Raise your hand if you have ever heard that nuts and avocados “make you fat.”
Raise your hand if you have heard recently that nuts and avocados are good for people on a diet.
Chances are you raised your hand both times, I know I did. So what gives? Here is the skinny on these fatty foods that might make you skinny.
Nuts and Avocado’s Nutrition
Avocados are an extremely nutrient dense food, primarily made of monounsaturated fat and an abundance of vitamins and nutrients. They contain about 160 calories for 100grams (about half of a medium size avocado) and 7grams of fiber.
There are so many different types of nuts and they all vary widely in nutrition content. They can range from 160-200 calories per ounce, which can be less than a handful. Almonds and pistachios are on the lower end of the calorie scale (around 160) and higher end of the protein and fiber scale, 6g and 4g respectively. While nuts like macadamia’s, brazil nuts, and pecans tip the higher end of the calorie scale (closer to 200) and are moderately lower protein and fiber, 4g and 2g respectively. They are also jam packed with lots of nutrients, but it is again highly dependent on the type of nut. Common nuts like those previously mentioned are primarily contain monounsaturated fat.
Weight Loss or Weight Gain?
The word is out, recent studies have shown that including avocados and nuts in the diet may help weight loss efforts. One study found that the addition of a half an avocado to participants lunch decreased desire to eat by 40% 3 hours after lunch and by 28% 5 hours after lunch.
Another large population study found an inverse relationship with tree nuts and obesity. (As tree nut consumption went up, obesity went down.) Almonds and pistachios seem to be the focus of weight efforts and weight loss in current research, most likely do to the reasons mentioned above (lower calorie content, higher protein and fiber.) A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who included 46grams of almonds at breakfast, morning snack, dinner or evening snack were not at risk of weight gain compared to those who didn’t include any nuts in their diets. (Participants were at risk of type 2 diabetes and found the most benefit in blood sugar control from utilizing the almonds as a snack.)
What do all these foods have in common? Monounsaturated fat, which is a known heart health booster, and yes researchers looked at that too. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that participants moving from a high carbohydrate diet to a high monounsaturated fat diet had a redistribution of body fat, it moved away from their mid section.
Okay so where do you sign up right? Avocado’s are buttery deliciousness and don’t even get me started on nuts in salads and NUT BUTTER! In my opinion, it all comes down to portion size and intuitive eating. I still often advise my clients who need to gain weight or have children that need weight gain to eat these foods. Why? Because you get a lot of calorie bang for your buck. You can easily and sneakily (and maybe accidently) increase the calorie concentration of your food by adding avocado and nuts/nut butter to them without having to consume a whole lot more.
So, if you are looking to lose weight or maintain weight it is best to replace other less nutrient dense foods with avocados or nuts. For the most benefit try replacing high carbohydrate/sugar processed snacks with nuts or avocados. For example, snacking on a handful of nuts mid morning or after lunch instead of a super sugary granola bar. The healthy fat and fiber is likely to keep you fuller and provide more nutrition than the granola bar. Or chose an avocado instead of cheese on sandwiches or in salads to supply healthy fats and nutrients without overdoing it on the calorie scale. Using these tactics are likely to increase the amount of fullness you get from a meal or snack (versus a processed highly sugary choice) leading to less mindless snacking later on, lower calorie consumption, and a healthy waistline.
Your thoughts? Are you an avocado or nut lover? What is your favorite way to include them in a healthy diet?