When you’re trying to lose weight, finding a healthy snack to complement your efforts can be a lot like shedding those pesky pounds — difficult! You need to be able to quell cravings when they arise, but you don’t want to offset your progress. Chips and cookies are off the menu, but what about nuts? Are almonds good for weight loss? While it’s true that most nuts have high fat content, a growing body of evidence suggests that certain types can help you lose weight and keep it off. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of South Australia finds that almonds are especially beneficial (details below). The researchers say that eating almonds “may lead to improved cardiometabolic health…[and make] you feel fuller longer, which is always a pro when you’re trying to manage weight.”
So, the big question is are almonds good for weight loss? If they are, why? And, how much should you eat? We connected with several experts to answer these and other related questions.
The study mentioned above compared the likelihood of weight loss in two groups over 9 months. The first group ate a nut-free diet, while the second group ate an almond-supplemented diet, to identify “any influence on weight and cardiometabolic outcomes.”
Scientists found that both groups experienced a 9.3% reduction in body weight, but participants who ate the almond-supplemented diet experienced other benefits, including improved cholesterol levels and reduced inflammation.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found similar results. In that study, 95 overweight men and women already on weight-loss plans were split into two groups. One group was asked to eat 1.5 ounces of nuts whenever they craved a snack, while the other group ate the same amount of pretzels. Each group stuck to their snack plan for 24 weeks. At the end of the study, both groups lost weight, but those who ate tree nuts (such as almonds) said they felt more satiated and were able to maintain their weight loss better.
How almonds contribute to weight loss
Both sets of results are impressive, but what is it about tree nuts, and almonds, in particular, that promote weight loss?
“Almonds are packed with healthy fat, fiber and plant-based protein,” says Melina Jampolis, MD, PNS, a physician nutrition specialist and the host of the Practically Healthy By Dr. Melina podcast. “All of which can help keep you fuller longer than just eating carbohydrates by themselves.”
Yelena Wheeler, RDN, a registered dietitian with the National Coalition On Health Care (NCHC) agrees, noting that fiber and protein help slow digestion and prevent overeating. “This combination also prevents blood sugar spikes, which tend to increase appetite and cravings.”
Pretty amazing, right? But that isn’t all that almonds have to offer.
Almonds boast slimming nutrients
Wheeler says almonds are nutrient powerhouses, containing various vitamins and minerals proven to support healthy weight. Some of the most notable include:
Zinc is a mineral best known for its immune-boosting powers, but it also plays a crucial role in metabolic function. When your metabolism fires on all cylinders, it’s easier to burn calories and lose weight, but if it’s too slow, you may gain weight. That’s where zinc comes into play. Researchers have confirmed that zinc supplementation improves body weight and body mass index, so it’s safe to assume that the zinc in almonds may have similar effects.
Remember how Wheeler said that almonds help prevent blood sugar spikes? This in part, can be attributed to magnesium. “Magnesium modulates metabolic pathways within fat distribution and assists with maintaining healthy blood glucose (sugar),” she explains. “Staying within the healthy blood sugar range prevents spikes that can lead to overeating.”
Vitamin E is found in a variety of plants, but almonds are especially rich in it. Consider that just one ounce (about 1/4 cup) of almonds, contains 50% of the recommended daily value for vitamin E. This nutrient plays various roles but primarily works as an antioxidant, tracking down and eliminating free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and disease). Because excess weight causes inflammation and increases the amount of free radicals in the body, almonds may help counteract these effects.
The human body contains more calcium than any other mineral. Though typically associated with tooth and bone health, calcium also provides weight-loss benefits. That’s because it helps regulate how your body processes and stores fat. Considering that almonds are one of the highest nondairy sources of calcium, it makes sense to eat them if you want to lose weight.
Who should consider eating almonds for weight loss?
Anyone who wants to maintain or lose weight can benefit from eating almonds, but Dr. Jampolis says they’re even more advantageous if you have high cholesterol, heart disease or a condition that causes your blood sugar to fluctuate.
“[Almonds] may be especially helpful for weight loss in people with prediabetes or diabetes, as they help keep blood sugar more stable,” she explains. “This can help with both appetite control and decreasing the amount insulin that the body releases, which could make it easier for your body to burn fat for fuel.”
“Almonds can be part of a healthy weight-loss diet and also improve cardiometabolic risk factors,” says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Preventive Cardiology Dietitian at EntirelyNourished. “However, it’s important to note that not just one food will facilitate weight loss and boost heart health, but rather the totality of the diet itself.” In other words, almonds can support your efforts to slim down, but your diet as a whole is key.
How many almonds to eat
Now that you know almonds are a superfood, you’re probably wondering how many you can eat to reap their weight-loss benefits. Although everyone has unique dietary needs, Dr. Jampolis says the amount in the Australian study “was equal to about ¼ cup for the average woman trying to lose weight (or about 200 calories).”
Still, she says there’s something to keep in mind: “Nuts are a lower volume/higher calorie density food due to their high-fat content, she notes. “They take up less room in your stomach for an equal amount of calories, and you can also eat them more quickly compared to 200 calories of an average carbohydrate-based snack.”
As a result, Dr. Jampolis recommends pairing almonds (or any tree nut) “with a higher volume food like fruit, so you benefit from both the filling nature of the nuts due to the fat, fiber and protein, and the filling aspect of foods that contain more water, like fruit, vegetables or even low-fat Greek yogurt.”
One caveat: “If you’re more petite or have less weight to lose, I recommend the 100-calorie packs of nuts,” Dr. Jampolis says. “Especially if you’re combining them with a small piece of fruit or a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt. If you don’t want to spend the money on single packs, you can measure out ¼ cup of almonds and divide it in two.”
Yes. “While almonds are nutritious, moderation is key,” says Taylor Wallace, PhD, a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University and the CEO of Think Healthy Group. “Eating excessive amounts can contribute to an excess calorie intake, potentially hindering your weight-loss goals.”
What to look for when shopping for almonds
Dr. Wallace says there are many reputable almond brands, but it’s important to do your research. “Look for those that offer raw or dry-roasted, unsalted almonds,” he says. “These are generally the healthiest option and don’t contain added sugars or excessive salt.” If you want to get more bang for your buck, most groceries and health food stores have bulk bins. You can easily find raw, unsalted almonds there.
Tree nuts, like almonds are safe for most folks, but not everyone. “For individuals with tree nut allergies or sensitivities to high-fat foods, consuming almonds may pose risks, such as severe allergic reactions or digestive discomfort,” Routhenstein explains. “Additionally, those prone to calcium oxalate stones (kidney stones) should moderate almond intake, due to their oxalate content, which may contribute to stone formation.”
You may also want to avoid almonds if you take a blood-thinning medication like Warfarin or Coumadin. Routhenstein says almonds contain vitamin K, which can impact the efficacy of these medications.
“I’ve been recommending nuts as snacks for over 20 years in my weight-loss program and all my books,” Dr. Jampolis says. “I think [the aforementioned studies are] very important and can help guide people who may still believe that fat is bad for a weight-loss diet.”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
For more healthy snacks, keep reading!