Assuming you’re not allergic or intolerant to nuts, they can be a great source of many vitamins and minerals, and be a part of a healthy diet.
However, too many nuts can be unhealthy in both the short and long term.
We’ll get into more specifics, but the general guidelines from most nutritional agencies is to eat about 30-50 grams of nuts per day, which is about a medium to large handful of most nuts.
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Dangers of Eating Too Many Nuts Per Day
There are 3 potential ways that eating a lot of nuts can be unhealthy.
Nuts Have a Bad Omega 3 to 6 Fat Ratio
Aside from walnuts and macadamia nuts, all other nuts have a bad omega 3 to 6 fat ratio.
Omega 3 fats are generally healthy, while omega 6 fats are unhealthy in large amounts, and nuts have plenty of omega 6 fats.
If your overall diet has a poor ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats, it can lead to:
- Oxidative stress
- Endothelial dysfunction
While most people get too many omega 6 fats from cooking oils, nuts can also play a big role.
If someone regularly eats a large amount of most types of nuts, they will likely have an imbalance of omega 3 and 6 fats. This leads to inflammation, which can lead to serious health conditions over time.
Nuts Are Very High in Calories
When you look at the plant-based foods highest in calories, almost all the top sources are nuts.
Just a few hundred grams of nuts has more calories than most people should eat per day.
If you’re just eating whole, plain nuts, you probably won’t overeat. But it’s really easy to eat excess calories from nuts if you eat flavored nuts, nut-based baked goods, or nut butters.
Eating a lot of nuts on a regular basis can lead to weight gain. Most people underestimate how many calories are in the servings of nuts they eat.
Certain Nuts Are Extremely High in Certain Vitamins and Minerals
This is much less of a concern than the other two issues, but still worth mentioning.
Getting a good amount of vitamins and minerals from food is generally a good thing, but certain ones can be dangerous in extremely high amounts.
When we look at the vitamins in nuts, there are only a few that we really need to consider:
- Selenium in brazil nuts – When it comes to selenium in nuts, or any food source, brazil nuts have a ridiculous amount. One 100 gram serving of brazil nuts has 35 times the RDA for selenium. Having that much occasionally is okay for most people, but having it regularly can have health risks.
- Manganese – Macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are very high in manganese. While it’s not common, it is possible to get manganese toxicity from eating a large amount of manganese on a regular basis (source).
- Vitamin E – Nuts like almonds and hazelnuts have more than 100% of the RDA for vitamin E in a single 100 gram serving. For a healthy person, it’s generally fine to go over the RDA, but at a certain point it could pose danger for some people (read more).
Aside from selenium, these aren’t things that the vast majority of people need to worry about. But they are another reason why it makes sense to limit the amount of nuts in a diet.
How Many Nuts Should You Eat Per Day?
Everything above might make nuts seem scary, but they are still good sources of nutrition in small amounts.
You can also eat more than a small amount on one day, and simply not eat nuts every day.
One nutrition researcher recommends eating 30 to 50 grams of nuts per day.
Most other research and agencies recommend a similar amount.
How Many Nuts Are In 30 Grams?
So what does that look like practically?
From the USDA’s nutrition data, I created the table below showing an approximate number of nuts in a 30 gram serving. This will of course vary based on nut size and other factors like moisture.
|Nut||Number in 30 Gram Serving|
|Pine Nuts (dried)||167|
Another way to think about it is that this amount is approximately the size of an average handful.
Will Eating Too Many Nuts Lead to Weight Gain?
Nuts are a favorite food for bodybuilders looking to gain weight because it’s so easy to get a lot of calories from them. But they’re eating extra on purpose.
But while nuts can lead to weight gain, they usually don’t in practice.
A meta-analysis looked at this topic and actually found that:
Meta-regression showed that higher nut intake was associated with reductions in body weight and body fat
A large part of this is of course that health conscious people are typically the ones eating whole nuts.
This does not apply in other forms.
If someone eats a large amount of nut butter or nut flour, it’s really easy to get too many calories and gain weight.
Eating a lot of nut products can easily lead to weight gain. However, if you stick to whole nuts, which are a bit less appetizing and more filling, people are less likely to overeat to the point of weight gain.