Almonds for weight loss – good or bad?
The almond is a tree which is native to Southern Asia and the Middle East. The seeds of the tree (commonly mistaken to be nuts) are also known as almonds, which have a brown outer shell and a white inner body. Almonds are popular world wide and can be eaten on their own or added to a wide variety of dishes.
They bring with them a whole host of health benefits, one of which is weight loss, which we will discuss in detail below.
100 grams (which is just a bit more than one cup) contains:
As you will notice from the table above, almonds are very high in calories & fat and may therefore discourage people who are trying to lose weight from eating them. You may be aware that when trying to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means that you need to consume fewer calories on a daily basis than you are expending. When you do this, your body will use its fat stores as a source of energy.
You can use the calculator on this page to determine how many calories you need to consume, in order to lose weight. For example, a 50 year old lady who weighs 70 kg (154 lb), is 150 cm tall (4 ft, 11 in) and exercises 3 – 5 times a week will need to consume around 1521 calories everyday, to lose weight.
So the high calorie content of almonds may scare people off. However if they are eaten in reasonable quantities, almonds can actually help with your weight loss efforts.
A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually found that the number of calories that the body absorbs when almonds are eaten is overestimated by more then 20%. This is because not all of the fat in them is absorbed.
Why almonds are good for weight loss
1. They are rich in monounsaturated fat
100 g of almonds contain 31 g of monounsaturated fat (MUFA), also known as the “good” type of fat. This is the same type of fat that is abundant in avocados, also making them a great weight loss food.
A study assessed what difference consuming an almond enriched diet which was high in monounsaturated fat had on weight loss, compared to a high carbohydrate diet.
65 overweight and obese adults took part. Those on the almond enriched diet ate 84 g of almonds per day, and their meals consisted of 39% total fat (25% MUFA) and 32% carbohydrate. The other group ate complex carbohydrates, and their meals consisted of 18% total fat (5% MUFA) and 53% carbohydrate.
The weights, waists and fat compositions of the subjects was monitored for a period of 24 weeks. The study showed that those participants on the almond enriched diet ended up losing 7% more weight, had a 5% greater reduction in their waist circumference and lost 10% more body fat.
In another study, 108 overweight and obese women ate either an almond enriched diet (50 g of almonds daily) or a nut free diet. Both diets contained the same number of calories.
The results showed that the almond group had a significant decrease in weight, BMI, waist circumference and total cholesterol, compared to the nut free group.
This goes to show that all fats are not created equal; the good types of fat can actually help you lose weight.
2. They keep you fuller for longer and are great for snacking on
When you are trying to lose weight, you should aim to eat foods that keep you satiated so that you eat less throughout the day. Refined carbohydrates, for example, are notorious for causing extreme spikes in blood sugar; this means you crash soon after eating them and hunger sets in again.
Almonds on the other hand have been shown to be a great snack as they reduce appetite throughout the day. In this study which took place over a 4 week period, participants consumed 43 g of almonds with breakfast, lunch, alone as a morning or afternoon snack or consumed no almonds at all.
Those who ate almonds as a snack had the most significant results; in particular, they experienced appetite reduction. So the next time you’re thinking of snacking on some potato chips, snack on a handful of almonds instead!
3. They contain high amounts of dietary fiber
100 g of almonds contain 12 g of dietary fiber. Increasing fiber intake has been shown to have a positive effect on weight loss.
In a study that was published recently, 240 individuals with metabolic syndrome (they were overweight, had high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol) took part.
Half followed a diet which required them to eat more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, whilst reducing their intake of salt, fat, sugar and alcohol. The other half were simply asked to consume 30g or more dietary fiber each day.
After 12 months, the first group lost 2.7 kg and the second 2.1 kg, on average. Even though the high fiber group lost slightly less weight, the results showed that just by making a small change and increasing your fiber consumption, you can lose weight.
Almonds being a high fiber food are therefore excellent to add to your diet when trying to shed some weight.
4. They are abundant in protein
100 g of almonds contain 20 g of protein. This is one of the reasons why nuts and seeds are very popular among body builders and those on high protein and fat diets.
This study showed that increasing protein intake resulted in feeling fuller and therefore led to a decrease in overall food consumption. To be more specific, the results showed that consuming a diet that had 30% protein compared to one that had 15% protein resulted in 441 fewer calories from being consumed per day.
How to add almonds to your diet
Almonds are very versatile and can be added to your diet in many different ways. They can be eaten on their own as a snack or you can chop them up and sprinkle them over oatmeal or over a salad, to add some crunch.
Another great way to add almonds to your diet is via almond butter. The best option would be to make your own at home as it is much healthier than store bought versions. Making almond butter is extremely easy.
You can then use the almond butter in different ways, like in smoothies.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamins & minerals and are great for weight loss, so you shouldn’t be afraid to add them to your diet.
However, like with everything else in life, too much of anything is bad. Almonds are high in calories so you don’t want to overindulge. When starting off on a weight loss diet, you should count the number of calories you are eating so that you can get a better idea of what types of portions are suitable for you; everyone is different.
Having a handful of almonds as a snack is definitely fine. Having 5 handfuls, probably not!