This may be the perfect snack, according to science

If dieting and eating right were easy, everyone would look like an action figure. That isn’t reality, though, and trading in burgers and chips for salads and shakes can feel like a major downgrade when it comes to food enjoyment. You know that content, satisfied feeling after a great meal? It can be hard to get that same sensation from the diet options on a menu.

Luckily, a new set of research just conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles has a suggestion for anyone looking to start eating healthier or lose some weight. Incorporate tree nuts (pistachios, cashews, walnuts, etc) into your diet.

Their new study found that adding an assortment of tree nuts to a weight loss program resulted in both significant weight loss and improved satiety.

Why tree nuts are the perfect snack

Satiety is another way of feeling satisfied and full after eating, which is an important aspect of these findings. Adding some tree nuts to your daily eating regimen can help ward off those cravings for less-than-ideal snacks like chips, candies, and other processed foods.

“Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts) are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber,” explains lead researcher, Zhaoping Li, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UCLA. “This makes them so satiating and may be a major reason why we saw less weight gain in the tree nut group during weight maintenance, and a significantly lower dropout rate compared to the pretzel group.”

A total of 95 obese or overweight women and men (30-68 years old) were separated into two diet groups. One ate 1.5 ounces of tree nuts each day and the other ate the same amount of pretzels. This went on for 12 weeks, and each snack provided the same amount of calories. After that, another 12 weeks were spent on an isocaloric weight maintenance program.

Now, both groups ended up losing significant weight, and also saw a drop in their BMI. That being said, feelings of satiety and satisfaction were much higher by the end of the full 24-week program among the nut eaters. The nut-eating group also showed lower heart rates and a “trend toward greater weight maintenance compared to the pretzel group.”

Finally, far more members of the pretzel experimental group (35.9%) ended up dropping out of the study midway than nut eaters (16.4%). Perhaps it was easier to eat nuts every day than pretzels.

“This latest study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that nut consumption may be a useful tool in weight management,” adds Maureen Ternus, M.S., R.D.N, Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF).

“We know most people get about 25% of their calories each day from snacks and a large proportion come from desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets, and salty snacks,” Dr. Li concludes. “By replacing just one of those snacks with 1.5 ounces of tree nuts may result in a positive impact on weight and overall health.”

It’s one of life’s grand paradoxes that the foods most healthy to us often taste not so great, while the stuff near guaranteed to wreak havoc on our insides tastes like heaven. Tree nuts represent an opportunity to both enjoy what you eat and feel good about it. 

The full study can be found here, published in Nutrients.