Beware of the almond

Posted on May 12, 2011

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Somehow almonds have become a food that’s on everyone’s list of things to eat when dieting.

The most recurring arguments people, or the media, use for their inclusion are: They have a good amount of protein, they have the good type of fat in them, they’re a good source of Vitamin E, they’re just overall healthy.

One by one, the “benefits” of almonds:

First off, the nutrition facts of almonds: one serving size, which is typically an ounce or roughly 23 individual almonds, consists of

  • 160 calories,
  • 14 grams of fat,
  • 6 grams of carbs
  • and 6 grams of protein…

Any food that has over twice as much fat in it than protein is not a “protein rich” food. It is a fat rich food. Any food where the amount of protein comprises only 15% of the total calories is not a protein rich food either. In summary, almonds suck as a source of protein.

Secondly, while almonds are predominantly full of unsaturated fat, that doesn’t mean it’s the good type of fat. We get plenty of unsaturated fat in our diets. However, we get it in the form of omega 6 fats. Omega 3’s are what most people are lacking.  Any guess which type of omega fats almonds consist of? Omega 6 for the win! Eating almonds is actually increasing the disproportional ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats most people already have.

Thirdly, how many people do you hear of with a Vitamin E deficiency? I’m guessing none. Secondly, a little research tells you Vitamin E deficiency is almost never caused by poor diet. In fact, that’s the third line in its Wikipedia entry.

(The research paper the wiki article is referencing can be found here for those interested: http://www.fasebj.org/content/13/10/1145.long .)

Lastly, you know what’s healthy? Not being overweight. What do almonds do? Help you be overweight.

Any type of nut or oil is extremely calorie dense. Eating a good amount of calorie dense foods is just about never a good idea when trying to lose weight. In other words, eating foods that take 5 seconds to eat and have a crapload of calories is a surefire way to overeat.

I can tell you back when I was playing football and trying to gain weight, I used to constantly eat peanuts, almonds, cashews. It is extremely easy to mindlessly eat handfuls of nuts throughout the day, which would help me add 500-1000 calories a day no problem. I would also throw olive oil, peanut butter, flax oil, into protein shakes. Another easy way to add calories.

I bring this up because I see people who are trying to lose weight think they’re doing a great thing adjusting their snacking by substituting, say, potato chips for almonds. When in reality yes, it’s probably healthier to eat the almonds than the chips, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Unless you are in a caloric deficit you are not going to lose weight. So, substituting one calorically dense food for another is not helping in this department.

One could actually make a very good argument almonds are an unhealthy food. Because if something is causing you to be overweight, then it doesn’t matter how many vitamins or benefits it’s purported to have.  I’ll take a 6 foot 180lb male who never touches almonds over a 6 foot 300lb male who eats a can a day.

Remember, 30 almonds will get you about 200 calories. Count how many are in your hand the next time you have some, and think about how many handfuls you typically have.

You want to be healthy? Ditch the almonds; lose the weight.

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Posted in: Losing weight