Harvard Women's Health Watch

Can I substitute nuts for animal protein?

Ask the doctor

Q. I'm trying to substitute more oils and proteins from plant sources for the animal products in my diet. I love nuts and know that they are a good source of both, but I'm worried about the calories. Do you have any advice?

A. It's true that nuts are fairly high in calories for their weight. Compared with a 4-ounce chicken breast—which has about 175 calories and 30 grams of protein—4 ounces of almonds have 680 calories and 24 grams of protein. You shouldn't plan to get all of your plant protein from nuts; instead, try to stick with 1 ounce per day. Many types are available in packages containing individual 1-ounce servings to help with portion control.

Beans and legumes are also good sources of protein and much lower in calories per serving than nuts are. For example, a 4-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu (a soybean product) has about 12 grams of protein and 120 calories. You might also try combining nuts with beans or legumes in casseroles and loaves.

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