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Are Nuts Good for Prediabetes?

April 7, 2022
Are Nuts Good for Prediabetes? - Lark Health

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In this article:

  • Nuts have many health benefits. Eating them regularly may help lower risk for diabetes, weight gain, and other chronic conditions.
  • Nutrients in nuts include heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber, cholesterol-lowering sterols, and some vitamins and minerals.
  • Since they're high in fat and calories, it's best to keep portions to a half-ounce or 1 ounce. It's also a good idea to eat them on their own or with other healthy foods, while limiting less-healthy versions such as toffee or chocolate-coated nuts, chocolate nut spreads, and brownies or other baked goods with nuts.
  • Lark can help you form healthy habits for prediabetes. Lark helps you choose healthier foods to lose weight and lower blood sugar.

Are nuts good for prediabetes? Can eating nuts lower your risk of getting diabetes? What is the glycemic index of nuts? Is nut milk okay if you have prediabetes? And why does Lark give green badges for eating nuts?

If you have prediabetes, you're at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Losing weight, if you are overweight, and choosing healthier foods, can lower risk for diabetes by over 50%. That's the basis for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Let's see how nuts affect weight and blood sugar, and how they can fit into weight loss and healthy eating goals to lower diabetes risk.

Nutrients in Nuts

Nuts are full of healthy nutrients. Linus Pauling Institute has an overview of nutrients in nuts, including the following.

  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which can lower risk for heart disease when you choose them instead of saturated fats.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which are also heart-healthy and are the famous main type of fat in a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • Protein, which can make you feel full for longer after you eat a meal so you are not as hungry by the next snack or meal time.
  • Fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties.
  • Minerals, including potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese.

Nuts and Diabetes Risk

Research shows that nuts are good for prediabetes. Studies published in AJCN and JAMA found lower risk diabetes among people who ate nuts regularly compared to those who didn't. Walnuts had a similar effect in a study published in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews. And research in PLOS One saw lower fasting blood glucose and a healthier insulin response among nut eaters.

Nuts and Weight Loss

Nuts are high in calories and fat. Most nuts have 160 to 200 calories, and 13 to 20 grams of fat, per ounce. You might expect them to be bad for weight loss. But, research says the opposite! People who eat nuts regularly tend to gain less weight as adults and have a lower risk for obesity, according to a study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Glycemic Index of Nuts

Nuts have a low glycemic index. That's good because foods with a high glycemic index, such as sweets and white rice, can spike blood sugar and cause an unhealthily big insulin response. Eating a high-glycemic diet can raise risk for diabetes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Eating a serving of nuts doesn't lead to an unhealthy spike in blood sugar levels. That's good news if you have prediabetes. The fat, fiber, and protein nuts are probably responsible for their low glycemic index.

Plus, nuts have a low total carbohydrate count. That means they also have a low glycemic load, not just a low glycemic index. That's even better! A diet with a lower glycemic load is linked to less risk of developing diabetes.

Best Nuts for Prediabetes

Different nut varieties have similar nutrient profiles. They likely have similar effects on blood sugar, weight, and diabetes risk. However, there are some slight variations. These are examples.

  • Peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and almonds are high in MUFA.
  • Walnuts have omega-3 PUFA.
  • Pistachio nuts, almonds, peanuts, and cashews are lowest in calories.
  • Almonds, cashews, pine nuts, and pistachios are highest in phytosterols.
  • Peanuts, walnuts, and almonds are highest in protein.

Still, the differences are fairly small. It's likely that nuts can help whether you choose a variety or stick to your favorite kind.

Guidelines for Nuts and Prediabetes

Since nuts are high in calories and fat, it's important to have the right amounts. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say most adults should have 4 to 5 ounces of nuts per week, or about 1/2 to 1 ounce daily. A 1/2 - ounce is about this much. 

  • 1 tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.
  • 12 almonds
  • 6 walnuts (12 halves)
  • 25 pistachio nuts
  • 8 cashews
  • 9 pecans
  • 4 Brazil nuts

Ways to Eat Nuts for Diabetes Prevention

Along with keeping the portion size of nuts small, the best ways to eat nuts for diabetes prevention are on their own or with other nutritious foods. These are some ways to enjoy nuts.

  • In cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese.
  • Peanut or almond butter and berries on whole-wheat bread.
  • Apple, celery, or carrots with peanut or almond butter.
  • In stir fry.
  • In green salads and prepared salads, such as pasta salad.
  • In homemade veggie burgers.
  • Ground up as a crumb coating for fish or chicken instead of flour.

You might aim to eat 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of nuts on most days.

Some nut products and dishes are less healthy, though. These are some foods with nuts or peanuts that are less nutritious.

  • Honey roasted and toffee and chocolate-covered peanuts and nuts
  • Chocolate hazelnut and chocolate peanut spread
  • Peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, brownies with walnuts, and other sugary or fatty baked goods.
  • Granola bars and chocolate bars with added sugars and fats.

With some care, nuts can help lower risk for diabetes!

Losing weight and eating well can have big returns. They can boost health, energy, and confidence. And they can be part of your daily routine. You can even eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

Lark makes weight loss and healthy eating simple. With Lark, weight loss and healthy living happen when you make small changes that fit into your lifestyle. Lark offers tips, tracking, instant feedback, and friendly suggestions. Over time, small healthy changes can become habits for long-term success. Your personal Lark coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

The entire program may be available at no cost to you if your health insurer covers it. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

About Lark

Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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