Just A Handful Of Nuts May Help Keep Us From Packing On The Pounds As We Age : The Salt U.S. adults put on about a pound a year on average. But people who had a regular nut-snacking habit put on less weight and had a lower risk of becoming obese over time, a new study finds.

Just A Handful Of Nuts May Help Keep Us From Packing On The Pounds As We Age

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All right. Now some good news for people who like nuts. Eating a handful of nuts every day - almonds, walnuts, pick a nut, any nut - could help prevent weight gain and even lower the risk of obesity. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on a new study.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Researchers looked at diet and weight of more than 250,000 adults taking part in long-term research studies. Over more than 20 years, participants were asked what they ate and what they weighed. Researcher and epidemiologist Deirdre Tobias with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

DEIRDRE TOBIAS: Those who increased their nut intake gained less weight over time.

NEIGHMOND: Most people gain about a pound a year as they age. But the people who eat more nuts only gained a half a pound. That may not sound like a lot, but Tobias says those half pounds add up over time. Now, we're not talking about piles of nuts, just a small handful.

TOBIAS: A dozen almonds or so. Maybe 10 walnuts. Mixed nuts are great, too.

NEIGHMOND: And Tobias found as people ate more nuts, they tended to eat less junk food.

TOBIAS: Chips, desserts, french fries. When you increase nuts at the expense of these other snack foods, there's an even greater benefit.

NEIGHMOND: And substituting nuts for pastries isn't the only way nuts can help maintain a healthy weight. Libby Mills is spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

LIBBY MILLS: Nuts have protein in them, which helps us feel full longer, and fiber, which helps fill us up.

NEIGHMOND: And because nuts are high in healthy fat, she says they also digest much more slowly than carbs and protein, and that can also make us feel full longer. As a registered dietitian, Mills says most of her clients need to lose weight. They love nuts, she says. So for them, these findings are welcome news.

MILLS: They find them an easy, convenient snack to keep at their desk, perhaps individually packaged - tuck into a purse or a gym bag. So perfect for people on the go.

NEIGHMOND: So if you find yourself hungry between meals, Mills suggests go for the nuts and not the cookies.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

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