By Kaley Todd, M.S., R.D.N. – Environmental Nutrition

For years, nuts – dense in calories and fat – were considered off limits for people looking to shed a few pounds. However, in the last two decades research has uncovered numerous health benefits of tree nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and cashews, for heart health and brain protection. Now those benefits even extend to achieving a healthy weight, as research shows that consuming nuts can actually help people lose pounds and keep them off.

Nuts for a healthy weight

Results from research suggest that adults who consume nuts regularly may have a lower body weight compared to those who don’t regularly eat nuts. A 2014 Loma Linda University study found that high consumers of tree nuts had the lowest prevalence of obesity compared to those with low nut consumption. And another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the body weight of nut-enriched diets to similar control diets without nuts, and found that intake of nuts did not increase body weight, waist circumference or body mass index. Other research links nut consumption with less weight gain over long periods of time.

Why do nuts help?

Nuts are calorie-dense but are comprised of nutrient-rich components, including good fats, vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, which makes them high in satiety value, resulting in reduced overall calorie consumption. Studies also have suggested that nuts can boost metabolism. In addition, nuts have fewer calories than previously thought. Research on pistachios and almonds shows that the calories absorbed by the body are lower than once thought, because the complex matrix of whole nuts makes their fat content resistant to absorption. This means you are not taking in the full amount of calories found in nuts.

Keep in mind that overindulging in nuts can still cause you to pack on pounds. So, practice portion control by keeping consumption to approximately a handful or an ounce (160 to 180 calories) daily.