Since the 1980s, there has been a widespread belief that nuts contribute to weight gain. However, scientific advances have challenged this myth, revealing the nutritional benefits of these little food treasures. In this article, we look at the latest findings on whether nuts are fattening, the benefits of eating them and how to include them in a balanced diet.
What does science say about whether nuts are fattening?
As we know, nuts are recommended for cardiovascular health, but concerns remain that they may contribute to weight gain due to their high energy density. With this in mind, the scientific journal Obesity Reviews published a study carried out by ten Canadian and Spanish health professionals in which they directly addressed the relationship between nuts and weight gain.
The conclusions of the study are clear: the meta-regression has shown that an increase in nut intake is associated with a decrease in weight and body fat. “The current data show that the hypothesis that nut consumption contributes to increased adiposity is not justified.
Understanding the distinction between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids is essential to assessing the health of nuts. While saturated fats, found in foods such as meat and dairy products, can contribute to weight gain and cardiovascular problems, the unsaturated fats found in nuts are known as “healthy fats”.
Healthy fats” refer to types of fats that, when consumed in adequate amounts, can have health benefits and contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. These fats are divided into two main categories: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Unlike saturated fats and trans fats, which are considered less healthy and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, healthy fats are an essential part of a balanced diet.
Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as avocados, olives and nuts. These fats are beneficial for cardiovascular health, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, while these fats are healthy, it is important to consume them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. The general recommendation is that about 20-35% of total daily calories should come from healthy fats, including both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Now that we have cleared up the question of whether nuts and dried fruit are fattening, it is worth looking at the properties that their consumption can provide us with. Nuts are not only delicious, but also offer a series of nutritional benefits. These are some of the most outstanding benefits, although they are not the only ones:
- Cholesterol reduction: Many nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are associated with lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids present in nuts are known to promote cardiovascular health.
- Improved blood pressure: Some studies suggest that regular consumption of nuts may contribute to lower blood pressure, benefiting the health of the cardiovascular system.
- Fibre content: Nuts are rich in fibre, which supports digestive health and contributes to satiety. Fibre can also help with weight management by making people feel fuller for longer, which may lead to a lower total calorie intake.
- Source of plant protein: For those following vegetarian or vegan diets, nuts are an excellent source of plant protein. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios, for example, contain significant amounts of protein that can help meet protein needs.
- Blood sugar regulation: Although nuts contain carbohydrates, their combination with healthy fats and fibre can help regulate blood sugar levels. This can have a positive impact on individuals facing insulin resistance or suffering from type 2 diabetes.
- Satiety and weight control: Thanks to their fibre, protein and healthy fat content, nuts can contribute to a long-lasting feeling of satiety. This effect can help with weight management by reducing cravings and overeating.
How many nuts and dried fruit per day to lose weight?
The key is moderation. The dose recommended by the Spanish Heart Foundation is 3 to 7 portions per week, taking into account that a portion is made up of between 20 and 30 grams of nuts. To simplify, each serving would be equivalent to a handful of nuts and, therefore, it is recommended to eat between 3 and 7 handfuls of nuts per week. This serving size provides nutritional benefits without exceeding in calories.
In addition to the fact that nuts are not fattening, they are very versatile and easy to integrate into a balanced diet. For example, they can be added to salads or yoghurts, eaten as a snack between meals, incorporated into shakes or smoothies, mixed with oatmeal or wholegrain cereals for a complete breakfast or even used in countless recipes with meat and fish.
The choice of healthy nuts is crucial. In principle, it is best to opt for options without salt and added sugars. In addition, avoiding roasted nuts with unhealthy oils preserves their nutritional benefits.
Some tips for choosing the healthiest nuts:
- Look for raw or sun-dried options.
- Avoid nuts coated with salt or added sugars.
- Prefer organic and unprocessed options.
Debunking the myth: nuts and dried fruit are not fattening
Despite the long-standing myth that nuts are fattening, modern science and nutrition support their inclusion in a balanced diet. The cardiovascular benefits, fibre and healthy fats they offer make them a nutritious choice. The key is moderation and choosing options without unhealthy additives. Ultimately, enjoying a handful of nuts a day can be a delicious and healthy addition to a balanced diet, contributing to both wellbeing and culinary pleasure.