Incorporating Nuts into Your Weight-Loss Plan

Friday, September 21, 2007 - 11:21am

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

Dieters often shun nuts because of their caloric density and high fat content. But when consumed in moderation, nuts can be a valuable addition to your healthful diet, even if you are trying to lose weight.

Nutrition in a Nutshell

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim indicating that 1 ½ ounces of nuts per day as part of a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce your risk of heart disease.1 All nuts contain a good variety of nutrients, including:

  • Fiber - high intake prevents against colon and perhaps other types of cancer
  • Vitamin E and selenium - antioxidants that prevent free radical damage
  • Potassium - helps regulate and decrease high blood pressure
  • Omega-3 fatty acids - protective against heart disease
  • Phytic acid - may be protective against cancer and other chronic diseases.

Know When to Say No

While nuts do have health benefits, they should be eaten by the handful, not handfuls. Calories from nuts add up fast, as does the fat. While nuts contain mostly monounsaturated fat, the "good fat", they still do contain an impressive 20-30 grams of total fat in what amounts to a pretty small serving size.

Here is the fat, calorie, and serving size information of some selected nuts to put the fat and calorie content in perspective.2



Serving Size (1 ½ oz)




35 almonds

250 cal

22 g


21 walnut halves

280 cal

28 g


29 pecan halves

300 cal

31 g


¼ cup peanuts

220 cal

19 g


30 hazelnuts

270 cal

26 g

Stick to Nuts for Snacks

A low-fat diet is one that is usually around 50-65 grams of fat per day. You might not be able to accommodate 25-30 grams of fat from nuts each day, but on occasion they can add flavor and satisfaction to your low-fat diet. They are a good source of fiber, making you feel fuller for longer. Opt for salt-free nuts if you are concerned about your sodium intake or if you have high blood pressure.

Nuts make excellent toppings for fish and vegetables. They add crunch to yogurt and bulk up breads. Nuts by themselves also make great snacks. A good weight loss rule-of-thumb is to keep your snacks at or around 250 calories. A handful of nuts will put you right in this range.

  1. US Food and Drug Administration: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Qualified Health Claims: Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease. July 14, 2003. Accessed at:
  2. US Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Accessed at: