The Truth About Tree Nuts

High in calories and high in fat, tree nuts can't be good for you, right?!

WRONG!

One of my assignments for Careers in Nutrition and Dietetics class was to find a professional meeting to attend or watch a webinar online that was presented by a Registered Dietitian. Because of my busy schedule and the lack of events in my area, I chose to watch a webinar, on tree nuts.

Let me just say, that tuning in to this recorded webinar was a great assignment not only to gain information and to hear from other RDs, but it was a good motivation and realization of the information that we are surrounded by and that these webinars and so numerous and easily accessible. For those of you that don't know, I have a slight obsession with learning new information and becoming proficient on topics. This is a main reason why I listen to podcasts rather than the radio and now, knowing that I can listen in on webinars just like podcasts, it further drives my passion for learning, especially with nutrition as the topic. I encourage everyone to become a lifelong student and take advantage of these avenues for learning.

Okay, so back to tree nuts....

The focus of the webinar was how tree nuts lead to benefits in weight management. The presentation was quite science heavy but I will try to explain it in plain English to share all of the information. If you're interested in more of the graphs, figures and a more scientific explanation check out the webinar here and if you have any questions or want further information comment below or contact me at abssofruitly@gmail.com. 

First, looking at the correlation between BMI (Body Mass Index) and frequency of nut consumption, there appears to be either an inverse relationship (decreased BMI with increased nut consumption) or no change in BMI.

Click on the image to enlarge.

BMI does not take lean body mass (muscle) into account. Some individuals with larger muscle mass may present as "obese" for this reason. BMI is a good initial indicator, but a full body composition analysis (measuring fat mass and lean mass separately) is more accurate.

Other clinical studies show that when looking at two groups, one that ate a certain amount of nuts and the other group that didn't, the group that ate nuts lost more weight.

Now, looking at the actual mechanisms that cause this are their affect on appetite, energy yield and energy expenditure.

The positive effects on appetite include suppression of hunger, suppression of desire to eat, and enhancement of fullness or reduced meal size. (Note: Hunger and desire to eat are two different things! Hunger is defined as the sensation to eat based on energy needs; whereas, desire to eat can occur without hunger and is based more on "wanting" to eat something rather than your body's need for food.)

Another idea behind nuts is dietary compensation. All this means is that nuts are so satisfying that you may eat less calories somewhere else in the day. This video does a great job in explaining a study where walnuts in a breakfast smoothie left that group feeling more satisfied than the other group that received a walnut flavored smoothie. Factors that contribute to this feeling of satiety include the macronutrient profile (amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), fatty acids, fiber, and energy content.

Now, on to energy expenditure. The most interesting point made on energy expenditure, and possibly of this whole presentation, was that eating nuts, especially peanuts, actually increased resting energy expenditure. The amount of Calories you burn at rest, or the energy needed to make your body "run" on a daily basis, is your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This number is based on age, height, weight, muscle mass and a few other factors. So, these studies claim that this rate actually increases in those that eat nuts allowing these individuals to burn more Calories throughout the day.

Absorption of the energy from nuts is also a factor in how many Calories you're actually getting from the nut. To put it simply, not all Calories/energy from nuts can be accessed because if you don't break down the nut enough while chewing, the stomach acid is not strong enough to break down the cells fully and some of the fat from nuts may actually pass through your system without being absorbed. So, in a sense, we get decreased appetite, increased satiety, and increased RMR while not even absorbing all of the Calories.

One last fun fact from this study. Most people don't get bored with eating nuts. There are some foods out there that just seem to be something we can't eat every day, we get sick of eating the same thing or it just doesn't taste as good after a while. Neurological and self-reported studies show that nuts may be one of those foods that is resistant to monotony. Even over a period over 12 weeks, nuts were still well-tolerated when consumed on a regular basis.

Of course, even though they are a great source of healthy fat, protein and even some carbohydrates, we can't just eat nuts all day. These studies go further to say that moderate nut consumption is ideal so stick to 1-2 oz. a day to take advantage of these effects.

As I mentioned before, please feel free to ask questions or even look more into the information yourself!

Have a happy Wednesday and enjoy the rest of your week!

 

Mattes, Rchard D., MPH, PhD, RD, and Cheryl Forberg, RD. "The Health Benefits of Tree Nuts: Focus on Weight Management." Today's Dietitian. 4 Feb. 2016. Web.


DISCLAIMER: This information is intended for educational purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. I am not a registered dietitian and the information I share may or may not be the best option for you. It is recommended to consult a physician, dietitian, and/or other health professional before starting any new physical activity and/or changing your diet.