A between-meal bite can hold you over and keep you full, while offering more chances to consume a variety of nutrients. But sometimes choosing snacks when you’re managing diabetes can get a little tricky, as many pre-packaged options come loaded with unfamiliar ingredients and lots of sugar.
Enter: nuts and nut butters, a go-to snack suggestion from many diabetes educators. These foods can easily fill you up between breakfast, lunch, and dinner and can even add more satisfaction to those main events. Here, everything you need to know about the benefits of nuts and what makes them great snacks for those living with diabetes.
They offer fiber and heart-healthy fats.
One nutrient recipe for holding you over between meals: dietary fiber and healthy fats, both potent ingredients for satiety, says Judy Thompson, RDN, MPH, certified diabetes educator and licensed dietitian in Honolulu, HI. That’s what you’ll get in a handful of nuts of any type, whether you choose almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pistachios. For example, one ounce of peanuts offers about 14 grams of fat and about 2.5 to 3 grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food list.
You get a dose of vitamins and minerals in each serving.
In addition to the nutrients that keep you full, nuts also provide magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is a nutrient with anti-inflammatory properties and potassium may help reduce blood pressure, Thompson explains. They also help to support many processes of the body, like muscle, nerve, and cell function.
They help your health in other ways, too.
Nuts can also help to lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and increase the good, aka HDL, Thompson says. One small study backs this up, finding that walnuts, specifically, can alter your cholesterol levels for the better and fight inflammatory factors.
Another large study involving more than 16,000 people looked at those type 2 diabetes specifically and found an association between those who ate nuts and a lower risk of heart disease, as well as a lower risk of mortality from all health conditions. Those who increased their consumption of nuts had an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not.
They can help you manage your weight.
One large study involving thousands of healthcare workers found that those who swapped not-so-healthful foods, like French fries or potato chips, for a half-serving of nuts a day were less likely to gain weight in the long term, and had a lower risk of obesity. Another study found that eating walnuts, as well as reducing overall calories, supported successful weight loss, while also positively influencing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Just watch portions and coatings.
Your best bet when it comes to consuming nuts: choose those without chocolate or candy coatings or varieties roasted in honey. These types of mixes can up the level of carbohydrates (sugar, to be exact), so stick to raw or roasted. It’s also smart to limit salt too, so go for unsalted or lightly salted options, Thompson suggests. And check the ingredient lists for peanut, almond, or any type of nut butter, as some varieties toss in added sugar, while others contain only the nuts (you want the latter!).
Also, because nuts do contain a high amount of fat, that means they also carry a higher amount of calories. Many labels say a serving size equals one-ounce, which is hard to visualize. So Thompson says to remember that a tablespoon of nuts is about 50 calories. Consider how many calories you want in your snacks for diabetes and choose how many tablespoons of nuts to consume. Also, take into account whether you’ll have a trail mix or fruit with your nuts, which will influence the calorie count.
Think about using nuts in other meals.
You don’t have to save nuts only for snacks. If you’re looking for a more filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner try adding sliced or chopped almonds, walnuts, peanuts—whatever you prefer. For example, Thompson suggests a sprinkle of chopped nuts in oatmeal or a spoonful of nut butter on toast or in a smoothie—all for your a.m. meal. If you’re having a salad for lunch or dinner, toss in a tablespoon of chopped or sliced almonds or walnuts.
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