One of the challenges with trying to lose weight is reaching a plateau – where one’s weight stays the same for an extended period of time. When eating a low-carb or ketogenic diet, some foods such as nuts are a common pitfall. Despite being a rich source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, some nuts contain high amounts of carbohydrate.
Carbs Per Serving of Nuts
A serving size* of nuts is generally considered one ounce (1 oz.) which is about a handful of an ‘average-sized hand’. The problem with using this kind of measurement is that not all nuts have the same mass per volume, nor does everybody have the same size hand!
Here are the number of nuts per ounce for common varieties:
- Cashew 16-18 nuts per ounce
- Pistachio 45-47 nuts per ounce
- Almond 22-24 nuts per ounce
- Pine Nuts ~3 Tbsp. (160 kernels) per ounce
- Hazelnut 10–12 nuts per ounce
- Walnut 8-10 halves per ounce
- Peanut 27-29 nuts per ounce
- Macadamia 10-12 nuts per ounce
- Pecan 16-18 halves per ounce
- Brazil Nuts 6-8 nuts per ounce
* When eating shelled nuts, many people eat a few palm fulls, so I’m going to indicate the carbs for a 1 oz and 3 oz serving.
Carbs are listed as “net-carbs” (i.e. once fiber (which is not digestible) has been subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrate).
Carbohydrates per Ounce
Cashews aren’t actually “nuts” but are the fruit of a cashew apple, and contain 9 gms of carbs per 1 oz (~17 nuts) – that’s 27 gms of carbs for 3 oz (~ 3 average handfuls). To think of this in terms of “carb foods”, that’s about the same number of carbs as in 2 slices of bread!
Pistachios contain 6 gms of carbs per 1 oz serving ~ 46 nuts – that’s 18 gm of carbs in an average 3 handful serving (3 oz) – a little more than a slice of bread.
Almonds contain approximately 3.5 gms of carbs per ounce ~23 nuts, which amounts to 10 gms of carbs for 3 oz (~3 average-sized handfuls).
4. Pine Nuts
Pine nuts (also called pignolias) contain 3 gms of carbs per oz. (which is about 3 Tbsp.)
Hazelnuts (~11 nuts per ounce) contain ~2 1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving (~11 nuts) / 7 gms of carbs for 3 oz / 3 average handfuls.
An ounce of walnuts (9 halves per ounce) contain the same amount of carbs as an ounce of hazelnuts (~2 1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving / 7 gms of carbs for 3 average handfuls or ~ 27 halves.
An ounce of peanuts (~28 shelled peanuts per ounce) also contain the same amount of carbs as an ounce of hazelnuts or walnuts (~2 1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving.
Top three low carb high fat / keto-friendly nuts:
Macadamias, Pecans and Brazil nuts are the 3 most low-carb and keto-friendly nuts – having between 4 and 5 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving! That’s far better than the 27 gm of carbs for 3 oz of cashews and 18 gm of carbs for 3 oz of pistachios!
Macadamias have slightly more than 1 1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving (~11 nuts) / 5 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving.
Pecans have 1.3 gms of carbs for an ounce of nuts (~17 halves) / 4 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving .
10. Brazil nuts
Brazil Nuts also have only 4 gms of carbs for a 1 oz. serving (~ 7 nuts)
A Tough Nut to Crack
Back in the day, eating nuts meant cracking nuts.
It was common to see living room tables with bowls of nuts in their shell, with nutcrackers and nut-picks readily available for use.
Each house had its preference for the style of nutcrackers they insisted were the best. Growing up, we had ones like those above.
Nuts and “Carb Creep”
“Carb creep” is when we think we are eating low carb, but hidden sources of carbs are sneaking into our diet without us being aware of it.
When I was pondering why I had reached my own weight plateau, I knew carb creep had to be the reason – but from where?
After analyzing my diet, it seemed that nuts might be the source and it was.
My biggest single downfall was that I like to crack and eat pistachios on the weekend, while working on my foreign language studies – and it is WAY too easy to crack them and eat copious amounts! In fact, I am somewhat of an expert at shelling them, as my brother and I were placated by our parents with bags of pistachios, on long car trips. To get my “fair share”, I learned to be quite efficient at shelling them and so it seems, I haven’t lost that ‘skill’.
Over the course of several hours I can shell and eat 1/2 to 1 lb of pistachios without really noticing eat, and in the worst case scenario that’s almost 100 gms of hidden carbs!
Add to that a handful or two of almonds a day (another hidden 10 gm of carbs per day) and the source of my “carb creep” became clear.
Of course to try to prevent eating too many, nuts can be portioned out in 1 oz or 3 oz ‘servings” and the rest put away for another time, but it is still way too easy for someone who is hungry or tired to mindlessly reach for a handful or two of nuts. It seemed to me that having large containers of shelled nuts that are too easy to reach for, may not be the best solution.
Replacing shelled nuts with nuts in the shell, like we ate in the “old days”, turns out to be a far more effective solution.
It’s very hard to over eat nuts you have to shell first.
It is much s-l-o-w-e-r to crack and then eat these almonds than these:
…or to crack and eat these Brazil nuts than these:
Since pecans are a much lower carb nut than pistachios, they have become my go-to nut from the nut-bowl…and let me assure you, it takes quite a while to shell 17 halves for a mere 1.3 carbs! In fact, I’m pretty sure I expend more energy cracking them, than I take in, eating them.
The Right Tools for the Right Job
Despite having a variety of nutcrackers, I found pecans a “very tough nut to crack” – with them frequently flying out of the standard pinch-style cracker.
I found out that there is a special “pecan cracker” that one can order that apparently does the job very well and looks like this:
…but the little contraption below that I invented in my garage (with a d-clamp and a stick-on felt pad, works great, and I use it for pecans, walnuts and even hazelnuts. Even eating walnuts, which are a higher carb nut – it takes quite a while to shell 9 halves (2 1/2 gms of carbs).
How I can help
For the last 2 years, I have helped my clients lose weight and keep it off using a low-carb approach. More recently, I am ‘practicing what I preach‘ (as you can read about in the blogs titled “A Dietitian’s Journal”). The things I am learning “doing it” adds to what I know academically – which makes me able to coach people much more effectively.
Why not send me a note using the “Contact Us” form on the tab above.
To our good health!
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