In a general sense, nuts are considered a healthy, nutrient-filled snack. However, one may wonder if they are a healthy choice for diabetics since they are also high in calories.

Well, nuts can be a good addition to a diabetes-friendly diet plan. While they are high in calories, studies have shown that people who eat more nuts tend to have lower levels of inflammation and better control over their blood sugar and insulin levels. But that doesn't mean there are no risks associated with nut consumption. Its high-calorie content means diabetics must limit their portion size to a healthy quantity per serving.

Key Facts

  • People with diabetes can include nuts in their diets since they are high in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and fiber and low in carbs. But even the healthy fats in most nuts are high in calories, so it’s best to limit your serving size to around 30g, which contains about 180 to 225 kcal, depending on the nut type.
  • Nuts have a low glycemic index (GI), so they won’t cause spikes in your blood sugar levels like other snacks. In fact, some nuts won't impact blood sugar levels after eating them. The fiber, protein, and healthy fats in nuts help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and delay their absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Weight management is crucial for diabetics, and eating nuts could be one way to help with that while also improving health markers related to inflammation and blood sugar control.

Best Nuts For Diabetics and Their Nutritional Profile

There are over 20 types of edible nuts across the world. But some nuts are better than others for people with diabetes. That said, let's explore the nutritional profile of some of the best nuts for people with diabetes.

Almonds

One ounce (28 grams) of almonds contains the following:

  • Calories: 170
  • Fat: 14.9 grams ((80% monounsaturated, 15% polyunsaturated)
  • Protein: 5.95 grams
  • Carbs: 5.95 grams
  • Fiber: 3.09 grams

It also contains 45% of the daily value of Vitamin E, 19% of the daily value of Magnesium, and 27% of the daily value of manganese.

Besides, a comprehensive review of 64 randomized controlled trials shows that almonds can help control glucose levels, decrease body fat mass, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pistachios

An ounce (28.35 grams or 49 kernels) of pistachios contains the following:

  • Calories: 159
  • Fat: 12.8 grams
  • Protein: 5.73 grams
  • Carbs: 7.71 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

This amount of pistachios will also give you 21% of the daily value of your vitamin B1, 28% of vitamin B6, and 11% of your daily phosphorus value.

A review of studies has also shown that pistachios can help prevent or manage diabetes, enhance heart health, lower inflammation, and decrease oxidative stress.

Cashews

1 ounce (28 grams) of cashew nuts gives you:

  • Calories: 157
  • Fat: 12.4 grams
  • Protein: 5.16 grams
  • Carbs: 8.56 grams
  • Fiber: 0.94 gram

You will also get 8% of your daily value of vitamin K, 20% of your daily magnesium, and 20% of your daily manganese from consuming this amount of cashew nuts.

Although sweet to taste, cashews rank low on the glycemic index and are a great snack choice, especially for people with diabetes. A review of different studies found that adding cashews to your diet can help improve triglyceride levels and the top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers in blood pressure readings. However, it didn't find any significant effects on other heart-related factors like total cholesterol (TC), good cholesterol (HDL-C), and bad cholesterol (LDL-C).

Walnuts

You will get the following from 1 ounce (28 grams) of walnuts:

  • Calories: 185
  • Fat: 18.5 grams
  • Protein: 4.31 grams
  • Carbs: 3.88 grams
  • Fiber: 1.9 grams

An ounce of walnut also gives you 50% of your copper daily value, 11% of your magnesium daily value, and 42% of your manganese daily value.

The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in walnuts protect cells from damage. Studies suggest that eating 1–2 ounces of walnuts daily can improve brain function and lower the chances of heart problems, depression, and diabetes.

Macadamia nuts

An ounce (28.35 grams or 10-12 kernels) of macadamia nuts contains:

  • Calories: 204
  • Fat: 21.5 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2.5 grams

An ounce of macadamia nuts also provides you with 28% of your vitamin B1 daily value, 51% of your manganese daily value, and 24% of your copper daily value.

The role of macadamia nuts in managing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes can help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and lower LDL cholesterol levels. In 2015, a review of studies found that by lowering cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress, macadamia nuts decreased the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Nut Nutrients and Their Health Benefits

The goal of a diabetes diet, in most cases, is to strike a balance between the amount of carbohydrates or sugar you eat and the amount of dietary fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins you consume. Nuts create this balance because they are low in carbs and provide a healthy source of essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, unsaturated fats, and fiber.

Now, let's find out how these nutrients can benefit people with diabetes.

Fiber

If you are prediabetic or diabetic, your doctor will most likely advise you to eat more fibrous foods, and most nuts are highly rich in fiber.

Fibers in nuts help with blood sugar control. By slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, they act as speed breakers to a rapid rise in blood glucose levels and reduce the negative effect of the carbs in a diabetic diet. They also help in weight management and lower the risk of diabetic complications like heart disease.

Healthy Fats

While nuts are high in calories, the good news is that most of these calories are from healthy unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).

The unsaturated fats in nuts can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while maintaining good cholesterol (HDL). This can improve overall heart health. And remember, a diabetic patient's heart condition is always a vital consideration since they are at a higher risk of heart-related issues.

Proteins

Besides being an essential macronutrient, the proteins in nuts promote satiety more than carbohydrates or fat. This can help people with diabetes in their weight management because they feel less hungry and eat less often.

Studies have also shown that a high-protein diet lowers after-meal blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes and improves overall glucose control.

Risks and Considerations

Adding nuts to a diabetic diet plan can offer numerous health benefits, but it's essential to consider the potential risks involved. For instance, the high-calorie content of nuts means that diabetics must exercise portion control. While nuts are not typically associated with weight gain, overeating them may still give you a few pounds. Experts recommend eating one ounce (28 grams) of nuts as the ideal daily serving size.

Nuts can also cause allergies in some people. They can trigger anaphylaxis — a severe reaction that can be life-threatening in some cases. So you have to talk to your doctor about this possibility, especially if you are a first-timer or if you have had any allergies related to eating nuts in the past.

Incorporating Nuts into a Diabetic Diet

Nuts can add flavor and valuable nutrients to many meals, and people with diabetes can benefit from this. Here are some tips for including nuts in a diabetic diet plan:

  • Stick to the recommended serving size, which is typically an ounce (28 grams)
  • Go for raw or dry-roasted nuts without added sugars or salts.
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts over salads, yogurt, or oatmeal to add crunch and nutrients to your meals.
  • Blend nuts like almonds, peanuts, or cashews into homemade nut butter without added sugars. Or you can choose from the healthy peanut butter options we reviewed here. Spread the butter on whole-grain toast, apple slices, or celery sticks for a satisfying snack.
  • Blend nuts with healthy yogurts, fruits, and leafy greens to make nutrient-rich smoothies. Remember to adjust the portion of nuts accordingly to control carbohydrate intake.
  • To add a nutritious twist, you can substitute croutons with nuts in salads or soups for a more crunchy feel and an extra boost of protein and healthy fats.

Conclusion

Nuts can be a healthy addition to a diabetes diet because of their high-fiber, low-carb, and healthy fat content. However, as with most foods, people with diabetes have to eat them moderately since they are high in calories. The good news is that by adding them creatively into meals and snacks, you can enjoy their nutritional advantages while maintaining optimal blood sugar levels and managing your condition effectively.

Sources

To ensure that we give you correct, accurate, and relevant information, all articles on Diabetic & Me are backed by verified information from academic research papers, well-known organizations, research institutions, and medical associations.

  1. British Heart Foundation Are nuts good for you?
  2. National Library of Medicine The impact of nuts consumption on glucose/insulin homeostasis and inflammation markers mediated by adiposity factors among American adults
  3. Glycemic Index Guide Glycemic Index of Nuts Complete Chart
  4. National Library of Medicine A Comprehensive Review of Almond Clinical Trials on Weight Measures, Metabolic Health Biomarkers and Outcomes, and the Gut Microbiota
  5. National Library of Medicine Why Should Pistachio Be a Regular Food in Our Diet?
  6. National Library of Medicine The Effect of Cashew Nut on Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis (P06-117-19)
  7. National Library of Medicine Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health
  8. National Library of Medicine Protein, weight management, and satiety
  9. National Library of Medicine An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes
  10. Health Direct What is a nut allergy?
  11. CDC Fiber: The Carb That Helps You Manage Diabetes

About the Author

Inez Briand

Inez Briand is the partner of a type 1 diabetic (Ely). She has always been interested in traveling and cooking, and now that she has a partner with diabetes, her interest in cooking even more healthily has skyrocketed. She loves finding new recipes for her partner and family and sharing any food and nutrition-related articles on Diabetic & Me.

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