A new study suggests that despite their high calorie counts, daily doses of nuts might help people keep off excess weight, especially when nuts are substituted for less healthy foods.
Researchers followed 126,190 healthy middle-aged adults for 20 to 24 years. At the start, participants were typically at a healthy weight or slightly overweight. By the end of the study, about 17 percent of participants had become obese.
People who increased their total nut consumption by 14 grams a day, were 3 percent less likely to become obese, researchers report in The BMJ. Boosting daily walnut consumption by a similar amount was associated with a 15 percent lower obesity risk, while adding tree nuts like cashews and almonds was tied to an 11 percent lower obesity risk.
According to senior study author Deirdre Tobias, professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, increasing nuts in the diet may help maintain a healthy body weight in several ways.
"Their high healthy-fat and fiber content are more filling for longer compared with processed carbs and other more easily digested foods," she said by email.
"To get the most health benefit from eating more nuts, people should avoid nuts coated with salt and sugar, Tobias advised.
Each year during the study, participants gained an average of 0.32 kg. But each half-serving of nuts added to a daily diet was associated with less weight gain.
The study also found that adding nuts to the diet was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of gaining more than 2 kg or more than 5 kg every four years.