Almonds and other nuts are super high in calories—or are they? According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, almonds actually supply about 25 percent fewer calories than previously thought—130 per ounce rather than 170 as listed on packages. Typically, food companies calculate calories using a standard formula, but this method apparently overestimates calories in nuts, in particular.
In the study, people ate three different “almond” diets for 18 days each: 1½ ounces of almonds a day, 3 ounces a day or none. Analyses of stool samples during each phase showed that a fair amount of the fat, carbohydrates and protein in the almonds passed through the intestines undigested—and thus not all their energy (calories) was absorbed. This helps explain why studies have found that nut eaters tend not to gain weight (and often even lose weight) when nuts are eaten in place of carbohydrate-rich foods.
The study was supported by the Almond Board of California. Other nuts, as well as peanuts (technically legumes), probably have similar effects, at least to some extent, the researchers said, casting doubt on the accuracy of all nut labels. A previous USDA study found that pistachios have 5 percent fewer calories than what’s typically stated on labels.
Calorie counts listed on slivered or chopped nuts and nut butters are likely more accurate than those for whole nuts. The smaller the particles, the greater their digestibility and thus the more calories (and nutrients) you absorb. Similarly, the more you chew your nuts, the more of their fat (and nutrients) you will absorb.
Bottom line: Even at only 130 calories an ounce—which is just a small handful— almonds and other nuts are still calorie-dense foods that you should eat in moderation.