NUT-ritious!: Protein for the Bariatric Patient

Many weight loss surgery patients consider nuts a great source of protein and a quick and easy snack.  I am sure you have heard that nuts are a great source of protein but lets dig into the facts.  What do you consider a great source of protein?  Has anyone ever defined this to you?  Is it an amount of protein per serving?  Is it an amount of protein per calories?  I think it can be both and probably both protein and calories should be taken into consideration.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA –, a good source of a nutrient is 10-19% of the daily reference value (DV).  A high source is considered 20% of the DV or more.  The DV for protein for adults is 50 grams per day.  However, most often, weight loss surgery patients need more protein than this to maintain lean muscle mass and optimize fat loss.  However, with this said, how much protein do nuts really have?  Let’s take a look at the following chart of some of the most commonly consumed nuts.


Type of Nut Calories Fat (g) Protein (g) %DV
Almonds, 1 oz (23 kernels) 164 14.4 6 12
Walnuts, 1 oz (14 halves) 185 18.5 4.3 8.6
Peanuts, 1 oz (30 lg or 60 sml) 166 14.1 6.7 13.4
Macadamia, 1 oz (10-12 kernels) 204 21.5 2.2 5
Pecans, 1 oz (20 halves) 196 20.4 2.6 5.2
Cashews, 1 oz 163 13.2 4.3 8.6
Pistachios, 1 oz (49 kernels) 162 13 6.1 12.2
Brazil Nuts, 1 oz (6-8 kernels) 186 18.8 4.1 8.2
Mixed Nuts, 1 oz 169 14.6 4.9 9.8
Sunflower Seeds, 1 oz 165 14.1 5.5 11
Soy Nuts, 1 oz 128 6.1 11.2 22.4
Soy Nuts, Honey Roasted, 1/3 cup 140 6 10 20

What Do I Choose?  If we said a good source was 10-19% DV, then that would include the following as good choices: almonds, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and soy nuts.  However, we know as a weight loss surgery patient you may need some extra protein or want higher protein sources. High sources are 20% DV.  The only option that meets this level to be considered a high source of protein would be soy nuts, which are also the lowest calorie option – so double wins

What Other Properties do Nuts Provide?  Nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease because of the healthy fats included.  They can add fiber to your diet that may lower cholesterol.  They also add healthy omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin E, and several B vitamins.

Some ways to incorporate soy nuts, rather than just a handful by themselves:

  • Add them to salads instead of croutons
  • Try them in a wrap
  • Stir-fry them
  • Add to soups rather than crackers

As we can see, soy nuts are a great source of protein – just remember to watch the serving size (never eat them out of the container or big bag).  I would recommend limiting nuts to no more than 3-4 times per week.  An easy guideline for watching your serving size (1 oz) is to use the flat part of the palm of your hand (not including the fingers).  So, go be NUTritious!

By Heather Mackie, MS, RD, LD

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