Recently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published research results  that indicated that whole almonds provide about 20% fewer calories than previously thought.
The USDA study used a new method of measuring the calories in almonds to calculate the number of calories actually digested and absorbed from almonds.
Sara Grafenauer, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, and lecturer at the University of Wollongong, explains the implications of this study.
“We now know that the energy that is reported for almonds is more than what your body actually gets,” Sara says.
What does this mean?
“If 752kJ is reported on pack for a ‘healthy handful’ or 30g or 20 whole almonds, we now know the human body get 20% less than this, more like 602kJ.The great news is, this could be occurring for other natural foods too .”
How is this happening?
“Since almonds are a natural food, containing fibre and lots of good fats and protein, it is likely that our body needs to take more time over digestion. As a result, some of the nutrients pass straight though without being taken up by the body .”
The study notes that its results are applicable only to whole almonds, and while no additional studies have been conducted yet, the discrepancy in calories may not be consistent for other forms of almonds such as almond butter or slivered or sliced almonds as the finer particles may lead to more complete digestion. Within Australia, however, whole almonds are consumed in far greater proportion than are other forms.
Sara concludes that there are significant reasons why we should regularly eat almonds.
“From the large number of studies now available, from looking at populations that eat almonds and from clinical trials where people were instructed to eat a certain amount of almonds, we know there are benefits for heart health, by lowering the (lousy LDL cholesterol) type of cholesterol that is a problem,” she says .
“We also know that nuts do not increase body weight, body mass index or waist circumference . Almonds also contain a whole range of nutrients like Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Calcium and Magnesium, and some of these are reportedly low in the Australian diet. All in all, regular consumption of almonds can be very beneficial for your overall health.”
- Novotny, J.A., S.K. Gebauer, and D.J. Baer, Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012. 96(2): p. 296-301.
- Barr S. B. and Wright J.C., Postprandial energy expenditure in whole-food and processed-food meals: implications for daily energy expenditure. Food and Nutrition Research, 2010. 54: p. 5144.
- Cassady BA, et al., Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Journal of American Clinical Nutrition, 2009. 89(3): p. 794-800.
- Berryman, C.E., et al., Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions. Nutrition Reviews, 2011. 69(4): p. 171-185.
- Flores-Mateo, G., et al., Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013.