Almonds and Weight Loss
If you’re searching for a snack food that can help you lose weight and gain health, almonds are an excellent choice. For years, many dieters have shied away from nuts, largely because of their high fat and calorie content. The results of a study published in the International Journal of Obesity may help put almonds back on the menu. The study, conducted at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, demonstrated that the tasty morsels can be an important part of a successful weight-loss program. Lead investigator Michelle Wien, Dr.PH, RD, found that when she asked volunteers to include raw or roasted almonds in their calorie-restricted diets, their weight-loss efforts were dramatically accelerated.
The study included 65 overweight and obese adults who were placed on one of two diets designed to promote weight loss. The caloric value and protein content of the two diets were equivalent, but only one included a three-ounce serving of almonds daily. After 24 weeks, the two groups showed a striking difference in their weight-loss patterns. The almond-eating group lost 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more body fat than the nut-free group. The almond eaters also experienced significantly greater reductions in waist circumference and blood pressure.
According to Dr. Wien, “The weight-loss benefits of eating almonds came as something of a surprise, since the study was originally designed to evaluate the cholesterol-lowering effects of almonds. As it turned out, the dieters who ate almonds lost more weight than would be expected if they were taking prescription diet pills.”
Dr. Wien offered several explanations as to why eating almonds helps dieters peel off unwanted pounds. “Because of their unique texture and savory taste, almonds are very satisfying,” she said. “A three-ounce serving contains about 70 to 75 nuts, and this amount really fills people up, so that they’re less likely to snack later on.”
Dr. Wien also noted that almonds provide a healthy source of “crunch” that many dieters miss, especially when they’re cutting back on carbohydrates. “Some of the study participants found that they couldn’t eat the entire three-ounce serving in one sitting,” she said. “All that chewing made their jaws tired.”
For folks trying to cut back on high-cholesterol animal foods, the crunchy nuts are a protein-rich alternative to eggs and meat. Ounce for ounce, almonds contain nearly as much protein as lean meat. Unlike animal sources of protein, nuts are high in fiber. Dr. Wien’s research indicates that the fiber in almonds prevents some of the calories and fat from being absorbed by the human body.
“The fiber binds with a portion of the fat, so that it doesn’t come into contact with the intestinal wall,” she explained. “It just gets flushed out of the body.” The almond fat that is absorbed by the body offers a number of health benefits. “Of the nine tree nuts that are commonly eaten, almonds are the richest in oleic acid,” Dr. Wien said. “This mono-unsaturated fat is the same type that is found in olive oil, and it’s known to play an important role in lowering cholesterol levels.”
In an earlier study conducted at the University of Toronto, researchers found that when subjects ate just one ounce of almonds daily, their levels of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol fell significantly. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Almonds contribute to heart health in another important way. The nuts are one of the best natural sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant known to play a role in the prevention of heart disease. A one-ounce serving of almonds provides nearly 40 percent of the recommended daily value of the vitamin.
In addition to lowering the risk for heart disease, almonds appear to offer protection against some types of cancer. Like other varieties of nuts, almonds are rich in phytochemicals, biologically active compounds capable of blocking tumor formation.
In light of all their proven benefits, almonds are a smart, convenient addition to any diet, whether the goal is to lose weight or gain health. The nuts stay fresh without refrigeration or special handling, so you can keep them stashed in your car, your desk, or your briefcase. Whether they’re eaten as an on-the-go snack or as an occasional meal replacement, almonds are a savory, satisfying treat that can be an important part of a healthy diet.