Study Provides New Way to Measure Calories Using Whole Almonds

Good news for calorie counters: Measuring digestibility, researchers find almonds provide 20% fewer calories than food labels state.

A study conducted by USDA scientists and released in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides a new understanding of almonds’ calorie count, showing that whole almonds provide about 20% fewer calories than originally thought.

At first glance, the study results beg the question, How can a food’s calorie count suddenly change when the composition of the food itself hasn’t?

The answer is that David Baer, Ph.D., and his team from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service used a new method of measuring the calories in almonds, which built on traditional methods and allowed the researchers to determine the number of calories digested and absorbed from almonds. Resulting data showed a 1-ounce serving of almonds (about 23 almonds) has 129 calories versus the 160 calories currently listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The results may have implications for certain other foods as well.

The new study’s results support previous research indicating that the fat in almonds is not absorbed as easily as the fat in most other foods, due to almonds’ natural cellular structure. This implies that traditional methods of calculating calories overstate those calories coming from almonds because they do not account for the fact that fat digestibility from nuts is less than that from other foods.

The news is getting notable media attention, with stories running on National Public Radio, CBS and the United Press International wire service as well as in Food Navigator, Food Product Design, the Huffington Post, “Hungry Girl,” “Fooducate,” the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald and many more media outlets.

More information about the study is available on the Almond Board website.

Good news about almonds and heart health: Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat.