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Nuts are generally considered a healthy and nutritious addition to any diet. They are very high in calories though. Can they be making us a bit rounder around the waist, though? How many of them should we eat? Let’s look at what the current research and common sense tell us.

So many calories!

Nuts vary in their nutritional and caloric values a lot. To make it simpler, let’s consider a small handful of mixed nuts, that’s approximately an ounce or 28 grams. They would contain on average 173 kcal, 5 g of protein, 16 g of fat, most of which are the beneficial monounsaturated fats, 6 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fibre, and a lot of different minerals.

That’s impressive for such a small amount. And it’s not hard to imagine that one could eat significantly more. For example, a common 150g package of mixed nuts would be about 930 kcal which is nearly half of the caloric requirements for the average male for one day.

Nuts will help you lose weight

It seems with so many calories, nuts should be very good at making us fat. Curiously, research shows the exact opposite. One study that was assessing the effects of the Mediterranean diet found that those assigned to eat nuts lost an average of 5 cm (2 inches) off their waists, which is significantly more than those assigned to eat olive oil. There have also been several controlled studies where almonds have consistently shown to promote weight loss rather than weight gain. One study has shown the same for pistachios too.

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How is that possible?

One thing that might explain this phenomenon is that according to studies your body doesn’t absorb all of the calories nuts carry. This is because part of the fat stays trapped within the nut’s fibrous wall during digestion. For instance, your body only absorbs about 130 calories out of those 173 that the small handful of mixed nuts has.

One important thing to note is that the weight loss is observed in consumption of nuts in reasonable amounts, a large handful a day at the most. The weight loss will be most apparent when they replace a sugary dessert or snack.

What’s the takeaway?

On one hand, nuts, especially the roasted and salted ones can promote overeating. They simply light up our reward system too much. On the other hand, as long as you stick to mostly raw nuts, and use them as a replacement for sugary treats, they become a source of valuable minerals, protein, healthy fats, and fibre that can help you keep a healthy weight.