Model Brittany Martinez shares how her Victoria’s Secret trainer would tell his clients that if they wanted to lose weight to stop drinking almond milk. She points out how many “healthy” alternatives to dairy and grains are made from some form of nut (not to mention most of these substitutes also contain a ton of fillers and gums). If you’re eating several alternative foods like cashew yogurt, almond flour bread, and vegan cheese, plus adding nut butter in smoothies, almond milk to your coffee, and nut to your granola, you’re consuming much, much more than the recommended weekly serving of nuts.
In an episode of her YouTube show The Real Truth About Health, Chef AJ, a chef, culinary instructor, and author, shares how she used to be overweight and couldn’t lose weight – until she eliminated nuts. She also illustrates the importance of volume, not just protein amount and nutrient quality, in feeling satisfied because of the stretch reaction on your stomach muscles. For example, eating a medium-sized, baked sweet potato will make you feel fuller longer than 14 plain almonds, though they both contain 100 calories.
Chef AJ also points out that the Paleo and Keto diets tend toward incorporating too many nuts. If you’ve ever checked out “grain-free/flourless” Paleo recipes on Pinterest, you’ll see it’s all almond flour this and nut butter that. According to Chef AJ, however, prehistoric cavemen, as well as many generations of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, didn’t have Costco selling tumblers of roasted, salted nuts to snack on by the handful year-round, and they definitely didn’t have jars of almond butter available. Rather, they had to forage for seasonal nuts in the wild, hand-pick them, and take off the shell. All of this was a laborious and painstaking process that only resulted in small amounts of nuts.
A Little Bit of Nuts Goes a Long Way
This is not to say that nuts are a “bad” food or that they should be eliminated from your kitchen forever along with the Cheetos and Fruit Loops.
Nuts are one of the most natural foods you could eat, and they do have many health benefits, including fiber, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and unsaturated fatty acids. Studies show that nuts can even lower the risk of blood clots (and thus heart attacks and strokes) and high blood pressure, as well as reduce cardiovascular inflammation and regulate cholesterol levels in the body. But here’s the catch: Nuts are in fact the most calorically dense food on the planet, and if you’re eating them wrong or too often, they’re probably thwarting your weight loss efforts. Combined with frequent sugar intake – like in almond milk, creamer, yogurt, or ice cream – over-consuming nuts will prevent you from losing weight.
The big problem is that people almost always eat more nuts than the serving suggestion. As Mayo Clinic indicates, the main drawback of nuts is that they are extremely high in calories, one of the top-ranking caloric foods, so it’s very important to control portions. The high levels of energy density in nuts seem to make them a perfect snack, but fat makes up 50% of the weight of nuts, and it would be easy to consume hundreds of calories and many grams of fat in just a few bites. Bye-bye, calorie deficit!
For example, having nut butter and apples is a popular snack, but do you actually measure it or just shovel up a big ol’ spoon of the nut butter before plopping it onto your plate (and grab more if you run out)? If you actually measured out the suggested 2 tbsp., you’d probably be surprised at how much less it is than your usual scoop.
No, you don’t have to just eat salads (that's actually not good for you, either) or salmon to lose weight, but eating everything nut alternative won’t help you lose it either. Sure, Paleo goods can be healthier options than the white flour, processed-sugar originals, but we've got to watch the portions. Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 4-6 servings of nuts per week per adult. This includes anything made with nuts.
Soaked and Sprouted Is Best
You might’ve heard that it’s healthier to eat raw nuts than roasted. However, there’s an even better way – sprouted nuts. Why? Well, because raw grains, nuts, and seeds all contain a natural preservative antioxidant called phytic acid, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation and nutrition malabsorption in the human digestive system.
Nuts also contain enzyme inhibitors, which prevent proper digestion and nutrient absorption. By soaking and sprouting nuts, you release the phytic acid and soften the nuts, making them easier to digest. So, if you do include some portioned nuts in your diet, try sprouting them. See instructions here from a doctor on properly soaking and drying nuts.
Peanuts Aren’t Nuts, but You Still Need Caution
Though they’re often lumped into the same category and are high in fat like nuts, peanuts are legumes. Even though they have a softer texture than beans, peanuts are actually very difficult to digest and often lend to inflammation, gut issues, and weight gain. Yes, peanut butter tastes delicious and might seem like an inexpensive pantry staple for “protein and natural fat.” However, it’s not the best option. Gut health and weight loss specialist Dr. Steven Gundry says cut them completely out of your diet!
Dr. Gundry points out that peanut butter contains 5,000 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats (the preferable polyunsaturated, healthier fats). “Omega-6 fats cause inflammation, and omega-3 fats reduce inflammation,” says Dr. Gundry. The average American consumes way too much omega-6 fats, such as processed seed oils (including peanut oil/butter), and not enough omega-3 fats, such as salmon, eggs, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil. In addition to high levels of phytic acid, peanuts also contain high amounts of lectins, a property in some foods which can cause inflammation and weight gain.
Cutting out nuts temporarily and limiting sweets has the ability to make a huge difference in your weight loss journey and make your calorie deficit much easier to maintain. Sticking to a menu of simple foods like eggs, fish, poultry, sweet potatoes, fruits, and veggies for the majority of the time gives you all the necessary nutrients, facilitates your weight loss, and can greatly relieve any inflammation or stomach indigestion you may be experiencing. You can always introduce some nuts back into your diet in small amounts once you reach your weight goal and are at the "maintenance" phase. Just remember to measure out portions and be mindfully moderate!
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