Are cashew nuts fattening or good for weight loss?
Cashew nuts are very nutritious, being an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese and selenium. They taste delicious on their own, but can also be incorporated into lots of recipes.
At the same time however, they are a fat rich food, so you may be wondering whether they should be a part of your diet when you are trying to manage your weight. The short answer is yes, provided you eat them in moderation.
Why do people gain weight?
Weight management can be a complex subject, but at its core, it can be summarised by a concise equation: calories in – calories out.
The first number in the equation represents the energy that enters your body, which all comes from the foods that you eat and beverages that you drink. The calorie content of foods and beverages can vary greatly, depending on what they are made up of.
All foods are made up of at least one of the three macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Protein and carbohydrates provide you with 4 calories per gram, whereas fat provides you with 9. This is why high fat foods like cashews are much higher in calories than low fat foods.
The second number in the equation represents the energy that you burn throughout the day. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories that your body burns at rest, in order to keep you alive. Any exercise or other activities that you do on top of this burns more calories. Individuals who are highly active burn far more calories than those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
If the result of the equation is a positive number, it means more calories are being consumed than are being expended. These surplus calories can come from any of the 3 macro-nutrients, but are eventually stored by the body as fat. Consuming an excess number of calories over the long run is what leads to weight gain.
The opposite is also true. Consuming fewer calories than you burn leads to weight loss over time because your body is forced to make use of its fat stores as a source of energy.
Calorie requirements can vary significantly from person to person because they are determined by age, gender, height, weight, activity levels and overall goals. You can use the tool below to calculate an estimate of your calorie requirements.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 40 year old man who weighs 85 kg (187 lb), is 175 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week should aim to consume approximately 2700 calories to maintain his weight and 2200 calories to lose weight.
So how do cashews fit into all of this? Well, they are a calorie rich food, with a 28 g (1 ounce serving) having 155 calories (compare that to 28 g of spinach, which only has around 7 calories!). The reason for this, as mentioned previously, is because cashews are a fat rich food. And whilst most of this is healthy monounsaturated fat, it is still calorie dense.
On a 2200 calorie diet, a 1 ounce serving of cashews would amount to 7% of total calories, whereas on a 1500 calorie diet they would amount to 10%. What this means is that cashews can still be enjoyed, but should be eaten in reasonable quantities. Having a handful of cashews per day will be fine for most people, even when trying to lose weight.
How cashews can help with weight loss
Like is the case with other types of nuts, cashews are high in protein, providing you with 5 g per 28 g serving. Numerous studies have shown that eating adequate amounts of protein can be beneficial for weight loss.
For example, this study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories resulted in 400+ fewer calories being consumed. Another study involving obese men showed that those who followed a high protein diet had fewer obsessive thoughts about food.
The studies found that including nuts in one’s diet did not have a negative impact on weight loss results. In fact, in all of the studies it was found that eating nuts may be more beneficial for weight loss than eating certain other types of food.
It can be assumed from these results that eating cashews would bring about similar benefits, if they are eaten in reasonable quantities.
Cashews make for a convenient and filling snack that can help to keep your energy levels up until your next meal. You can eat them on their own or combine them with other nuts and ingredients in trail mixes.
Can cashews be fattening?
Any food if eaten in large enough quantities can fattening and lead to weight gain. However, because cashews are much higher in fat (and therefore calories) than many other foods, they are more likely to cause weight gain if not eaten in moderation.
For this reason, it is important to keep an eye on the amount that you are eating. The same is also true for cashew butter, which is prepared by grinding down cashew nuts into a paste. Also, if you are going to be using cashews in recipes, be wary of your portion servings so as to not go overboard on calories.