By Sean Zucker –
It’s no secret that almonds flirt with the title of superfood. In fact, WebMD claims that eating only a small amount of nuts each day can significantly improve blood sugar, enhance gut health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and strengthen bones, while also providing essential nutrients like magnesium, vitamin E and fiber. Now, new research is suggesting that the practice may help encourage weight loss as well.
A new study out of Australia found that snacking on almonds can help support weight loss.
Led by researchers from the University of South Australia, a team of scientists compared the effects of diets supplemented with almonds to those supplemented with carbohydrate-rich snacks. In what is described as the largest study of its kind, 140 men and women, between 24 and 65, with a preexisting body mass index (BMI) that signified they were overweight or obese.
The snack’s impact on weight loss was determined by placing participants in one of two groups. One group was given an almond-filled diet, while the others avoided the nut altogether. Those in the nutty group were assigned a daily diet that included exactly 15 percent of their calories coming from unsalted and whole California almonds. The second group supplemented this degree of calorie intake with some form of carbohydrate-rich foods such as rice crackers or fruit cereal bars.
“In this study, we examined the effects of an almond-supplemented diet with a nut-free diet to identify any influence on weight and cardiometabolic outcomes,” University of South Australia researcher and coauthor of the study Dr. Sharayah Carter.
After the testing period, researchers measured everyone’s weight change or lack thereof. They also analyzed body composition, waist circumference and total energy expenditure. On the surface, both groups saw a similar weight loss trend of around 15 pounds on average. However, the almond-fed crew saw greater improvements in certain lipoprotein subfractions, including small LDL-P, which is linked with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Both the nut and nut-free diets resulted in approximately 9.3 percent reduction in body weight over the trial. Yet the almond-supplemented diets also demonstrated statistically significant changes in some highly atherogenic lipoprotein subfractions, which may lead to improved cardiometabolic health in the longer term,” Carter added. “Additionally, nuts have the added benefit of making you feel fuller for longer, which is always a pro when you’re trying to manage your weight.”
She went on to note that while the popular notion of almonds containing high fat is accurate, it doesn’t tell the full story. “Nuts, like almonds, are a great snack. They’re high in protein, fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals but they also have a high fat content which people can associate with increased body weight,” Carter explained. “Nuts contain unsaturated fats–or healthy fats–which can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation and contribute to a healthy heart.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 650 million people worldwide are obese, a number that has nearly tripled since 1975. Additionally, almost 2 billion individuals are overweight across the globe. WHO adds that high BMI is a major risk factor for several non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis and even some cancers. The organization recommends combating weight gain by regularly engaging in physical activity, limiting fat or sugar intake and increasing the consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and unsurprisingly, nuts.