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The Best Nuts for Weight Loss

The Best Nuts for Weight Loss

By Stacey Feintuch

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Is your New Year's resolution to lose weight? You're not alone. It's typically one of the top resolutions. And one main component to weight loss is eating healthfully.

Whether you're looking to lose a few pounds or have recently lost weight and need to maintain your goal number, consider adding some nuts to your diet.

Many varieties of nuts have been associated with weight loss. And numerous studies have shown that eating nuts may help prevent weight gain with age. Nut eaters tend to have healthier diets because nuts replace unhealthy processed foods. And nuts' monounsaturated fatty acids tend to target belly fat, too.

Need more proof on nuts' role in weight loss? Trials comparing weight loss through regimens that included or excluded nuts showed that people stuck to their diets better and lost more weight when nuts were included.

Some nuts perform better than others, but few if any varieties have been shown to promote weight gain or increase obesity risk when consumed in moderation. How you eat your nuts does make a difference. Because nuts in the shell are more time-consuming to eat, that form helps you pace yourself and eat less. And when you munch on whole nuts, you eat slower because you need to chew them longer.

When selecting nuts, avoid ones coated in salt, sugar, chocolate, honey or seasonings. Otherwise, you're turning this healthy fare into junk food. Instead, stick with dry-roasted or raw varieties. You can toast them in a pan or in the oven, without seasonings, if you like the toasted taste.

Here are some nuts you can add to your diet plan (in no particular order):

Walnuts
This nut offers a great balance of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids that provide essential nutrients, which are shown to protect your heart and lower triglycerides. Omega-3s are mainly found in fish, making walnuts ideal for those who don't eat seafood. Plus, walnuts contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that are known to help lower inflammation levels and prevent type 2 diabetes. And they're even rich in melatonin, which promotes a healthy sleep cycle. To reap belly-busting benefits, you don't have to eat a tree's worth. Sprinkle a handful of walnuts on your entrée salad or atop your morning oats. For a snack, mix 1 cup walnuts with ½ cup dried blueberries and ¼ cup dark chocolate chunks (and don't eat it all in one day). Or whip up a loaf of Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread.

Almonds
You can almost think of each almond as a natural weight-loss pill. Yes, nuts are high in fat. But when you're trying to lose weight, eating a moderate portion of monounsaturated fat-boasting almonds can keep you feeling full and prevent you from snacking. A study found that obese adults who included almonds in their weight-loss plans lost more weight than those who ate more complex carbohydrates. Plus, they're a great food source of the antioxidant vitamin E, manganese (which helps the body function properly) and protein. And if you consume this nut regularly, you can put yourself at a lower risk for developing heart disease. For the best results, eat your almonds before you got to the gym. They're rich in an amino acid, which can help you burn more carbs and fat during workouts. (If you need help preventing yourself from overindulging, purchase a calorie-controlled snack pack.) For a healthy serving of almonds, try our Bulgur Pilaf With Roasted Brussels Sprouts or go for a bowl of Ajo Blanco, an almond and grape chilled soup.

Brazil nuts
This large nut offers a creamy flavor and is a super-rich source of the mineral selenium. Selenium plays a key role in metabolism, as well as in immunity, reproductive health and vitamin E absorption. And selenium may help prevent certain cancers like bone, prostate and breast cancers. Brazil nuts also contain nutrients like zinc, potassium, riboflavin and magnesium. Just watch your serving size, consuming only five to six nuts a day, because high levels of selenium can be harmful, according to the National Institutes of Health. To integrate the nut into your diet, add the nut (chopped) to oatmeal with some honey and fruit. Roast for 10 minutes with some salt and maple syrup. Or eat them raw. You can even make this Banana Bread With Brazil Nuts and Dark Chocolate Swirls.

Peanuts
Peanuts, get your peanuts here! You may have snacked on this nut while watching a baseball game as a kid (or an adult!). It was and is one of the healthiest foods you can eat at the ballpark, boasting protein, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, niacin, folate and vitamin E. Plus, eating peanuts can help reduce the chance of stroke and help boost your energy. Since they're packed with fiber and protein, peanuts can keep you satisfied and full for a long time, helping manage your hunger. They help stabilize your blood sugar, offering long-lasting energy and fewer cravings. They come in tons of mixes and flavors, and, of course, are the main component of peanut butter. Just be sure to check the package's label because this nut butter can be processed with sugar and hydrogenated oils. And stay away from sweeter versions that may include honey. When in doubt, go for an organic variety or make your own.

Pistachios
Pistachios are low in calories and high in protein, potassium and fiber. Plus, they're packed with monounsaturated fatty acids that help control cholesterol. And they can help promote weight loss, according to a study in Nutrition. Sixty middle-aged adults at risk for diabetes and heart disease were divided into two groups. The group that added pistachios to their diet had smaller waists, lower total cholesterol levels, better blood sugar numbers and less harmful inflammation. To eat fewer pistachios and therefore consume fewer calories, opt for ones in the shells because they'll take you longer to eat. Make some pistachio pudding or pick up a pack of Pistachio & Almond Blend to get a dose of this nut.

Cashews
While cashews may have a fatty and buttery-tasting flavor, they're brimming with nutrients like iron (which helps deliver oxygen to your cells, and, in turn, helps prevent anemia), zinc (crucial to immune health and healthy vision) and magnesium (which may help improve your memory). Smooth and rich cashew butter packs a nutritional punch, too. Look for a variety that's mainly made of cashews to reap its energy-boosting benefits. Consider making this Garbanzo-Vegetable Green Curry tonight. Try using cashew butter (store bought or make your own) in desserts and smoothies for a healthy treat.