Too many of us believe that an almond diet, or any meal plan high in nuts, is a recipe for extra pounds. After all, a handful of nuts is higher in fat and calories than a bowl of, say, carrot sticks. As it turns out, the benefits of almonds include helping you lose weight.
Decoding Almonds Nutrition
To understand how almonds can fit into your regular meal plan, it helps to know the almonds nutrition profile. A 200 calorie serving is between 1 and 1 1/2 ounces of whole almonds, or about 30 almonds. According to the USDA, this amount provides 17 percent of the fiber you need for the day, along with 15 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) of protein.
The USDA almonds nutrition profile shows that this type of nut also provides more than half of the DV of vitamin E, and almost a quarter of your daily magnesium needs. In addition, the serving contains 5 to 10 percent of the DVs for calcium, iron, potassium and zinc.
Almonds and other nuts are also an important source of "good" fats, especially healthy, monounsaturated fats. Your body needs these healthy nutrients in order to function. Of the 17.2 grams of fat in a 200-calorie serving of almonds, only 1.3 grams are saturated, or "bad" fats.
Using Almonds as Snack Replacements
Almonds aren't magic bullets that melt away pounds. One of the most obvious ways a healthy food can help you achieve your weight loss goals is by replacing sugary, high-calorie snacks. Two recent studies have analyzed how this works.
Conveniently, they both used the same snack-size — about 1.5 ounces of almonds — making it easy for you to replicate in your own meal plans. This serving has about 250 calories and under 2 grams saturated fat.
A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that almonds helped stabilize metabolism and control appetite. Researchers found that this was especially true when the almonds were used as a snack.
A second January 2015 study, from the Journal of the American Heart Foundation, gave all participants exactly the same diet, with the exception that one group had a muffin snack, and the other had 1.5 ounces of almonds. The "nutty" group not only improved their cholesterol levels over the course of three months, but also showed a larger decrease in belly fat.
Read more: What 100 Calories of Almonds Looks Like
Savor That Crunch!
While many people speak of crunchy foods as more "interesting" than those with smoother textures, it's possible that healthy, crunchy ingredients can also play a role in weight loss. Specifically, a nut-rich diet was examined in a September 2019 study in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, which found a correlation between replacing certain foods with nuts, and being more successful with weight loss. In fact, eating at least half an ounce of nuts each day is believed to lower your risk of gaining 11 or more pounds, and avoiding obesity overall.
The journal theorized that part of the reason nuts are helpful with weight loss is that the crunchy texture automatically makes for a slower eating process. In effect, this texture acts as a "speed bump" against mindless eating. That basic benefit may explain why nut butters, which contain many of the same nutrients as whole nuts, aren't associated with preventing weight gain.
Plus, crunchy foods are often also high-fiber foods. After eating fiber-rich meals, you're more likely to feel satisfied for a longer period of time, because your stomach is emptying less quickly. That's why an almond diet, meaning one that includes these nuts, can make sense when trying to drop pounds.
Boost Your Energy
Working out is important when it comes to burning the calories you take in every day, along with improving muscle tone. But even here, the benefits of almonds expand to include giving you the energy you need to keep moving.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends eating more nuts and seeds, including almonds, in order to fuel your workout. Almonds are a rich source of magnesium, which ACE identifies as a key nutrient for energy production. With a generous handful of nuts giving you about 22 percent of your DV for magnesium, a pre-workout snack that includes almonds is an obvious choice.
There's another reason why almonds are useful for keeping your exercise goals on track — their protein and healthy fat content. Protein helps repair muscle tissue that gets torn when doing strength training and cardio. Healthy fats, including monounsaturated types found in almonds, help provide energy for your muscles to contract and release.
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Almonds"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Appetitive, Dietary and Health Effects of Almonds"
- American Heart Foundation: "Effects of Daily Almond Consumption"
- BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health: "Changes in Nut Consumption Influence Long-term Weight Change in US Men and Women"
- American Council on Exercise: "Food Swaps for Increased Energy"
- American Council on Exercise: "10 Things to Know About Fat and Exercise"