A Healthy Low Carbohydrate Alternative - Walnuts

How to Incorporate Them Into Your Diet

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One of the most critical components to losing weight is diet adherence. Studies have shown that weight loss can be achieved regardless of the macronutrient compositions (percentage of calories coming from fat, carbohydrate and protein), as long as a calorie deficit is achieved. However, when it comes to diabetes, eating a modified carbohydrate, high fiber diet is important for weight and blood sugar control.

In some instances, even a low carbohydrate diet may be of value. How many carbohydrates you need to eat daily depends on a variety of factors such as activity level, weight, medications, etc. You can determine a meal plan that is right for you by meeting with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator.

If you know that you are eating a high carbohydrate diet now, you should start reducing your intake by making some simple substitutions. Avoid high carbohydrate snacks, load up on non-starchy vegetables, eat a protein packed breakfast and use healthy fats to increase your satiety.

Andrea Dunn, RD, CDE (http://www.walnuts.org/resources/people/andrea-v-dunn/) recommends using walnuts to boost your nutrition and reduce your carbohydrate intake.Walnuts contain plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA can be synthesized from ALA. Research has shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and may benefit those with Type 2 diabetes, especially those with elevated triglycerides.

 One ounce of walnuts contains 2.5 g of ALA and is about: 185 calories, 18 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, and 4 g protein. The key to adding healthy fats, like nuts, to your diet is to manage your portion appropriately. Nuts are high in calories and overeating can cause weight gain.


Learn How to Use Walnuts to Your Advantage:  

Use Walnuts as a Protein Topper: Eating lean protein can get very bland and boring. It's important to add flavor, but equally important to avoid large amounts of salt and fat in cooking. Instead of cooking with heavy sauces, frying and using breadcrumbs to flavor your protein, Andrea suggests using walnuts for added crunch, flavor, and healthy fats. You can top chicken, turkey, lean beef, pork, or fish with a walnut coating. Check out this Crunchy Walnut-Crusted Salmon Fillets . Pair this meal with non-starchy vegetables and a baked sweet potato or whole grain for a balanced, heart-healthy, carbohydrate controlled meal. 

Skip Crackers, Bread, and Rice: Crackers, bread, and rice are often used as filler foods. The problem is that refined carbohydrates such as white crackers, white bread, and white rice can spike blood sugars, and perhaps even lead to more cravings. If you overeat these foods, you'll gain weight too. The next time you are having soup for lunch or a stir fry for dinner, you can reduce your carbohydrate intake and boost your fiber intake by adding a handful of walnuts to your recipes.

Check out this Lentil Soup with Kale and Walnuts and Chinese Chicken Walnut Vegetables (skip the rice for fewer carbohydrates). 

Other Ways to Use Walnuts: 

  • Eat them as a snack as is (about 1/4 of a cup) or pair them with a serving of fruit (reduce the portion to half to compensate for calories). Make sure to choose unsalted. 
  • Chop or pulse in a blender and add to yogurt, oatmeal, whole grain side dishes. 
  • Substitute walnuts in smoothies or meal replacements for flax seed, hemp, chia, or nut butters.
  • Skip on creamy dressings and toss them into a salad to reduce saturated fat content.


1. Sacks FM, Gray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-873. 

2. Champagne C, Kris-Etherton P, Raynor H, Wolf A. What and when to eat...what works for obesity treatment? Weight Management Matters. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015; volume 13: 3. 8-11. 

3. Linus Pauling Institute. Essential Fatty Acids. Accessed on-line: March 12, 2015: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/omega3fa/

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