diabetes supplement
Diabetes Complications, Diabetes Diet

The Effect of Nuts on Your A1C

Don’t go from the nourishment of nuts to chowing down on carbs. That’s the opposite of what I mean by the title of this article. I mean to suggest that substituting nuts in your diet for some of your carbs makes sense.

A study that will appear in the August issue of Diabetes Care, a professional journal of the American Diabetes Association, shows that eating nuts every day can help us manage our type 2 diabetes and prevent its complications. This research reports that eating just two ounces of nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates proved effective in managing our blood glucose and lipid levels.

Dr. Cyril W.C. Kendall of the University of Toronto, who is the corresponding author, sent me the full-text of the study, “Nuts as a Replacement for Carbohydrates in the Diabetic Diet.” The abstract of the study is online.

The lead author of the study is Dr. David J.A. Jenkins. That name is what brought the study to my attention because he created the most powerful tool to evaluate carbohydrates.

That tool is the glycemic index, which his 1981 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition kicked off. Slow to gain traction here, the GI seems nowadays to be everywhere.

When I learned in 1994 that I had diabetes, I began following the glycemic index, and my first book lauded it. Since then, however, I have gone beyond that diet. And Dr. Jenkins also seems to have done so.

The new study recognizes that the standard recommendation for the proportions of the macro-nutrients — protein, fat, and carbohydrates — in our diet is in flux. “The influential dietary pattern” of the Atkins diet, the authors state, “is reflected in the relatively lower pre-study intake of about 45 percent in the current study rather than the 50 to 60 percent once recommended.”

That’s still a lot of carbs. But the study tested a further reduction.

Drs. Jenkins and Kendall and their colleagues divided 117 people into three groups who got a supplement to their diet. One group got muffins, another got a mixture of nuts, and the third got a mixture of muffins and nuts.

The people in the nuts group had the greatest improvement in their A1C levels. They also got the biggest reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is the so-called bad cholesterol, which I like to think of as the lousy lipid.

The study shows something about the nuts. The most important I think is that all were unsalted. Most were raw, although some (proportion not specified) were dry roasted.

The mixture included almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias. I eat and enjoy most of these myself.

Here is how these nuts stack up in terms of net carbs, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database:

Almonds: 5.39
Pistachios: 9.8
Walnuts: 3.97
Pecans: 2.46
Hazelnuts: 3.97
Peanuts: 4.35
Cashews (dry-roasted): 16.84
Macadamias: 2.94

Notice how much higher that cashews are in carbs!

Besides being healthy, nuts are our most portable food. They undoubtedly found a substantial place on the diet of our paleolithic ancestors and today make probably the best trail food. Even when you are on a long car journey they are the best fast food.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • M. Christa Lee at

    Which nutritional scales did you test and which of did you find was the most accurate?

    Thank you,
    M. Christa Lee