Are nuts really that good?
Hi everybody! Today, I want to talk to you about nuts. No, not your neighbor or the crazy guy at the bus stop. Real nuts! You know, the yummy little things that everybody tells you to eat plenty of, because they are so good for you. Those nuts. Hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, you name them. We can even include peanuts here, even if they are actually not nuts, but legumes (like beans, peas or lentils).
Everywhere you read, nuts are treated like the solution to many health problems. They can help lower your bad cholesterol, fortify your bones, help protect you from heart attacks, blood clots, type 2 diabetes, etc. The list is pretty impressive and it’s true that nuts are really good for you, on top of being delicious. Full disclosure, I LOVE nuts!!!
Yet, I would like to encourage you to be very mindful when you add nuts into your everyday life. Because you see…
Nuts can be dangerous!
Why? I see 3 main reasons.
- First, nuts are fat. Mostly good fat (unsaturated fat), but still, a lot of fat. Rule of thumb: 1 oz of nuts covers about 20% of your daily needs for fat. And it’s great, good stuff, nothing to complain about. But you have to be careful: the fat you get from your nuts, you’d better cut it out somewhere else, as in chips, fried food, bacon, red meat, maybe even cheese (although, as a French native, I am a bit reluctant to that idea!).
- Second, nuts add a lot of calories to your diet. Imagine you are on an island where all you can eat is nuts. Well, it would only take about 3 cups of nuts every day to cover your daily caloric needs (based on a 2,000 calorie diet). OK, I know, you are not planning on eating 3 cups of nuts tomorrow, but you know what? If you are not paying attention, you might end up swallowing 1 cup of nuts quite easily. If you don’t get rid of other sources of calories at the same time, your waistline might not like it.
- Third, nuts are way too easy to snack on… and on, and on, and on! If you had to peel, cut, and cook nuts, the fat and the calories I mentioned above would not be much of a problem. But nuts are so easy to nibble on that we often swallow them without noticing. They end up like one of those “add-on” items on Amazon. You don’t really pay attention to them, but in the end, you are still paying for them! Yes, true, nuts are much healthier than chips or candies, no question about this, but the thing with nuts is that there is no guilt, and as a result, fewer limits. “They are so healthy, my doctor told me to eat them!” So we have a tendency to track them less and indulge more; that’s where the danger lies.
But wait a minute! I am not telling you that you should not eat nuts. Far from it! I eat plenty myself, all kinds of nuts and on many occasions. And I recommend you do that too, but what can you do to get all the benefits of nuts without the dangers?
Manage your nuts!
- Eat nuts instead of other fats, not instead of a cup of fruits! Look at the food you eat every day and see where the fat comes from. When you see saturated fat, think about replacing that food item or part of it with nuts. Eat nuts instead of saturated fats… not on top of them! If you need help identifying saturated fats in your life, shoot me an email, I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
- Don’t leave the nuts visible on your countertop. Unless they are not very appealing to you, you don’t want to be tempted nonstop by a jar full of cashews or pine nuts. Store them away in your pantry. If you love them, you will remember to eat them. But make sure you cannot just grab a handful every time you enter your kitchen, it would be a weight loss killer. If you need more tips on how to arrange your kitchen so that it’s supporting you in your health goals, I strongly encourage you to read my blog post “Turn your kitchen into a weight loss lab“.
- Pre-measure and stick with your portions. Decide on a serving size (for instance, 20 almonds) and ALWAYS stick to that serving size. Measure and put your stash away before you start eating your nuts. If you want more, that’s fine, come back and get a second serving (and don’t feel bad about it!). But don’t just dig your hand in the jar full of nuts. Measure, one serving, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Better yet, before each serving, drink a cup of water. This way you will also get the full benefit of all the fibers in your nuts and your stomach will end up being full much faster.
- Try to choose whole plain (not blanched) nuts, roasted or not. Unless that’s all you like, avoid nuts that are covered in chocolate or in a sweet mix. Ideally, pick them in their shell, so that you eat them more slowly. This way you will eat one nut at a time rather than a handful at once. Remember, the more work it is to eat them, the less you will eat at once. It’s a simple trick but it works every time and it can make a huge difference calorie wise.
- If you don’t eat much fat or have no saturated fat you can eliminate from your diet (because don’t forget, you NEED fat!), then make sure that when you eat nuts, you are eating a bit less of all the other high-calorie foods in your life. For instance, eat a bit less dairy, a bit less meat, a bit less bread, or maybe drink a bit less alcohol (beer, wine, liquor). Don’t substitute; just eat or drink smaller portions so that the nuts don’t come on top of everything else. Remember: the add-on item is not a free item :-).
- If you eat peanut butter or almond butter, don’t forget to include that as part of your nut intake. It usually takes less than 2 TBSP of nut butter to get the same nutrients as with 1 oz of nuts. So don’t just dismiss the butter, because that adds up as well.
- Finally, pick the nuts you really enjoy. Don’t eat anything and everything. Only eat your favorite nuts. Try them all and eat the ones that give you the most pleasure. Nuts are high calorie and high fat, so they should also be high reward for you, otherwise, it’s not worth it!
So you see, I am with everybody else in saying that nuts are good for you. But they are so good for you that they can be tricky to manage. Yet, as is often the case, just being mindful of what you eat and when you eat it will help you keep things under control. Follow the tips above, I know you can do it!
If nuts are already a part of your diet or if you are struggling with them a little, contact me, I’d be happy to hear from you! And don’t forget to share your own tips or remarks in the comments section, because together, we are healthier!
If you feel that you need a little more help with nutrition knowledge and food choices, you can also request a FREE Introductory consultation. I’ll be honored to chat with you and see how you can stack all the odds in your favor. Allons-y! Let’s Go!