protein and fiber, they pack a calorie wallop. Just 1.5 ounces of unsalted cashews contain 240 calories and 19.5 grams of fat. At the same time, epidemiologic data shows that higher nut consumption is not associated with an increased likelihood of weight gain among women.1How to explain this seeming contradiction? Having studied science, I understand that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So if we are ingesting nuts and not gaining weight, then where do the nut calories go? I did my homework and uncovered the following theories:
1. Thanks to their high fiber, fat and protein content, nuts make you feel full and provide you with sustained energy levels. As a result, you’re less likely to overeat at subsequent meals2.
2. Evidence links regular nut consumption with greater resting energy expenditure2, which is a fancy way of saying, “nuts increase your metabolism”.
3. Here’s another possibility that I read in the March 2012 issue of Oxygen Magazine:
“a 1 oz serving may be high in healthy fat and calories, but new research shows that 55-75% of the calories in nuts are not fully absorbed by the digestive tract. So where do they go? Nut calories are mostly excreted by your body. …this is one of the reasons why nuts have been proven to help with weight loss and maintenance”.
This means the fat calories in nuts are not entirely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of those calories are ultimately passed through the body undigested and flushed down the toilet! Research reveals that up to 15% of the lipid content of whole nuts may be lost in your stool.3, 4
I know what you’re thinking: Does the same fecal fat loss concept apply only to nuts—or also to nut butter, flour and oils? According to a recent study of this question comparing whole peanuts with peanut butter, peanut oil and peanut flour, the full benefit on fecal fat loss comes only from the whole nut.3 Simply put, nuts are tough to chew thoroughly, making their digestion more difficult; whereas nut butter, flour and oil do not need to be chewed, rendering them easier to digest.
Note: Other common undigested foods that tend to make an appearance in the feces include seeds, corn and beans (because of their high insoluble fiber content).
Do not demonize nuts or nut butters, as this will make you more likely to binge on these items. Not only can self-imposed food restrictions lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, but they can also lead to micro and macro nutrient deficiencies. Try my strategies instead:
- Pre-measure your 1-ounce nut portions into sealable snack bags. Store them in the freezer—your eyes are less likely to wander there than into the pantry or fridge. Take out only one bag from the freezer per day for consumption.
- Purchase your almonds in portion-controlled 100 calorie snack packs, such as Blue Diamond Almonds 100 Calories Per Bag.
- Eat one nut at a time. Chew them slowly.
- Prevent yourself from over-indulging on nuts or nut butter by ensuring your meal or snack is comprised of more than just nuts or nut butter. If you are hungry, do not grab a big bag of nuts! Or you’ll go nuts and polish it off! It will be easier for you to portion control your nut intake if you are also eating veggies and protein at the same time. Try sprinkling 10 almonds on a spinach salad loaded with fresh veggies and grilled chicken! After this meal, you will be so full that you won't want eat more nuts!
- Try to purchase unsalted and unflavoured nuts. Consume flavoured nuts in moderation. Flavoured nuts contain added sugar and sodium, which, if consumed in excess on a regular basis, may lead to weight gain and illnesses (tooth decay, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer).
- Purchase all-natural nut butters. These do not contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, sugar or salt. Since a freshly opened jar of all-natural nut butter contains a layer of oil on top, store the jar upside down in the pantry to keep the oil at the bottom. When you open the jar, stir to blend the oil.
- Purchase your nut butters in portion-control squeeze packs. I recommend Justin's Nut Butter Natural Classic Almond Butter 10 Count Squeeze Packs.
- If you have exceeded your nut butter intake for the day, and you still desire more, then use one of the following options:
- Powdered Peanut Butter known as PB2 and chocolate PB2. Just mix it with water to create a traditional peanut butter mixture minus the guilt. PB2 has 85% less fat calories than conventional peanut butter.
- Here is an option that is free of calories, artificial sweeteners, sodium, sugar, fat and carbs: Capella Flavor Drops Peanut Butter Concentrate. (It is a concentrated flavouring).
- Here is an option that is calorie-free, sugar-free, fat-free, carb-free, etc. It does, however, contain sodium and Splenda. I tried it and I didn't care for the taste. Try it and let me know your opinion: Walden Farms, Peanut Spread Calorie-Free.
- Do not be seduced into purchasing chocolate-flavoured nut butter, which may contain offenders such as salt and evaporated cane juice (which is merely an alias for less refined table sugar). Again, everything in moderation.
- Make your own chocolate nut butter by combining BSN ISOBURN (chocolate milkshake whey isolate) with peanut butter (or any nut butter). It is low-carb, virtually sugar-free, low in sodium and packed with protein! This prevents you from over-indulging in peanut butter because the mixture with the whey protein not only produces a greater yield, but also promotes satiety. Try this if you have an issue with nut butter portion-control:
My Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe:
- 1 scoop of BSN ISOBURN WHEY (chocolate milkshake flavour)
- 1 TBSP all natural (sodium-free) peanut butter, such as Arrowhead Mills Organic No Salt Valencia Chunky Peanut Butter
- 1/4 tsp of Organic Cinnamon
- Moisten the mixture with a sparing amount of water until a pudding consistency is achieved with mixing. Eat it as a pudding, or spread it over 2 pieces of GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbread, use it as a dip for your berries and apples or use it as icing for your healthy baking recipes.
- Nutrition Info: Calories: 242 , Fat: 10g, Saturated fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 50mg, Sodium 220.1mg, Carbohydrates 12.5 g, Fiber: 2.3g, Sugars: 4 g, Protein: 28 g
If you are too busy to make this recipe, then try P28 High Protein Spread in White Chocolate!
In a Nutshell:
Do not be mislead into thinking: “Because some of the fat calories in nuts will be excreted from my body, I can therefore eat way more nuts and not gain weight.” Calories do count, even if they are healthy! Most studies cite the recommended nut consumption as 1 ounce 2-5 times a week.
“Worldly riches are like nuts; many a tooth is broke in cracking them, but never is the stomach filled with eating them.” –Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Click here to learn how to factor nuts and other treats into your daily calories without sabotaging your physique or sanity.
Your fitness, nutrition and dental health nut,
Dr. Sara Solomon
edited by Jeff O'Connell (editor-in-chief of bodybuilding.com and author of Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America's Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It)
1. Bes-Rastrollo M, Wedick NM, Martinez-Gonzalez MA et al. Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1913-9.
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 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S.
3. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Feb;32(2):322-8. Epub 2007 Oct 2. Peanut digestion and energy balance.
4. Br J Nutr. 2007;v98:651-656. Effect of chronic consumption of almonds on body weight in healthy humans.