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NutENews March 2015

logo-health For some time I have been consciously aware when reading about nuts in print and online media that, while all agree nuts are healthy, there is always a nut portion caution statement at the end of the articles. So for NutENews this month I explore if this portion caution is really necessary.

Have a read while you’re nibbling on your daily handful of nuts…..


Lisa Yates
Program Manager and Dietitian Nuts for Life

Healthy handful What does a healthy handful look like

Is there really a need for nut portion caution?

For some time I have been consciously aware, when reading about nuts in print and online media, that while all agree nuts are healthy, there tends to be a nut portion caution statement at the end of the article. The portion caution statement goes something like this…..

Nuts are a healthy snack because…….but just remember to only consume a small handful.

Is this symptomatic of something else – a fat phobia perhaps? Are we so indoctrinated after so many years of fat bashing that any food that contains fat, even a plant food, must come with a caution?

Yes nuts are rich in fats (49-74%) but the vast majority is from healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats(1) which contribute to heart health.

Yes, when laboratory tested, nuts are high in kilojoules (energy) on average around 830kJ in a 30g handful.(1)

But the question is do we absorb all this fat and energy when we eat whole nuts?

Research has found nut eaters excrete more fat in their stools than non nut eaters.(2,3)

Particularly when eating whole nuts as fat can be trapped in the fibrous structure and excreted.(2)

It seems the oil bodies themselves in nuts may resist some digestion.(4)

The fats in nuts are likely working in conjunction with the protein and fibre in nuts to help control appetite. Healthy fats increase the satiety hormones in the intestine.(3,5-7)

Nut consumption results in less food being eaten overall.(8,9)

Nut eaters tend to weight less, have lower BMIs and less risk of developing obesity.(10,11)

A review of cholesterol lowering studies found those eating 30-100g of nuts a day did so with no weight gain.(12)

Nuts for Life recommends a modest nut intake of 30g a day or a handful – because it reflects the minimum serve used in research and the recommended serve size in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.(13)

The recent 2011/12 Australian Health Survey found just 16% or so of those surveyed ate nuts on the day of the survey, while on average Australians ate just 5g of nuts per person per day.(12)

The 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Diet Survey also found on average adults ate 5g nuts per day, although nearly 29% of those surveyed ate nuts on the day of the survey. Among nut eaters in New Zealand average total consumption was nearly 18g per day which included nuts from hidden sources such as muesli bars which were not accounted for in the Australian Health Survey results.(14)

It is clear however that even nut eaters are only eating half the recommended amount of nuts or less per day so why are we using nut portion caution statements?

As indoctrinated as we have been about fats the same can be said for fruits and vegetables. Everyone knows we need to eat more fruits and vegetables and we have no problems recommending people eat more fruits and vegetables if judging by media articles. No harm can come of eating more fruit and vegetables it seems.

The Australian Health Survey found just over half (54%) of Australians consumed the recommended serves of fruit on the day of the survey(15) but just 7% of the population met the recommended usual intake of vegetables. (16)

Recommending greater fruit and vegetable consumption is warrented but then so is eating more nuts.

Regular nut eaters also have a reduce risk of death from cardiovascular disease and mortality in general(17,18). As well as reduced total and LDL blood cholesterol levels(19).

So isn’t it time we retired the nut portion caution statement and encourage greater nut consumption along with fruits, vegetables, legumes and mushrooms?

What do you think?


  1. Nuts for Life Nutrient Composition of Tree Nut 2014 –
  2. Mattes The energetics of nut consumption. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:337-9. Cassady BA, et al. Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(3):794-800
  3. Cassady BA, et al. Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(3):794-800
  4. Gallier S, Singh H. Behavior of almond oil bodies during in vitro gastric and intestinal digestion. Food Funct. 2012 May;3(5):547-55
  5. Kendall CW et al Acute effects of pistachio consumption on glucose and insulin, satiety hormones and endothelial function in the metabolic syndrome. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;68(3):370-5.
  6. Pasman WJ, et al. The effect of Korean pine nut oil on in vitro CCK release, on appetite sensations and on gut hormones in post-menopausal overweight women. Lipids Health Dis. 2008:20;7:10
  7. Reis CE et al Acute and second-meal effects of peanuts on glycaemic response and appetite in obese women with high type 2 diabetes risk: a randomised cross-over clinical trial. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jun;109(11):2015-23.
  8. Tan SY, Mattes RD Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;67(11):1205-14.
  9. Hull S et al A mid-morning snack of almonds generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Sep 3. [Epub ahead of print]
  10. Flores-Mateo G et al Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jun;97(6):1346-55.
  11. Martínez-González MA, Bes-Rastrollo M. Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Jun;21 Suppl 1:S40-5.
  12. Nuts for Life review report: NealeE, Nolan Clark D and L Tasell . The effect of nut consumption on heart health:A systematic review of the literature 2015 Nuts for Life Sydney Australia.
  13. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
  14. Brown RC et al Patterns and predictors of nut consumption: results from the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Br J Nutr. 2014 Dec;112(12):2028-40.
  15. ABS
  16. ABS
  17. Hshieh TT et al. Nut consumption and risk of mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):407-12.
  18. Luo C et al Nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100(1):256-69.
  19. Sabaté J, Oda K, Ros E. Nut consumption and blood lipid levels: a pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials. Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10;170(9):821-7.


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