Managing Diabetes? Nuts Provide Health-Promoting Fats
People with diabetes who replaced carbohydrate calories with equal calories from nuts improved their blood sugar control
Once maligned for their high fat and calorie content, nuts are now recognized as healthy foods that may actually help protect us against heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Further research suggests that nuts are not just preventive but may also be healthful for people already managing disease. A study in Diabetes Care found that people with diabetes who replaced carbohydrate calories with equal calories from nuts improved their blood sugar control and lowered their LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in three months.
Replacing carbs with nuts
The study included 117 people with type 2 diabetes, all being treated with blood sugar-lowering medications, who were following a special diet to help manage their diabetes, reduce cholesterol levels, and lose weight. They were divided into three groups and given supplemental foods to replace some of their regular carbohydrate portions:
The supplemental foods were intended to provide 20 to 30% of each day's calories. Most participants received 75 grams (2.5 ounces) of nuts, or three muffins, or 37.5 grams (1.25 ounces) of nuts and 1.5 muffins, but exact amounts were determined by the individual calorie requirements of each person.
The nuts were unsalted and mostly raw, with some dry roasted, and included almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and macadamias.
Nut eaters are healthier
After three months of eating the supplemental foods, lab tests revealed the following changes:
"Our findings provide a specific food option for individuals with type 2 diabetes who wish to lower the carbohydrate content of their diet," said lead study author, Dr. David J. A. Jenkins at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. "Because of their poly- and mono-unsaturated fats and their vegetable protein content, nuts fit well in low-carbohydrate, high-vegetable fat, and high-protein diets, which are increasingly being recognized as protective against heart disease and diabetes."
The best ways to eat nuts
Why are nuts so good for us? One reason is that the fats they contain are mostly mono- and poly-unsaturated, unlike the fats from animal foods, which are mostly saturated. They are high in fiber, vitamin E, and a host of minerals like magnesium and selenium. Nuts are healthiest for us if they are eaten as follows:
(Diabetes Care 2011;34:1706-11)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.