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Pistachios, almonds and nuts prevent diabetes, reduce hunger, boost weight loss

Munch pistachios for weight loss.
Munch pistachios for weight loss.
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Go nuts. That's the message from researchers who found that eating nuts can prevent type 2 diabetes, curb hunger and improve insulin resistance, reported Medscape on Friday. Particularly favorable are almonds and pistachios.

One study evaluated 49 overweight or obese prediabetic individuals. They consumed 57 grams of pistachios daily for four months. Benefits included reduced fasting glucose, insulin and insulin resistance.

"I would advise people to eat a handful of nuts whenever they can," said pistachio study senior author Mònica Bulló, MD, of the human nutrition unit at Virgili University, Reus, Spain. Her study showed no change in body weight despite the addition of the pistachios each day.

In another study, 137 adults with high risks for diabetes ate either 43 grams of almond daily or no almonds for four weeks. The almond eaters experienced a decrease in hunger and reductions in their postprandial blood glucose levels. They also did not gain weight.

In addition, nuts are linked to reduced risk for heart disease because they improve cholesterol levels, said Dr. Bulló. Other studies of those with type 2 diabetes indicated that nuts can lower glucose and insulin levels after meals.

She described nuts as "a rich, dense food with a healthy lipid profile." Pistachios are particularly healthy because they contain high levels of antioxidant carotenoids.

What's significant about both studies: They show that eating nuts can provide health benefits without causing weight gain, despite the prevailing perception that nuts are fattening. Researchers note that nuts actually suppress hunger.

And this isn't the first study to praise nuts for weight loss. Other research projects have determined that those who eat nuts enjoy longer, healthier lives with lower risks of heart disease, respiratory problems and Type 2 diabetes, reported the New York Times recently. In addition, several studies have shown the value of nuts for losing weight.

"When I travel, I take nuts," said Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State and the author of "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off." She praises nuts because they are both compact and "energy-dense."

But that "energy-dense" benefit means high calorie counts, leading to the question: How can a high-calorie food help with weight loss? Researchers cite the satiety factor, which means that nuts help you stay full and curb cravings for snacks.

That doesn't mean freedom to eat entire jars of nuts, however. As Dr. Bulló noted, a handful of nuts constitutes the correct serving size.

For example, the 57-gram servings of pistachios equals a mere two ounces of pistachios daily. The 43 grams of almonds in the other study translates to 1.5 ounces of nuts.

To avoid the temptation of eating freely from a can or jar of nuts, most experts suggest using portion-controlled packages. Wonderful Pistachios offers 1.5-ounce packages, for example, while Blue Diamond has mini bags as well.

What if you're allergic to nuts but want to get in on the idea of losing weight by adding a presumably fattening treat to your diet? Other studies have shown similar benefits to eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day.

Nutritionist and neuroscientist Dr. Will Clower says that his clients repeatedly had success in achieving their weight loss goals by learning to include a mini serving of dark chocolate or cocoa to their daily menus. He documented his research and the diet details in "Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight: New Science Proves You Should Eat Chocolate Every Day."

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