Are you including nut butter in your weight loss plan? Here's why you should choose whole nuts instead
- 3 Minutes Read
Do you often eat nut butter but rarely eat whole nuts? Time to consider eating whole nuts instead - this could be beneficial for both weight loss and overall health.
Many of us love peanut butter and other types of nut butter. You may see articles written about which nut butter is healthier or tastier but what is missing from the conversation is the issue of choosing whole nuts over nut butter. Actually, all types of nut butter are nutritious and can be a very healthy part of your diet. But if you are trying to lose weight, eating whole nuts instead of nut butter is smart.
Eating nuts requires you to slow down - you need to chew the nuts first before you swallow. Chewing nuts reduces the risk of choking as well as helps the digestive process.
You can practice mindful eating techniques when you eat one nut at a time. Close your eyes and take one nut and start to chew it. How many chews before you swallow? During that time, experience the texture and taste to the fullest. And the good news is that you will satisfy your hunger without eating junk food or chips.
Yes, nut butter is healthy but for the same volume, there are fewer calories in nuts versus nut butter. Let's take peanuts versus peanut butter as an example. Three tablespoons of peanuts weigh about 1 ounce (28 grams) and contain about 164 calories. If you consumed 3 tablespoons (48 grams) of peanut butter, it would be about 285 calories.
Another common problem with nut butter is how people serve themselves. You may estimate that you use a teaspoon ( 5 grams) to scoop out a serving of nut butter and are delighted to see that it has only 32 calories. However, unless you use a level measuring teaspoon, that teaspoon scoop is likely heaping and is closer to one tablespoon (15 grams) - with 96 calories instead of 32 calories. That might not seem like a big deal, but what if you do this multiple times a day? That daily underestimation could be enough to keep you from losing weight. If you eat nuts or nut butter for weight loss, be sure to weigh your portions - that is the most accurate way to control your portion sizes and calories.
If you are used to eating a snack after dinner then try 1/2 - 1 ounce (14-28 grams) of nuts instead of a sweet. If you have a sweet tooth, try honey-roasted peanuts instead of ice cream or candy. The protein, fat, and chewing will help you feel full but the calories are reasonable.
Interestingly, consuming whole nuts, not nut butter, is associated with a lower risk of common chronic diseases (obesity, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, and Type 2 diabetes).
What is not clear is whether or not the type of processing matters. For instance, if we just looked at people who consume 100% natural nut butter (with no added ingredients, just pulverized nuts), would we still see this difference? There are many different types of nut butter - many have added oils, sugars, and salt. And most no-stir types have added oils that might offset the beneficial health effects of plain nuts.
Also, what you eat with nut butter affects your overall calorie and nutrient intake. For instance, you may have a slice of bread with sliced banana, and a small glass of milk. If you have that as a meal, then the calories work out okay, but as a snack, that means 360 calories! However, eating whole nuts as a standalone snack - one ounce of nuts can satisfy for about 180 calories (more or less depending on the nut type).
If you love and prefer nut butter and won't eat whole nuts, opt for natural nut butter with few or no added ingredients. Measure the weight of your portion carefully and make sure the calories fit in your budget. Don't nibble mindlessly on nut butter for weight loss.
Also, pay attention to what you typically eat with the nut butter. Tracking helps you keep a handle on the calories. You can experiment with different combinations. Instead of a peanut butter sandwich or peanut butter and banana, mix it up a bit and try a smaller amount of peanut butter with a fresh apple or celery. All types of nut butter are great with baby carrots.
Tree nuts and peanuts are all great sources of healthy fats and nutrients. If you need to limit your salt intake, then avoid heavily seasoned flavors and go for lightly salted or no added salt versions. Mix it up a bit - try different types of nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts.
This content was reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES on May 19, 2022.
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