Everyone knows nuts are high in calories, which probably explains why many people trying to lose weight avoid them like the plague. But swapping just half a daily serving of unhealthy foods with nuts could help prevent weight creeping on as you get older, say scientists writing in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

According to the researchers, adults living in the US gain a pound – or nearly half a kilo – every year. Weight gain is, after all, often thought of as a natural part of the ageing process. But it doesn’t have to be. And eating nuts could be one of those simple things you could do to put off putting on weight as you get older. And all you have to do is eat half a serving of nuts (14g) instead of chips, crisps or processed meats – or anything else considered less than healthy.

The scientists analysed information on the weight, diet and physical activity of almost 290,000 people over more than 20 years. One of the questions the participants had to answer was how often they’d eaten a serving of nuts (including peanuts and peanut butter). As a result the researchers discovered that eating more of any type of nut was linked with less long-term weight gain as well as a lower risk of becoming obese. Those who increased the amount of nuts they ate by half a serving a day were less likely to gain two or more kilos over any four-year period – and if the nuts they ate were walnuts, they also had a 15 per cent lower risk of obesity. And if they had half a serving of nuts a day instead of half a serving of processed meats, refined grains. chocolate, pastries piles or doughnuts, they avoided gaining between 0.41 and 0.7kg in any four-year period. Unfortunately for peanut butter fans, increasing peanut butter intake didn’t have the same effect on weight gain risk.

There are more statistics to mention. But what these all suggest in simple terms is that snacking on a handful of nuts instead of grabbing a few biscuits or a packet of crisps may help ward off age-related weight gain. Plus it may be a relatively easy way of helping to avoid obesity.

Why this happens, who knows? But the researchers have a couple of theories. First, you need to put a bit of effort into chewing nuts, plus nuts contain lots of fibre, which can make you feel more satisfied and fuller for longer. Nut fibre is also thought to bind well to fats within the digestive system. This suggests some fat may be excreted with the fibre, lowering your overall calorie intake. The researchers also say that there’s evidence the high unsaturated fat content of nuts could boost your calorie burn while you’re resting.

What else can you say about nuts? As well as being rich in healthy fats and fibre they’re also a great source of vitamins and minerals. And they could be good for the planet too. “In addition to the impact on human health, using environmentally friendly plant-based protein, such as nuts and seeds to replace animal sources of protein may contribute to the promotion of a global sustainable food system,” the researchers write.


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