A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that almonds have 20% fewer calories than originally thought. The results found that a one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23 nuts) has 129 calories as opposed to 160 that’s currently listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
Interestingly, it has nothing to do with the composition of the almond—rather, the way we metabolize it. Although it sounds nutty (pun intended), I had the pleasure to speak with Jenny Heap, MS, RD Manager, Healthy Professional Marketing for Almond Board of California to help decipher these findings.
Q: A recent 2012 study by the American Society for Nutrition concluded that almonds have about 20% fewer calories than originally thought. Was this a surprise to you?
A: Yes and no . . . several studies published over the past 10 years have suggested that when people eat almonds, not all of the fat is digested and absorbed. Some of the fat remains intact within the almonds’ rigid cell walls. Recognizing that this could affect the number of calories actually available from almonds, researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service decided to specifically determine the calories absorbed. We were not at all surprised to learn from Dr. Baer’s work that fewer calories from almonds are available for absorption. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of the difference. In 2011, Dr. Baer conducted research using the same methodology to find out available calories from pistachios and found that the number was only 5% lower than previously thought, while the number for almonds was 20% lower.
Q: Do you feel this study (with only 18 subjects) really substantiates the new calorie count in almonds?
A: This study is larger than the studies originally conducted to develop the factors currently used to calculate calories in foods (Atwater Factors). Dr. Baer and his colleagues ensured that the number of subjects in their study provided more than adequate statistical power to detect a difference between the two approaches. The research that led to the Atwater factors used a significantly smaller number of subjects.
Q: What does this new information mean for the future of almonds?
A: We feel the future of almonds is always bright—in fact, we expect this year’s harvest to bring in more than two billion pounds! Thankfully there are also endless delicious ways to enjoy them and we hope news like this provides consumers another reason to feel good about choosing almonds. We are also currently working with government agencies to determine what these study results might mean for future consumer education about almonds, such as Nutrition Facts panels.
Recipe to Try:
Honey and Fennel Glazed Almonds
Created by: Almond Board of California
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups whole blanched or natural almonds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Stir in honey, water, salt and ginger. Stir in almonds and fennel, and remove from heat. Line a baking sheet with foil, and coat with cooking spray. Spread almonds onto foil, and bake 25 to 35 minutes, stirring once, until almonds are golden (cut one open to test). Transfer almonds on foil to a rack and cool completely. Loosen with a spatula and serve, or store airtight for up to 2 days.
Nutrition Information (per serving):
Total Fat: 17 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.6 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 11 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Cholesterol: 6 milligrams
Sodium: 292 milligrams