When I started researching the nutritional benefits of almonds I was thrown for a loop when calculating their calories and fat. Nuts are high in calories and high in fat. This confused me - if they're high in calories and fat then why do we always hear how good they are for us? I almost gave up and was about to discredit the almond, or any nut as being beneficial to our health, but thanks to the research done by Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org, I have a new found appreciation for the nut and will continue to consume them as part of a healthy plant based diet. Spoiler alert - almost 100% of the calories in a serving of nuts disappear after consumed, leaving us with all their nutrients, and none of the calories. Seriously.
Calories in, calories out
Let's look at the almond, for example:
- 1 cup of sliced almonds - 92 grams - 3.2 ounces:
- 529 calories
- 45 grams of fat
Now, that sounds like a lot. But get this, in Dr. Michael Greger's video, "Testing the Fat Burning Theory", 70% of their calories disappear through dietary compensation (meaning, what goes in does come out), 10% are flushed away (literally), and 20% may be lost due to increased fat burn. That leaves us with 0% of the calories remaining in our bodies.
Well, isn't this confusing and against everything we've ever learned?! I always thought what I eat in calories stays in my body as calories until I use them as energy. But not nuts. In fact, 90% of relevant studies show no weight gain from nut consumption. Nuts have an amazing ability to keep us feeling full longer, therefore we eat less later and, overall, less calories by the end of the day.
So, we don't gain weight - what do we gain?
Did you know that up to 55% of men and 68% of women have no clinically recognized heart disease before sudden death? Unfortunately, these people did have heart disease, but it was unrecognized until it was too late.
There was a study done over 40 years ago published in the New England Journal that discussed the issue of sudden heart disease and a connection with hardness of the local water supply. It turns out, people who died of sudden heart disease had low magnesium counts in their body compared to people who died accidentally (being hit by a car, etc). So where do nuts come in? Behind dark leafy greens (like spinach) nuts are #2 as the best foods for magnesium intake. 1/2 a cup of nuts will give you around 600mg of magnesium which is 152% of your daily value required. 2 ounces give you 74% of your daily value. So have a spinach salad with 2 ounces of nuts and you should be good for the day!
Here's what The Mayo Clinic says about nuts. They have:
- Unsaturated fats - helps lower cholesterol
- Omega-3 fatty acids - good fats for healthy hearts
- Fiber - helps lower cholesterol and helps you feel full
- Vitamin E - helps stop the development of plaques in your arteries
- Plant sterols - helps lower cholesterol
- L-arginine - helps improve health of artery walls making them more flexible and less prone to blood cloths that restrict blood flow
They are also cholesterol free, full of folate, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
How much and what kind?
All in moderation of course. Eating a small handful of nuts a day is good in conjunction with a whole food, plant based diet. Variety is always the key, but the addition of nuts is great. And stick to raw nuts, not flavored, not salted, just plain old nuts in their truest form and begin to enjoy all their magnificent benefits.
Here are all the videos discussed in this post: