The definitive answer on nuts and the slow carb diet
It’s a question that gets asked from time to time – if we are avoiding ‘white’ carbohydrates, and eating protein and some fat.. then why no nuts? Maybe some are ok, and some aren’t? If you have been wondering about nuts on the slow carb diet, or if you have been snacking on nuts with your slow carb diet, you probably want to read this – all you need to know about nuts is right here.
Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seeds, pistachios, and the list goes on. We could be here all day if we wanted to list all the possible variations of nuts and seeds that could be imagined, not to mention their oils, butters and ground variations. But the question is – are any of them OK?
If you check out our guide to the New Slow Carb Rules – what to eat, not what to avoid – then you’ll see we are very specific about what constitutes a clean slow carb diet. And that doesn’t include nuts.
So, what about Tim’s references to brazil nuts (for testosterone, or to blunt sugar spikes), or his suggestions to eat almonds if stuck in an airport? Surely this means that some nuts are ok?
How about the suggestion that almond butter can be used as a late night snack? Maybe that means some almond butter at another time of day could work?
Allow me to quickly answer those questions.
Brazil nuts – in extreme moderation (think 4) is what Tim mentions, specifically for guys who are older, and want to boost their testosterone count. He has also mentioned brazil nuts are part of his daily ritual, however the important consideration is that his aim is weight maintenance, not fat loss. That’s a very difference goal.
If you provide your body with fat, when it’s in the state of burning fat for energy (as is likely with slow carb), then you cheat yourself out of burning your own fat for energy, and instead burn the dietary fat you eat for energy. This is most likely why low fat meats work the best on this diet. Though the body becomes tuned to burning fat for energy, the more fat you eat, the less of your own you need to burn.
Eating almonds if you’re in a bind is an OK solution. At an airport, with no options but highly processed carb-heavy foods is quite a circumstance, and one that requires you to think of the ‘least bad’ outcome, rather than the ‘best’. The ‘best’ outcome was that you packed some beans, some spinach and perhaps some ham before you arrived, and you’re eating that for lunch. Without a slow carb meal, then we look to ‘harm minimizing’ options – and this is where almonds come in. They’re unlikely to affect the overall progress of a slow carb diet, if you get back to slow carb meals the following day, as it’s a blip on the food-radar. If you opted for carbohydrates like potato chips, this could have an affect for a number of days, and likely scrub a week of effort.
Though brazil nuts and almonds both have their purpose, in the day-to-day routine of slow carb, if you are wanting to lose fat, they’re not likely to help you lose fat any quicker – and I think that’s the best way to explain their effect.
In general, nuts packs a lot of calories into a small space, and it’s difficult for a body tuned to eating food in quantity, like one on the slow carb diet, to realize just how much food energy is coming in, in such a small package. We become accustomed to how our stomach feels after eating, and partially use this as a gauge to how much we need to eat. Nuts make it easier to overeat, that’s the simple answer.
Almond butter before bed is an option, again, only if things haven’t worked out during the day, and you’re already hungry before hitting the hay. Ideally you have had a good amount of food through 3 or 4 slow carb meals during the day, and you’re feeling satisfied before you go to bed. If not, a small dose of fat, with some protein, is a good option because it will quickly make you feel satisfied, will not impact blood sugar and will digest reasonably slowly. It doesn’t pack a lot of calories, but enough so that you won’t wake up feeling hungry in a couple of hours. Hence, the 2 tablespoons of almond butter is suggested in this scenario.
In general, however, slow carb consists of 3 groups of food – beans/lentils, low fat protein, and (green) vegetables.
Whenever I am considering a certain food, or wondering if I could substitute something, I consider that simple equation. If what I’m thinking about can directly replace one of those groups (for example, in some cases I have used an unflavored protein shake instead of meat/eggs) – then I’m comfortable with the switch. If, however, I’m considering something that doesn’t have similar nutritional qualities to any of the 3 groups (for example macadamia nuts which are very high in fat, and low to moderate in protein), then I see a situation that means I’m going off the slow carb diet.
The other downside to nuts is that most of them are prepared with high amounts of oil, and salt, which only goes to making them edge toward the ‘unhealthy’ category. But don’t use this information to give yourself a carte blanche on unsalted, raw nuts (like raw cashews or almonds)! It’s a side note only.. raw nuts have most of the fat of their oiled cousins, and still don’t fall into a ‘low fat protein’ or other category in slow carb.
So, despite their delicious, and nutritionally dense nature, nuts are best left to cheat days only. In fact, I can attest that including nuts in any quantity has enhanced fat loss, or muscle gain, and so really, it’s hard to find a good answer for why they should be used at all. They do taste great, but I suspect it’s their portability that makes them so appealing. If you’re having problems with portability, consider hard boiled eggs, or packing a bean salad, with spinach and tuna, in a container, which will last even a long day at moderate temperatures.
If you must, use the almonds at the airport only once every few months, use the almond butter at night once a week at most, and consider your goals before you add brazil nuts to your morning routine (they’re very easy to accidentally add throughout the day once you start!).
And then, when your cheat day rolls around, and if you so desire, go nuts!
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