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Expert Q&A

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If nuts are healthy, can I eat as many as I want?

Asked by Cynthia Rosseau, Melbourne, Florida

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Can you eat an unlimited amount of walnuts, almonds, etc. every day?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Cynthia. This question is very important because it brings up an issue that I deal with on a regular basis in my weight loss and nutrition practice: the fact that you can consume too much of a "good thing." Many of my patients mistakenly assume that if something is labeled "healthy," they can consume that food or beverage in relatively unlimited quantities. This is definitely not the case. There is no question that nuts are healthy. Most are good sources of healthy fats, protein, fiber and important vitamins and minerals. Walnuts and almonds in particular have both been shown to help reduce total and bad (LDL) cholesterol. However, nuts are very calorie dense (high in fat, low in water), so eating unlimited amounts can easily add an extra several hundred calories a day to your diet, which could lead to weight gain and increased cholesterol levels.

I recommend limiting your intake to about one-fourth cup of nuts or seeds per day, particularly if you are watching your weight. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can consume slightly larger quantities, as nuts and seeds are a good source of plant-based protein. Because it is very easy to overdo consumption of nuts and seeds, I tell my weight-conscious patients to always try to include water-rich foods that are less calorically dense like fruits, vegetables or low-fat dairy when eating nuts. Try topping salads or yogurt with two tablespoons of chopped nuts, or snack on an apple with one-fourth cup nuts instead of just eating the nuts alone. This can help physically satisfy you without overdoing it calorically.

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