Nuts gain from awareness of healthy fats

19 Nov 2018

Demand for products containing nuts is on the rise, aided by ongoing research into their health benefits and growing consumer understanding of healthy fats.

Nuts gain from awareness of healthy fats

Nuts are relatively high in calories, providing about 160 to 200 calories in a standard 30 gram serving, but research repeatedly has linked daily nut consumption with improved weight management. Most recently, two preliminary studies presented at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Sessions pinpointed Brazil nuts, peanuts and walnuts as beneficial for weight management and weight loss. A growing body of research suggests weight management benefits regardless of which nuts consumers choose.

Such results are increasingly relevant as obesity rates continue to rise. Half of the 30,000 global online respondents in Nielsen’s 2014 Global Health and Wellness Survey were actively trying to lose weight. However, many consumers tend to shy away from nuts as a high calorie food while dieting – a strategy that could actually make it harder to meet their weight loss goals.

The European Union is the biggest market for nuts in the world, representing about 40% of global imports, according to Eurostat figures, and import volumes are steadily increasing. Consumers see nuts as a healthy snack, but nuts also tap into desire for more plant-based ingredients. In addition, consumer perception of fats has shifted in recent years, meaning that more consumers are looking to relatively high fat foods like nuts for their healthy unsaturated fat content.

As research has continued to back nuts’ health benefits, dietitians and public health advocates have helped raise awareness of ‘good fats’ for heart health in particular.

Researchers have suggested several reasons for nuts’ role in weight management, including that despite their calorie content, nuts are also high in fibre and fat, which both create a feeling of satiety. In addition, they do not provoke a blood glucose spike, meaning less insulin release. Insulin released in response to high blood glucose levels is thought to contribute to fat storage.

A large number of studies have been backed by organisations that represent the nut industry, including The International Dried Fruit and Nut Council, the Almond Board of California and the California Walnut Commission, all of which use research into nuts’ health benefits in their marketing strategies.

The results undoubtedly have played a role in revamping the once less-than-healthy image of nuts as a high fat food, instead making them a mainstay in better-for-you products.

Across the region, the number of new products containing nuts is on the rise, including snacks and nut bars, but also gluten-free flours and dairy alternatives, such as those based on almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. According to Mordor Intelligence, sales of nut-based spreads are expected to grow 6.9% a year to 2023, and while peanut butter dominates the category, nut butters based on almonds, cashews and walnuts are also gaining in popularity.

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