Measuring Your Progress
Making Beautiful Eggs!
Cooking With Herbs
Win a Low Carb Cruise!
The Caffeine Controversy
Jonny Bowden Weighs In
Cracking the Nut
To Drink or Not to Drink
Have Silky Hair Year Round!
Make It Low Carb!
Snapshot: Low Carb Pizza
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"Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality.
If you can dream it, you can make it so."
— Belva Davis
Many entrants into the low carb lifestyle are refugees from the sinking low fat
diet ship. Despite their best efforts, they simply did not experience the
promised weight loss. As they move towards trying a new approach and enter
the beginning phase of their chosen low carb plan, they begin to anticipate the
return to their diet of long-banished favorites. They embark on their virgin
low carb grocery trip with giggling delight and, armed with their plan's how-to book,
move confidently through the aisles.
Oh, the lovely bottle of extra-virgin olive
oil… that package of steaks looks particularly succulent… sweet cream butter (insert
drooling sound here)… cheese, beautiful cheese… nuts…
Wait... Where are nuts on the "approved list?"
Did I grab my old copy of Fleeing the Fat Fiend by mistake?
Frantically, they turn pages looking for the sentence that says "Eat Nuts," and
feel their spirits plummet when they realize that, for introductory phases of low
carb plans, nuts are not on the "eat liberally" list. And, as one moves to later
phases, nuts are encouraged only in moderation. Our unfortunate subject grabs a
roll of paper towels from the store's shelf and begins to saturate the sheets with
tears of despair — their long-hoped-for nuts are nearly as verboten to them now as
before. "Why?" they cry to the heavens (startling nearby shoppers), "Nuts reign
in Nature's fat kingdom…"
Well, Luckless has realized what many have before them — nuts, generally, are not
considered a major component of low carb diet plans. Even more liberal plans speak
of nuts with a somewhat cautionary tone. From the pure standpoint of weight loss,
nuts can work against the efforts of those new to low carbing, as well as for those
who have reached maintenance–oriented phases. The reasons are fairly simple:
- Despite their high fat, protein and fiber content, nuts also contain
carbohydrates that must be factored into the daily total. Depending on species
and variety, this can range from 1 — over 5 net carbs/ounce.
- Nuts are very energy dense — very high calories for very small serving
sizes. And calories do count, to a limited degree, for many low carb dieters.
- Portion control with nuts is extremely problematic for many people. One
ounce of nuts is a far smaller quantity that many people realize and it is easy
to accidentally consume 2 or 3 times that in a single sitting.
However, nuts are nutritional powerhouses and one of the healthiest of the food
groups. They are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber… and,
frankly — flavor. With a little care and planning, they can make very successful
and beneficial additions to any low carb lifestyle.
Strategies for Adding Nuts to Your Diet
- First, if you are an Atkins advocate, follow the Rules of Induction and
do not consume nuts for at least 2 weeks. If you follow a less restrictive plan
such as Protein Power, you can consume moderate amounts even at the onset of your
weight–loss journey, but pay close attention to the carbohydrate count and portion
- When you decide to add nuts to your diet, shop for the nut species that
are naturally lowest in carbohydrates and specific brands that have the lowest net
carbohydrate count for each type of nut. Different species of nuts rely on the
major biological molecules (carbohydrates, protein, fats) to differing degrees for
their energetic needs. Some nuts — like peanuts, cashews and pistachios — rely more
heavily on carbohydrates than do macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts and almonds.
Regardless of brand, these species will always provide more countable carbohydrates
per ounce than others. Limit these to rare indulgences in later phases of your
weight loss. For the lower-carb species, look for brands with the smallest net
carb count. Nuts are living things and will differ in their carbohydrate-protein-fat
composition based on genetics and growing conditions (soil profile, weather conditions,
fertilizers used, etc.) One company's fields will produce nuts with a different
nutritional profile than another. I have found, for instance, almonds varying between
1 and 3 net carbs/ounce. Always shop while chanting The Low Carb Mantra — Read Labels!
- Invest in a food scale. A digital food scale that reports values in grams, as
well as ounces, is one of the low carber's best weapons against carb creep from any
source (although not the type you meet at a bar.) Measure out one ounce of nuts before
you indulge to ensure that you are getting the planned number of carbohydrates and
- Toast nuts before using to bring out the richest flavor. Toasting nuts enhances
their natural taste and will provide a more satisfying experience. Also, many individuals
find that they need fewer roasted than raw nuts to curb a nut craving. Toast in the
oven, in a dry pan on the stove or in the microwave for a few minutes to tantalize both
the nose and the tongue.
- Use nuts to enhance other foods, not as a stand–alone munch. Half–an–ounce of
walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc. added to a stir–fry or salad will give you the nut flavor
and texture, but keep the carbohydrates and calories within reason.
- Use nut butters in cooking and baking. Roasted nut butters are very flavorful
and will impart the nut's delicious taste and aroma to a variety of dishes. Remember
to find the brand with the lowest net carbohydrate count and measure portions carefully.
For some, however, nuts may be out of reach for a long, long time. If you are an individual
with a very low daily carbohydrate limit, have to monitor calories in addition to carbs for
successful weight loss and/or have problems with self-control when it comes to nuts (all
hands in the air, please), whole nuts or nut butters may not have a substantial place in
your diet for any reason. Does this mean that you must forever forsake the savory
succulence of nut nirvana? The Universe would not be that cruel… well, they did cancel
For those who love the flavor of nuts, the world of virgin, cold–pressed, unrefined nut
oils opens the door wide for nutty indulgence. Completely lacking in carbohydrates and
possessing the natural flavor (and much of the nutritional value) of the nut from which
they are derived, these oils should be a staple of every low carber's pantry. These
intensely flavored bottles of gold will provide to any dish the desired nutty taste and,
in fact, do a better job at dispersing the flavor through the body of the dish than the
corresponding whole nut.
Like the finest olive oils, however, these are somewhat expensive,
heat sensitive and are appropriate only for low to moderate–heat applications. Add to a
hot dish towards the end of cooking. Drizzle over a salad. Use in smoothies, shakes,
cold sauces/soups, ice creams. Make your own nut "butters" with nut oil and tofu or protein
powder to smear over an LC bagel. For best flavor and nutritional value, shop for the
highest–quality nut oils you can find and purchase small quantities. The cheap nut oils
you find at the grocery stores are generally refined and will not provide the true,
robust nut taste. Refined coconut oil is as palatable as candle wax. Also, for some
nuts/seeds like peanut and sesame, purchase the roasted nut oil for best flavor.
Unrefined, cold-pressed, virgin macadamia, almond, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, coconut, pecan,
roasted peanut, toasted sesame and other delights are only a shopping trip away.
Homemade nut milks offer another option for adding the nutritional value and flavor of nuts
to your diet. Home-produced nut milks are creamy, rich in flavor and extremely low in
carbohydrates (store-bought are generally sweetened.) Nut milks are easily made with a
blender or a soymilk maker (which produces a better quality product, but is a little
expensive) and can be used for the same applications as dairy or soymilk, with the
additional benefits of the nut's nutritional and flavor perks. I make almond milk using
1 net carb/ounce almonds to create a glorious 0.5 net carb/cup beverage. Commercial
low carb milks — talk to the hand…
Whereas nuts cannot form the foundation of a low carber's daily diet, for many
individuals, they are not as taboo as first thought. With a little careful shopping
and creativity, one can enjoy the myriad of benefits that nuts have to offer. Nuts
are, without doubt, members of the "–ious" family — nutritious, delicious, scrumptious
and (with forethought) carb-conscious. Have fun going a little nutty today!
Copyright © April 2004 Cerise Cauthron and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury