Why You Should Go Nuts for Nuts if You Have Diabetes

Written by Marina Chaparro, RD, CDE, MPH

Nuts and seeds aren’t just food for squirrels, but instead superfoods you should be eating every day, especially if you live with diabetes.

Studies overwhelmingly agree that eating nuts and seeds on a daily basis can help protect against cardiovascular disease, 1 cancer,2 obesity,3 and even prevent type 2 diabetes.4

In a world where 30 million Americans live with diabetes5 and 20-25% of adults worldwide live with metabolic syndrome (a precursor for type 2 diabetes), finding foods that will prevent or reduce the risk of disease is paramount.

And, although I don’t believe ONE food can magically cure all evils, I do think nuts provide significant health benefits. Whether you live with diabetes or are just trying to lose weight, below are more reasons why you should be eating nuts every day.  Plus, a sample diabetic-friendly menu filled with nutty recipe ideas.

Nuts and Heart Health

People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease6 than those without it. Moreover, the number one killer of people with diabetes is heart disease, so heart health matters a lot!  Nuts have a unique nutritional profile that makes them particularly beneficial to your heart.  They are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, vegetable proteins, fiber, phytonutrients and hearth protective minerals like potassium, magnesium and B vitamins.

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A study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition examined data of more than 30,000 adults and found that adults who consumed more than a ¼ oz of tree nuts a day (less than 23 almonds) had lower blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and overall lower risk for cardiovascular disease.7

Will Nuts Raise My Blood Sugars?

Nuts are naturally low in available carbohydrates. They consist mostly of unsaturated fats and therefore have a lower glycemic index/load. Studies have shown improved diabetes control, mainly lower fasting blood sugars and A1C, when consuming any tree nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.8

We know that controlling blood sugars after a meal is no easy task either.  But it turns out, adding nuts to a carbohydrate-rich meal can reduce spikes in blood sugars 1-2 hours later.9 So, if you are thinking of eating pasta, why not add a side salad with a handful of nuts to keep your blood sugars in check. 

Won't Eating Nuts Cause Me to Gain Weight?
Yes, it's true that nuts are considered high in calories, but they are a nutrient powerhouse because they are also high in fiber, protein, and fat. Nuts and seeds provide more than just “calories.” For years, the school of thought for successful weight loss was to avoid high fat, energy dense foods. Remember the era of low-fat everything?  

Fast forward to 2018—we know the opposite to be true. A review published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that incorporating nuts on a regular basis does not compromise weight and may, in fact, help weight maintenance, despite nuts being high-calorie foods.10

Weight is not only driven by calories in versus calories out. It’s a far more complicated mechanism that involves hunger and satiety hormones, metabolism, physical activity as well as calories eaten. That said, it’s still a good idea to consider portions and not sabotage the “all you can eat fat concept.”  A good rule of thumb for a portion of nuts is a handful, which is about 1 oz; or ¼ cup or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.

How to Eat Them?

Nuts are versatile, convenient and flavorful. They are so easy to carry, which makes them an ideal snack for work, traveling and on-the-go meetings. But don’t limit yourself to just eating nuts for a snack. Consider adding them to oatmeal in the morning, topping them in with salads and even cooking with them as part of the main dish. 

How to Get More Nuts into Your Day

If you need some inspiration, check out our nutty menu below:

Breakfast

Snack

Lunch

Snack

Dinner

Mini Dessert


 

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