A new study presented at the Experimental Biology conference in Washington, D.C. last week found that pistachios may be the ideal snack to aid in weight loss. Researchers discovered that not all of the nuts’ fat is absorbed by the body, making them slightly lower in calories than was previously thought. The findings work against the typically held idea that nuts are too high in calories and fat to make them good weight-loss aids.
“What we found is that when people consume the nuts, all the fat wasn’t absorbed by the body and therefore the calories weren’t all available to the body,” lead researcher Dr. David Baer told DietsInReview.
Researchers placed 52 overweight and obese subjects on 500-calorie deficit diets. Half were assigned to a group that ate pretzels as a snack, and the other group was given a pistachio snack. After 12 weeks, the pistachio group had more success in reaching their weight-loss goals.
Unlike snack foods such as chips or pretzels, nuts are highly nourishing. “Pistachios are a great source of some of the key nutrients that are low in a lot of diets,” said Dr. Baer. Pistachios are rich in antioxidants, protein, minerals and healthy fats. Behavioral eating expert James Painter, Ph.D., R.D., at the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University found that people who ate pistachios felt full sooner, because the act of shelling the nut lead to more “mindful” snacking. He found that participants who had to shell their nuts consumed 42 percent fewer calories.
“Some of the research that’s already been done with nuts shows that people who eat nuts generally have a lower body mass index than people who don’t,” Dr. Baer explained. He acknowledge that there may be some confounding factors, explaining that people who include nuts in their diet may eat a healthier diet overall. That said, he adds that including pistachios in your diet is “one way to move towards a healthier dietary pattern.”
Of course, no diet plan will be successful without portion control and calorie reduction. “I think that one of the ways that people can apply this research is to read the food label, know how many calories they’re eating and think about pistachios as a healthy snack.”
UPDATE [7/27/2011]: In a new study, James Painter found that participants who left the pistachio shells in their workspace consumed 22 percent fewer calories than those who had these “reminders of consumption” removed. “Choosing in-shell pistachios instead of shelled nuts is a simple way to decrease calorie consumption without restriction,” Painter said in a press release. “This is in keeping with existing research showing that when a person has visual cues of ‘leftovers,’ such as pistachio shells, they can see how many or how much they have eaten, helping to control portion size and consumption.”
Try pistachios in these diet-friendly recipes: