It’s time for my second article review post! I have realized this past week just how big of a nerd I am. Since we are going on our 2-week cruise to Hawaii in just 3 short days, I have been downloading a ton of reading material onto my iPad. This reading material consists of journal articles, clinical trials, and meta-analysis studies all pertaining to nutrition. In addition to this, I also had the idea of writing mini-essays on the cruise about the articles I read, what I am learning, and what new things I obtain from reading these articles. I am giving myself homework while on VACATION!!! Either a.) I am a complete nerd, or b.) I definitely have gone into the right field since I am genuinely excited about learning new things every day! I think it is a little bit of both a and b! Today’s article will focus on nuts and their health benefits! The article I chose is entitled: “Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women.” Here is the citation, because I am a good little student!
Bes-Rastrollo, M., Wedick, N. M., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., Li, T. Y., Sampson, L., & Hu, F. B. (2009). Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(6), 1913-1919.
Nuts have been included in both dietary recommendations and dietary restrictions throughout the years. Because of their high fat content, nuts have been banished from many a weight-loss program. However, the benefits of nuts have been coming to light, which is making many people turn to nuts as snacks, toppings for salads, and even to bake with (almond flour, cashew flour, etc.). The authors of this article focused on measuring the association between long-term nut consumption and changes in weight in women. The women chosen for this study were ages 20-45 years, and had no cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer. Nut consumption was measured over a period of 8 years, since authors were looking at long-term nut consumption.
The researchers measured these women’s nut consumption by using a food-frequency questionnaire (or FFQ), which measures how often you eat certain foods over a period of time. Nut butters, as well as tree nuts, and peanuts (which are botanically legumes, but share nutritional properties with nuts) were included in this questionnaire. Data on changes in body weight in these women were also collected over the years.
Results showed that over the course of the 8-year study, average weight gain was about 5 +/- 7 kg among the participants of the study (or 11 +/- 15 lbs). The women who consumed more nuts were older, had a higher average caloric intake, and were more physically active than those who did not consume nuts at all. However, interestingly enough, these women who consumed more nuts were actually leaner and gained weight at a slower rate compared to those who rarely consumed nuts. The researchers found no association between high nut consumption and increased rate of weight gain throughout the years, which means eating more nuts does not equal gaining more weight. The average daily consumption of the women who experienced the benefits of eating nuts was about 1-2 oz/day, which is the equivalent of about 1/4-1/2 cup of nuts. However, a key point the authors emphasized is that the women that consumed more nuts had a healthier and more active lifestyle overall. They also stated that the replacement of other foods is key. If we are to increase our nut consumption, the calories from the nuts must take the place of other foods that we are eating. The authors concluded that regular nut consumption could be a vital component in an overall healthy lifestyle.
I really enjoyed reading this article because I found that it greatly supported my experience with snacking and nuts. In my high school and early college years, I was a very big “100-calorie pack” snacker. I loved crackers, Oreos, gold fish, and other kinds of highly refined and processed carbohydrate snacks. However, the fact that they were in 100-calorie packs made me feel better about my choices because these snacks controlled my portions. What I did not like about these snacks was that they made me feel hungry about an hour later! After starting more of my nutrition classes and learning more about the feeling of fullness fats provide and the health benefits of nuts, I started consuming more nuts on a regular basis. I felt fuller for a longer period of time, had more energy, and even experienced other benefits such as stronger hair and nails. About a year ago, I started eating less grains and more healthy fats, incorporating nuts into my diet every day, as well as other healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados. However, I also replaced these foods with my usual crackers, popcorn, breads, and pastas. I have found that even though my caloric intake is slightly higher now while eating a higher fat diet (1g of fat provides 9 calories vs. 1g of protein and carbohydrates, which only provides 4 calories), I have found myself to be more satisfied with my meals, feel fuller for a longer period of time, and lose weight in a much easier, less deprived manner.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not eat low carb, I just have a lower grain consumption than I used to have. I still have bananas, sweet potatoes, and rice because we need carbohydrates for fuel, and they taste amazing! I am just not as scared of higher-fat food choices anymore. I realize that my body needs these foods as much as it needs carbohydrates and protein. I am also a “happier” person when I include these fats into my diet! I have more energy and am in a better mood than when I am feeling weak, lightheaded, and hungry! Overall, I have realized that incorporating high fat foods into my diet, and replacing my usual refined carbohydrate food choices with these healthy fats has had a tremendously positive impact on my health! I have lost weight, have more energy, and don’t have a fear of getting hungry an hour after eating!
However, I do believe that portion size is an important factor to consider here. 1-2 oz of nuts a day (or 1/4-1/2 cup of nuts) is the proper portion for this food, providing 200-400 calories. This is a hefty number to just add on to your typical diet already, which is why the replacement factor is key to having success with this type of lifestyle! Instead of having a sandwich with two slices of bread, how about ditching the bread, making the meal into a salad or a lettuce-wrapped sandwich, and then adding ½ an avocado or a small handful of nuts to your meal? These small choices will help us incorporate more healthy fats into our diet, while losing weight and having more energy. In conclusion, I firmly agree with the findings of this article and believe we need to include more nuts, as well as other healthy fats (olive oils, avocados, etc.) into our daily diets!