Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007.
Recent studies presented at the 2014 European Congress on Obesity stated that eating pistachios and almonds may protect against the development of type 2 diabetes.
One study found that consuming a “handful” of pistachios each day for four months significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, insulin and insulin resistance in the study participants. This was a small study with 49 overweight or obese patients with pre-diabetes, but shows promising results for preventing type 2 diabetes, with no added weight gain.
The other study examined 137 adults with increased risk for diabetes. Of the 137 participants, one group consumed a small handful of almonds per day for four weeks with meals; another group ate the same amount of almonds as a snack each day; and the last group ate no almonds at all during the four week time period. Results showed that inclusion of almonds, especially as a snack during the day, led to lower blood glucose levels overall.
Both studies also illustrated that people who ate nuts daily felt less hungry than those who did not eat nuts during the day.
Benefits of nuts
Nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fat, and fiber. All of these nutrients are slowly digested in the gastrointestinal tract, and allow for a greater feeling of fullness and satiety, for a longer period of time compared to other foods such as crackers, cookies or candy that do not contain protein, fat and fiber.
Nuts and nut oils as part of a healthy diet have been studied for years, and have shown positive correlation between consumption and decreased risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well as pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While nuts are a smart food choice to incorporate into meals and snacks, remember that nuts do contain healthy fats that can add up to be a significant source of calories. One “handful” each day is sufficient intake. When talking to people with diabetes, I usually recommend one portion per day. The portion size is similar to that in the studies reported here – one handful. However, I encourage a flat handful as opposed to a cupped hand or a two-handed cup. Pour the nuts onto your flat palm and let the extras roll off. Other tips: try to avoid eating nuts right out of the container – this can be a calorie trap because sometimes you just can’t stop! And try to include raw or plain nuts as opposed to sweet or savory-flavored nuts that have extra calories and added ingredients that may not be so healthy (sugar and salt).
Lastly, while pistachios and almonds were the nuts of choice in the two studies outlined above, I recommend a variety of nuts as part of a healthy diet – pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pecans are also great choices that will provide health benefits!