The Skinny on Nuts

Nuts are commonly recommended as a healthy snack, and they do have a lot of great nutrients in them.  However, most people do not realize what a proper serving is and will just snack away.  Doing so could prevent weight loss attempts or lead to weight gain because even though these snacks are nutritious, they are calorie dense. Below is an image from the Fanatic Cook, showing you what one serving looks like and how many nuts are included:

NutsServingSize

Now compare this to what you normally snack on.  You may be overeating.  Check out the nutrients for some of these nuts for a SINGLE serving:

Almonds– Calories: 161, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 6g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 6g

Pecans – Calories: 193 , Fat: 20g , Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 3g

Brazil Nuts – Calories: 184, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 3g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Pine Nuts – Calories: 188, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Pistachios – Calories: 160, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 2, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 8g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 6g

Walnuts – Calories: 183, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Hazelnuts – Calories: 176, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat:1g , Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 5g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Cashews – Calories: 161, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 4mg, Carbohydrate: 9g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Macadamias – Calories: 201, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 2g

Peanuts: – Calories: 166, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 3mg, Carbohydrate: 7g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 0g, Protein: 5g

Most of these nuts are pretty similar in their composition.  They are high in calories, ranging from 160-201.  They are also high in fat (13g-21g) but low in saturated fat (1g-4g).  This means that the rest of the fat is unsaturated which has been shown to be beneficial in the diet.  There is also negligible sodium and a small amount carbohydrates(4g-9g), but a respectable amount of fiber (1g-3g) and protein (2g-6g).

Nuts are not bad for you.  All of these nutrients can contribute to a healthful life.  However, there are additional pitfalls in addition to portion size.  Of of this nutrition information is for dry roasted varieties.  Things get a little dicey when you get into the more commercial side of things.  Look at this information to navigate your menu decisions

Honey Roasted Peanuts

I expected these to be loaded with a bunch of sugar and extra fat, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  This variety adds 110mg of sodium and 4 grams of sugar.  People generally try to reduce these nutrients in their diet, but at these quantities, they are not a diet buster.

Salted Nuts

Purchasing salted nuts can add between 100-200mg of sodium per serving to your snack. The recommendation for the general population is to keep sodium under 1,500mg per day. If you generally consume a low salt diet, these may be able to fit in nicely. However, if you are watching your salt intake, steer clear of these.

Oil Roasted

This is another area where I was happy to be wrong. Oil roasting does not seem to add much fat. In some cases, there was an increase of 1-2 grams, so be aware. In general though, oil roasted can be just as healthful as dry roasted.

Nut Butters

Nut butters come in a range of flavors including all the nuts listed above except for pine and brazil nuts.  Some of the more popular ones are almond butter, cashew butter, and of course, peanut butter.  A serving is typically 2 tablespoons and are generally slightly higher in calories and fat, while lower in fiber and protein than a single serving of their respective whole nut.

Nut Bars

Nut bars from companies like Planters, Nature Valley, and Clif can be higher in calories, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates and lower in fiber.  Read labels on these to make sure that you are getting the best nutrition.  These bars are single serving, but they are usually mixed with chocolate or other treats to make them more appealing.

After looking at all of this information, the two most important things that you can do are:

1) Read the label and compare when making a purchase

2) Watch your portion size.  Eating a couple of handfuls of nuts can add 300 calories and 40g of fat to your day.  When choosing nuts, be mindful of the amount and avoid having an open dish to snack on.  Grabbing them mindlessly while at a bar or friends house can be an easy way to sabotage your weight.

Nuts can be a great tool to keep you full, but they can be dangerous too, so think before you eat, and then enjoy!

How do you enjoy nuts?

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