5 Healthy Nuts for Weight Loss (Verified by a Dietician)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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Nuts are nutrient-dense and fibrous, which makes them an excellent food for almost any diet. But one question I often get from clients is whether all nuts are ideal for weight loss.

I know which ones proved to be particularly beneficial in my experience as a personal trainer, but I wanted to dive into research and get a second opinion to be sure exactly which ones help you lose weight the best.

So, I consulted our in-house dietician and reviewed the scientific literature to build on what I know about nuts and how they help burn abdominal fat.

Here are the findings.

Quick Summary

  • Incorporating nuts like walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios into your diet is beneficial for weight loss.
  • Nuts are known for their satiety-inducing and fat-burning properties, which can help you lose weight.
  • Harvard School of Public Health states that consuming 8-10% of daily calories from polyunsaturated fats, and up to 15% in place of saturated fats, improves cholesterol levels and lowers heart disease risk.
  • Understanding the nutritional value of different nuts can help you incorporate them into different meals and plan your diet regimen.

Top 5 Nuts That Promote Weight Loss

A variety of nuts on a table

After speaking to my dietician and studying the nutritional content of various kinds of nuts, we put together a list of the top five nuts for weight loss.

1. Walnuts

Walnuts have been a game-changer in my weight-loss journey. As a personal trainer, I've seen them work wonders for my clients too. They're my go-to snack for a midday energy boost and have helped curb my cravings significantly.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, consuming 8-10 percent of daily calories from polyunsaturated fats, and up to 15 percent to replace saturated fats, can lower heart disease risk, improve blood cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation [1].

Walnuts also promote fullness and prevent unhealthy cravings. A PubMed study shows that the presence of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins in walnuts suppresses hunger and aids in more weight loss, which is why I highly recommend them to clients who struggle with snacking between meals [2].

A study involving participants on an 8-week energy-restricted diet, with an average weight loss of 5.9 kg, found that a diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids, more than 1300 mg/day, can modulate satiety and aid in weight loss in overweight individuals.

Additional research on omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts found the property particularly useful in the reduction of body fat [3].

As a plus, walnuts also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases [4].

2. Brazil Nuts

Carrying a tin of Brazil nuts in my car has been a lifesaver during long drives. They're not just a snack for me; they've been a key part of my weight-loss strategy.

They come loaded with proteins and fiber, which, according to WebMD, are essential for weight loss [5].

But the best part about Brazil nuts is that they contain L-arginine, an amino acid with multiple fat-burning benefits [6].

This makes the Brazil nut one of the best nuts for weight loss and a great addition to your diet.

"Brazil nuts are rich in the trace mineral and antioxidant selenium, with just one to two nuts providing over 100% of your daily selenium needs."

- Jennifer Huddy, MS, RD, LD, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Writer

3. Almonds

Close up shot of almonds in a sack

Almonds hold a special place in diet. Their high protein and fiber content not only supports my weight loss goals but also keeps their energy levels steady throughout the day [7].

In addition to the proteins and fiber, almonds also contain heart-healthy fats and antioxidants, all of which can stimulate weight loss [8].

They also contain L-arginine, an amino acid that helps burn fat faster [9].

In addition to helping you lose belly fat, almonds also promote the survival of beneficial gut bacteria known as lactobacillus, which may improve your gut health [10].

Eating 3–5 almonds daily is associated with higher fat metabolism and can help you lose weight.

However, based on my experience, you shouldn’t overeat them, especially raw bitter almonds, as they can be quite dangerous in higher quantities [11].

“Bitter almonds contain a toxin known as glycoside amygdalin. When eaten, this toxin gets broken down into several compounds, including hydrogen cyanide — a toxic compound that can cause death.”

- Alina Petre, MS, RD

4. Peanuts

In my circle of bodybuilders and athletes, peanuts are a staple. Personally, I've incorporated them into my diet for their protein-rich profile, which helps me stay full and reduces my overall calorie intake. [12].

An experiment posted in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism examined the effect of peanuts. Over the 200 participants who ate peanuts as snacks consumed fewer calories during the rest of the day than those who did not [13].

While peanut-based products are great, I always recommend my clients eat whole peanuts so they avoid additional ingredients.

5. Pistachios

Close up shot of Pistachios on a bowl

Like the other nuts I've covered on this list, pistachio nuts contain proteins that can help keep you full for long [14]. But what makes them my favorite is their delicious flavor.

Pistachios are also good for your heart; they can help regulate blood sugar levels after a meal.

In fact, a study by Rock et al. found a significant reduction in blood pressure and increased blood antioxidant levels in participants who consumed pistachios versus those who didn't [15].

Other noteworthy healthy nuts for weight loss include the following:

  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia
  • Cashews

These nuts possess health benefits besides their ability to help you lose weight.

For optimal results in fat burning, nuts work well with a healthy diet and physical activity.

Nutritional Comparison of Different Nuts for Weight Loss

To help readers make informed choices, our dietician provided a nutritional comparison of various nuts per 1-ounce serving (about a handful), focusing on key nutrients relevant to weight loss:

  • Almonds: 164 calories, 14g fat, 6g protein, 3.5g fiber. Rich in vitamin E and magnesium.
  • Walnuts: 185 calories, 18.5g fat, 4g protein, 2g fiber. High in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Pistachios: 159 calories, 13g fat, 6g protein, 3g fiber. Good source of B vitamins and potassium.
  • Brazil nuts: 187 calories, 19g fat, 4g protein, 2.1g fiber. Notable for its high selenium content.
  • Cashews: 157 calories, 12g fat, 5g protein, 1g fiber. Contains iron and zinc.

This comparison shows that while nuts are generally high in fats, they're predominantly healthy unsaturated fats.

The protein and fiber content also vary, which is important for satiety and weight management.

Will Eating Nuts Help You Burn Belly Fat?

A variety of nots on spoons

Yes, eating nuts can help you burn belly fat. From my own experience, incorporating nuts into my diet has significantly contributed to reducing my belly fat. Alongside a balanced diet and regular exercise, nuts have been a key player in my overall weight loss plan.

A 2013 study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that nuts can help overweight people reduce their overall body fat percentage [16].

Another study from Clinical Nutrition compared walnuts to a meal with fat from dairy sources; scientists found that participants who ate walnuts burned 28% more calories [17].

For best results, you should complement nuts with regular exercises and a high-quality fat burner to fast-track your progress.

Now, let's examine what makes nuts a great addition to your weight-loss diet.

"People who eat more nuts weigh less and have less belly fat than those who don't eat them as often."

- Kim Yawitz, Registered Dietitian

Why They’re Good for Weight Loss

A person eating nuts in a bowl

I recall a time when I, like many other trainers, viewed fats as detrimental to weight loss. However, my perspective shifted dramatically after I started including nuts in my diet. Their healthy fats proved essential in my own weight loss journey, debunking the myth that all fats are bad.

But new research has since proven otherwise.

To cut the story short, scientists later discovered that the type of fat and how you eat it determines if you’ll continue to add to your waistline or lose weight.

This brings us to our first point.

1. Nuts Contain Healthy Fats

Studies by the Harvard School of Health have revealed that most nuts contain unsaturated fats (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat), which are generally known as “good fat” [18].

Consuming unsaturated fat common in nuts is unlikely to lead to visceral fat accumulation (abdominal fat), a characteristic that is traditionally attributed to saturated fat [19].

Keep in mind that some recent studies are forcing the scientific community to realize that the health impact of saturated fat is much more nuanced than previously thought [20].

These studies show no correlation between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease. But no matter the cause, abdominal fat storage is still a risk factor for metabolic disorders.

A 2014 study revealed that consumption of polyunsaturated fat (the kind found in most nuts) promotes muscle gain over abdominal fat accumulation. Surprisingly, even when consumed in excess, the results were still similar [21].

Another analysis also found that consuming monounsaturated fatty acids decreased body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference in obese women [22].

According to a study by the Harvard School of Health, monounsaturated fats can be found in significant amounts in:

  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia
  • Cashew nuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Peanuts

On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats are dominant in:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts

2. Nuts Promote Satiety

Close up shot of a sack of nuts

One thing I've personally noticed is how nuts help control hunger. Their ability to promote satiety as healthy sources of fats has been a game-changer for me, especially during busy days when I need to avoid overeating.

This way, they help limit calorie intake, which is crucial in preventing abdominal fat accumulation.

In particular, studies have revealed that walnuts, peanuts, and almonds promote satiety (being full) and, thus, can reduce meal times during the day and cravings for unhealthy junk food [23].

Scientists have pegged this satiety effect on nuts’ high protein and unsaturated fat content [24].

3. Nuts Can Stimulate Fat Loss Through Lower Fat Absorption

According to a journal article from the International Journal of Obesity, some nuts, like peanuts, have a lower absorption rate of their fat content, so they pass through the digestive system with some residual fat intact that gets excreted through fecal matter [25].

This is good for losing weight since it prevents excess fat from being absorbed.

4. Nuts Promote Calorie Burning

Close up shot of nuts on a table

Studies have found a calorie-burning property in nuts, such as walnuts, in that they increase energy expenditure and stimulate fat oxidation.

One study in particular found that walnuts were particularly efficient in promoting calorie burning by up to 28% just 5 hours after a meal [26].

Burning more calories prevents the conversion of excess food into fat and the accumulation of the same.

Incorporating Nuts into a Weight Loss Diet Plan

Many of my clients and readers have found that incorporating nuts into a weight-loss diet can be both nutritious and satisfying.

Many initially struggled to find ways of incorporating nuts into their diet, so here are some practical tips and ideas:

  • As a snack: Replace unhealthy snacks with a handful of mixed nuts. They're filling and can help control hunger between meals.
  • In breakfast: Add chopped nuts to oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie bowls for a nutrient-rich start to the day.
  • In salads: Sprinkle almonds, walnuts, or pistachios over salads for added crunch and nutrition.
  • In main dishes: Use crushed nuts as a coating for chicken or fish instead of breadcrumbs.
  • In baking: Replace a portion of flour with finely ground nuts in recipes for muffins, pancakes, or bread for added protein and healthy fats.

Remember, while nuts are healthy, they are also calorie-dense. Portion control is key since a small handful is usually sufficient.

FAQs

When Should You Eat Nuts to Lose Weight?

You should eat nuts in the morning on an empty stomach, preferably before a workout, to lose weight. Nuts are rich in proteins and other essential nutrients that can keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day.

Do Nuts Cause Weight Gain and Abdominal Fat?

No, nuts do not cause weight gain and abdominal fat when consumed in moderation. On the contrary, they promote fullness when eaten in the right quantity, which aids in weight loss and, consequently, the reduction of belly fat.

Which Are the Best Nuts to Eat for Weight Loss on a Ketogenic Diet?

The best nuts to eat for weight loss while on a ketogenic diet are Brazil nuts and Macadamia because they have low carbs per serving. Almonds and walnuts should be taken in moderation.


References:

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18602429/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019815/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29931130/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-brazil-nuts
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20437186/
  7. https://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/treenut_nutrient_comparison_chart%5B1%5D.pdf
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269468
  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323259
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24315808
  11. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/photo-stories/5-surprising-side-effects-of-eating-too-many-almonds/photostory/60747918.cms?from=mdr
  12. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325003
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21808728
  14. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-pistachios
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400898/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20439557
  17. https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(08)00198-2/fulltext
  18. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4424543/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34796724/
  21. https://www.uu.se/en/news/archive/2014-02-24-abdominal-fat-accumulation-prevented-by-unsaturated-fat?id=3233
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4653532/
  23. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2009.409
  24. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/100/suppl_1/412S/4576547
  25. https://www.nature.com/articles/0803735
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19010571/
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