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Nuts and Weight, BMI, and Waist Circumference
I've also reported that eating nuts in place of other types of snacks can help you lose weight, although it's worth noting that one research article does not necessarily mean certainty. What helps is what is known as a meta-analysis, in which researchers pool the results of several well-designed studies. These meta-analyses are held to yield far stronger results than those of the smaller studies on their own.

What's the best nut for your blood pressure?
Eating nuts has also been associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure along with heart disease risk factors like diabetes and poor cholesterol scores. In an effort to link nut intake directly to blood pressure, an international team of researchers performed a meta-analysis of multiple studies that looked at nut consumption and also reported on the participants' blood pressures.

It doesn't matter what kind
There's tons of good research, only some of which we've reported on here at Dr. Gourmet, to show that nuts are good for you, and that they can help you improve your cholesterol scores. But when I tell people that their best snack choice is nuts, the first question they have is "Which one?" (Their second is whether candy-coated or salted is OK.)


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Gain less weight by snacking on nuts


Long-time readers of Dr. Gourmet will know that I've been saying for years that the best snacks are nuts (for savory snackers) or fruit (for sweet snackers). As part of a Mediterranean-style diet, the recommendation is for a daily average intake of about 8 ounces, or about 1 cup of nuts like walnuts, pecans, or cashews.

Along with reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, improving your cholesterol and blood pressures, and reducing your risk of death from any health-related cause, it appears they may help you reduce or avoid age-related weight gain, according to a study recently published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health (2019;0:1-10.doi:10.1126/bmjnph-2019-000034).

Researchers affiliated with Harvard's Medical School utilized data gathered through three large-scale, long-term observational studies: the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study, both of which began recruiting participants in 1986, and the Nurses' Health Study II, which began recruiting participants in 1991.

Upon enrollment and every 4 years thereafter, the participants in these studies responded to detailed dietary, health, and demographic questionnaires, which allowed the authors to not just estimate each participant's daily intake of nuts, but also to track how the participant's nut intake changed over time as well as how that participant's Body Mass Index might have changed over the same time periods, up to 2011, the point at which the authors closed their analysis.

The authors excluded from their study any participant who, at the start of the studies, reporting experiencing cancer, diabetes (regardless of type), heart attack or stroke, as well as those with missing or implausible BMI scores or dietary questionnaires.

As well, the authors removed from further analysis the responses of any participant who reached the age of 65 - to avoid the effects of age-related weight or muscle loss.

The final number of participants in these researchers' analysis included over 144,000 people, of whom the vast majority were Caucasian women.

The authors note that the amount of weight gain per year, averaged across the three study groups, was about 3/4 pound per year, with women averaging a greater yearly weight gain than men.

In their analysis, the researchers controlled for age, Body Mass Index, smoking status, physical activity, and a number of dietary factors, from the total number of calories, the amount of vegetables consumed, and even the amount of French fries consumed, while correlating nut intake across each four-year period with each participant's Body Mass Index (and whether it changed in that four-year period).

The findings? Adding just 1/2 serving of nuts (any type of nuts) per day, on average, to one's daily intake meant gaining 1/2 pound less over 4 years. Add another 1/2 serving of walnuts, specifically, each day reduced one's weight gain by 0.8 pounds, and another 1/2 cup of tree nuts in general reduced one's weight gain by just a little less.

Indeed, compared with those who didn't eat nuts much at all, those who ate just 1/2 serving of nuts per day were 23% less likely to move into the clinically obese range of Body Mass Index.

This analysis defined 'nuts' as including peanuts and peanut butter along with tree nuts. As the authors themselves sum up: "Increasing total nut intake by 0.5 servings/day was associated with less weight gain... suggesting that incorporating nuts into the diet, even given their calorie content, is helpful in mitigating a portion of long-term gradual weight gain."

What this means for you

If you're going to snack, have nuts. I would say that raw nuts would be best, with dry roasted and unsalted next, then dry roasted and lightly salted followed by dry roasted and salted. Chocolate- or candy-coated nuts should be considered candy and saved for a special treat (as in, once every few months).

The Mediterranean-style diet guideline of 8 ounces of nuts per day can easily be achieved by having just 1/2 ounce of nuts for your between-meal snacks. They'll be tasty and satisfying!

First posted: October 2, 2019