Can eating nuts help with weight maintenance or weight loss goals?
Yes! In fact, regular nut consumption is linked with a reduced body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. (i) Replacing less-healthy foods (like processed meats, crisps or a chocolate bar) with a handful (30g) of nuts daily significantly improves diet quality, and supports brain and heart health, without weight gain. (ii iii iv)
Nuts help by:
- Satisfying and reducing hunger, as they are rich in healthy
unsaturated fats (including omega-3 and omega-6), dietary fibre and
plant protein, and also contain fibre.
- Releasing satiety hormones after consumption, signalling to our
brain that we are full.
- Trapping some of the naturally-occurring fats in their fibrous cell
walls – meaning our bodies don’t absorb or digest up to 30% of the
energy from nuts. (v)
- Slowing digestion when eaten with carbohydrate-rich foods, giving
us sustained energy for longer. (vi)
- Reducing overall daily energy intake by reducing dietary
compensation at other meals or snacks.
Are nuts a suitable food option during ultra-endurance sport?
During prolonged exercise (such as ultra-endurance running, swimming or cycling), when exercise intensity is relatively low (45-60% of VO2 max), training your body to use fat as fuel can be beneficial.
Consumption of foods rich in healthy fats, such as nuts, may be useful before and during a race, in combination with carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluid. (vii) This can help spare glycogen
during steady-state exercise, for times when the intensity is higher, and ultimately enhance ultra-endurance performance. (viii)
Trial this during training, rather than racing, and work with an
Accredited Sports Dietitian for specific advice.
Can I get enough protein if I eat predominately plant-based foods, including nuts?
Yes. The key is to include a variety of foods, in adequate amounts, over the day to ensure you get all the essential amino acids (EAAs), especially if you rely solely on plant-based foods. (ix)
This is because most plant-based proteins are usually missing one of the 20 amino acids that make up the proteins found in muscles, bones, skin and blood. Our body can’t make nine of these amino acids, called essential amino acids so they must be obtained through our diet.
Nuts typically have the highest plant protein content, at 15-20g per 100g compared with other plant-based food sources, including soybeans (14g), tofu (12g), chickpeas (6g) and oats
(2.5g). (x xi xii)
To maximise recovery, aim to pair nuts with another protein-rich food (such as dairy, cereals, beans or rice). This can be beneficial when you have another hard exercise session within eight hours or a high training volume, or if you’re trying to maximise lean muscle mass gains.
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