Nuts are high in calories, and it’s pretty easy to eat more than you bargained for. But nuts also offer a host of health benefits, including protection against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. In 2010, the American Heart Association even released guidelines suggesting people eat about 19 ounces (1/2 cup) of nuts each week. So nuts, for healthy eating, can be a win-win. But research shows that nuts also make you gain weight.
What’s the deal?
Nuts are a form of carbohydrate, and people sometimes get the impression carbs are fattening. But carbohydrates are just one of three main nutrients in food. The other two are fat and protein.
Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, which the body automatically converts into energy. Different foods contain different proportions of carbohydrates, and research shows that if you eat a balanced meal, your insulin response will be the same whether you eat carbs or fat. So eating carbs won’t cause weight gain.
But here’s the thing: Nuts contain more fat than carbs, and they also contain more protein than carbs. So eating nuts raises your insulin level. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body regulate blood sugar. When your blood sugar is too high, the pancreas releases insulin to bring it down. Insulin also builds up in your blood, and when it’s circulating, it signals the body to convert excess calories into fat.
So the more carbs you eat, the lower your insulin level, and the more insulin you produce, the more calories you store as fat.
The comprehensive analysis of research released in the last issue of the journal Obesity Reviews, revealed that consuming a handful of nuts every day, which is advised for heart health, did not contribute to weight increase. What’s better, the data show that consuming nuts may really aid prevent accumulating extra body fat.