I have been eating walnuts daily for many years for dietary reasons. But only today, I learnt that they have a positive effect on our fat-burning metabolism.
That's not an excuse to eat more of them, as all nuts are high-calorie snacks. But here's an exciting finding:
"Studies show regular nut eaters don't appear to gain weight and that nuts may help with weight loss if they're eaten in an energy-controlled diet."
Dr Sze-Yen Tan, a research dietician at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (Deakin University, Australia), noted that weight-conscious individuals might hesitate to snack on nuts.
Avoiding nuts is not necessarily a right choice, as closer inspection shows that nuts are not only energy and nutrient-dense powerhouses, but they can also help you control your weight.
As a diabetic, Brazil first nuts caught my attention
I've been regularly eating a handful or two of nuts daily for about 10 years. I started because I initially read about the beneficial effects of their micronutrients for people with diabetes. I'm a Type 2 diabetic.
What caught my eye all those years ago was research which showed that selenium could be useful in controlling blood sugar. Control of blood sugar is what diabetics' lack.
For example, a study in the European Journal of Nutrition reported that eating one Brazil nut per day for 8 weeks lowered total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels in healthy adults.
The findings of another 8-week-long study showed that taking a 200-mcg selenium supplement reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
I'm always on the lookout for natural ways to manage my diabetes. Exercise is one key, but of course, diet plays the major part.
I put together a nut mix, focusing on eating one large Brazil nut daily (or two medium).
Two Brazil nuts a day
Brazil nuts are among the richest dietary sources of selenium. Selenium plays an essential role in reproduction, metabolism, and immune health.
A single Brazil nut contains 68 to 91 micrograms (mcg) of selenium, meaning that just one nut per day can provide the daily recommended adult allowance of 55 mcg.
In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts contain plenty of protein, essential minerals, and healthful fats. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a serving of three Brazil nuts contains the following nutrients:
Nuts are a fabulous snack, as the protein, fat and fibre content of nuts help regulate our appetite and food intake. We just have to hold back on the daily servings as the calories add up quickly.
As you can see above, there are 99 calories in 3 Brazil nuts. If you snack on Brazil nuts when you come home from your Spin class then you'll quickly be adding back more calories than you burnt off at the gym.
Walnuts! no thank you ...
Then I "discovered" walnuts. Actually, I didn't like walnuts. Right from when I was a kid I haven't liked them. When it came to picking nuts from a bowl, walnuts were the ones I left for someone else.
So I was a touch unenthusiastic when I discovered research showing that eating walnuts has very positive benefits for diabetics.
Scientists from the University of Wollongong in Australia examined the long-term effects on metabolic parameters, such as fasting insulin levels, in Type 2 diabetics. They reported in the August 2009 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition," that patients consuming 30 grams of walnuts for one year significantly reduced their fasting insulin levels compared to those not consuming walnuts.
(30g of walnuts is about 8 pieces).
A 2015 study published in the "BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care" concluded that "The inclusion of walnuts in an ad libitum diet for 6 months, with or without dietary counselling to adjust calorie intake, significantly improved diet quality, endothelial function, total and LDL cholesterol".
Participant in the study ate 392g of walnuts per week (56 g or 2 oz/day providing 366 kcal) to include in their diet. That's about 14 walnuts per day.
At this point, I added walnuts to my daily mix, which included the brazil nuts.
Then I discovered almonds
It's been found that almonds lower blood glucose levels and suppress appetite (the effect is greatest when they are eaten alone as snacks).
I added almonds to my nut mix!
But despite being alert to good things about nuts, I didn't know that walnuts increase the utilisation of fat as an energy source in our body, which is ideal for weight management.
Our bodies tend to be metabolically inflexible, stabilising on a preference determined by our long-term eating habits e.g. tending to burn more carbohydrates, or more fats.
Have a more flexible metabolism is beneficial, a little like doing different types of exercise is complementary, e.g. strength training and aerobics training.
This is because metabolic flexibility enables you to :
I am currently training my metabolism to be more flexible.
Walnuts stimulate our use of fat as an energy source. That's a beneficial bit of training for our metabolism.
How to manage your weight with nuts
We can help manage our weight with nuts by the following suggestions, as recommended by Dr Tan:
Dr Tan also says that when it comes to which particular type of nut we should be going for, there is no stand-out preference. "All types of nuts share similar nutrient profiles", he states.
I don't agree with that observation.
For diabetics, like me, brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds are the stand-out choices.
Have a palm-size serve or two daily of your favourite nut mix and include one brazil nut, 10 - 14 walnuts and 10 - 14 almonds.
Your body will thank you.
PS clinical studies thus far have shown that nuts are not associated with weight gain, "likely due to their effects on satiety and possibly also due to inefficient absorption of caloric energy from nuts". Translation: the fats in nuts are not completely digested and absorbed by the body.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter