We hear it said so often that nuts are good for us and we should include them as part of a healthy balanced diet. But then we hear that eating too many is bad because it can lead to weight gain. Portion sizes are important, some nuts are better than others; it can all become very confusing.
What are nuts?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a nut as “a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel”. Nuts typically grow on trees and have similar nutritional characteristics. Such nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.
What about peanuts?
A peanut is technically classed as a legume (not a true nut), however its nutritional composition is similar to that of a tree nut and it is therefore often called a “nut”.
What nutrients do nuts provide?
Nuts differ in their nutritional composition but generally contain:
- Low levels of saturated fats (bad fats)
- High levels of mono and poly unsaturated fats (good fats)
- No cholesterol
- Moderate amounts of protein (9-20%) which make them a good alternative to meat
- Dietary fibre
- Vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate
- Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium and potassium
Are nuts bad for you because they are high in fat?
Short answer – NO! As we just saw, nuts are high in poly and mono unsaturated fats (the good fats) and studies have shown that 30g of nuts (a small handful) actually provides protection from heart disease.
It appears that a lot of the heart healthy nutrients in nuts work together to give this heart protection and include things like:
- Fibre to help reduce cholesterol re-absorption in the gut
- Antioxidants like Vitamin E that help to reduce inflammation and damage to our bodies by free radicals
- Low salt which means they don’t increase blood pressure. This also shows why choosing unsalted types are important!
Don’t nuts make you put on weight because they have so much fat?
Yes and no. Yes they are high in energy (which comes from the good fats) and eating too many each week may contribute to weight gain. However the important thing here is to look at the portion size. Sticking to 30g of nuts has not been shown to increase body weight.
For people who chose to start eating nuts it’s important to make sure that your overall energy intake for the day does not increase. So go ahead and replace less healthy food (like a bag of potato chips) with a handful of unsalted nuts.
So if a healthy handful of nuts is 30g how many nuts does this correspond to?
According to Nutrition Australia’s Nuts and Health article 30g of nuts is approximately:
- 20 almonds
- 15 cashews
- 20 hazelnuts
- 15 macadamias
- 15 pecans
- 60 pistachios in shells (30g of kernels)
- 10 whole walnuts or 20 walnut halves
Dietitians and Nutritionists in Sydney
Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) in Australia gain their qualifications through university courses accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). In order for patients to receive a rebate from the national Medicare system or private health insurance, APD status is required. APDs are Dietitians engaged in the Continuing Professional Development program offered by the DAA and commit to uphold the DAA Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Ethics.
We will ensure that your dietary requirements are met, and create a meal plan that will be manageable and enjoyable for all the family, even for fussy eaters or those with allergies or diabetes. Contact us today on 1300 123 368 for an appointment our dietitian Rhiannon Welsh at ENT Wellbeing Diet and Nutrition, Sydney – Phone 1300 123 368. Remember healthy habits can start today!