In the realm of weight loss, nuts have often been unfairly maligned due to their high-fat content. New research from the University of South Australia is challenging these misconceptions by demonstrating that almonds can play a significant role in helping individuals shed unwanted pounds while simultaneously improving their cardiometabolic health.
In what is hailed as the largest study of its kind, researchers have unveiled compelling evidence that incorporating almonds into an energy-restricted diet not only facilitates weight loss but also enhances overall cardiometabolic well-being.
The study, published in the Obesity Society’s research journal Obesity, compared the effects of energy-restricted diets supplemented with Californian almonds to carbohydrate-rich snacks. The researchers uncovered that both dietary approaches led to a noteworthy reduction in body weight, averaging around 15.4 pounds.
Supporting a healthy diet
Globally, the staggering statistic of over 1.9 billion adults grappling with excess weight, including 650 million individuals with obesity, underscores the urgency of effective weight management strategies. In Australia, where the research took place, the prevalence of overweight or obese adults is alarmingly high, with two out of three people—approximately 12.5 million adults—facing this health challenge.
Sharayah Carter, PhD, a researcher at the University of South Australia, asserts that this study serves as a compelling testament to the role of nuts, such as almonds, in supporting a healthy diet for weight management and cardiometabolic health.
“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 said in a statement.
“Nuts contain unsaturated fats—or healthy fats—which can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, and contribute to a healthy heart,” Carter added.
Are almonds good for weight loss?
In this comprehensive study, researchers meticulously analyzed the impact of an almond-supplemented diet against a nut-free diet to assess their influence on weight and cardiometabolic outcomes.
The study involved 106 participants who completed a nine-month eating program consisting of a three-month energy-restricted diet for weight loss, followed by a six-month energy-controlled diet for weight maintenance.
In both phases, 15 percent of participants’ energy intake comprised unsalted whole almonds with skins for the nut diet, while the nut-free diet included 15 percent carbohydrate-rich snacks such as rice crackers or baked cereal bars.
The results were striking, as both diets resulted in an approximate 9.3 percent reduction in body weight over the duration of the trial.
However, the almond-supplemented diets also demonstrated statistically significant changes in certain highly atherogenic lipoprotein subfractions, indicating potential long-term improvements in cardiometabolic health.
Furthermore, almonds offer the added benefit of promoting a prolonged feeling of fullness, a valuable asset in the quest for effective weight management.
These findings provide compelling evidence that dietitians and nutritionists can confidently recommend almonds as an integral component of a balanced weight loss diet, offering hope and a promising solution to the global obesity crisis.
Almonds for exercise recovery
In addition to aiding in weight loss and management, almonds have also been found to be a beneficial workout recovery food. In a study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers found that eating almonds increases the level of a particular exercise recovery molecule by 69 percent.
The randomized controlled trial showed that female and male participants who ate 57 grams of almonds daily for one month had more of the beneficial fat called 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-DiHOME) in their blood immediately after a session of intense exercise than control participants.
This molecule, a so-called oxidized fat, is synthesized from linoleic acid by brown fat tissue and has a beneficial effect on metabolic health and energy regulation.
“We conclude that almonds provide a unique and complex nutrient and polyphenol mixture that may support metabolic recovery from stressful levels of exercise,” corresponding author Dr David C Nieman said in a statement.
“Almonds have high amounts of protein, healthy types of fats, vitamin E, minerals, and fiber. And the brown skin of almonds contains polyphenols that end up in the large intestine and help control inflammation and oxidative stress.”