The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat 30g of nuts – a small handful – each day. But many of us know nuts are high in calories and fat.
So should we be eating nuts or will they make us gain weight?
In short, the answer is yes, we should eat them, and no, they won’t make us gain weight if eaten in moderate amounts. The fats in nuts are mostly the “good” fats. And aside from that, our bodies don’t actually absorb all the fat found in nuts. But we do absorb the nutrients they provide.
Dietary fat: friend or foe?
Nuts do contain fat, and the amount of fat varies between nut types. For example, a 30g serving of raw cashews or pistachios contains around 15g of fat, whereas the same amount of raw macadamias contains around 22g of fat.
There are different kinds of fats in our diet and some are better for us than others. Nuts contain mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats are known as “good fats”. They can help lower cholesterol when we eat them in place of saturated fats.
The type of fats present varies between nuts. For example, walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats, whereas other types of nuts such as hazelnuts and macadamias have more monounsaturated fat.
What the evidence says
Even if the type of fat in nuts is good for us, they are still high in fat and calories. But this doesn’t mean we should be avoiding them to manage our weight.
Studies that looked at people’s eating habits and body weight over a long period have found people who regularly eat nuts tend to gain less weight over time than people who don’t.
We see a similar pattern in clinical studies that asked people to include nuts in their diets and then looked at the effects on body weight.
A review of more than 30 studies examined the effects of eating nuts on body weight. It did not find people who ate nuts had increased their body weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference, compared to a control group of people who did not eat nuts.
In fact, one study found that when people ate a pattern of food aimed at weight loss, the group of people who ate nuts lost more body fat than those who didn’t eat nuts.
Let’s nut this out
There are several possible explanations for why eating nuts doesn’t seem to lead to weight gain.
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