Almonds are a perennial favorite on healthy snack lists, but when you’re watching portion size carefully, a single serving can be depressingly small. And although we could munch the damn things all day long, most of us fear that we’re doing ourselves harm with the calorie- and fat-dense food. But a new study says we can be at least a little less concerned; apparently, almonds have less calories than we thought.
The study authors set out to determine whether the traditional measure of calories–called “Atwater factors”–might be inaccurate for certain food groups. To do so, they measured the “metabolizable energy content” of almonds by analyzing fecal matter, urine, and blood samples of study subjects who ate consistent, specifically set amounts of almonds. Their findings show that 30 almonds contain 165 calories, where Atwater factors said that only 23 almonds contain 165 calories.
Here’s an illustration from Fooducate Blog to demonstrate:
The difference isn’t vast, but it is enough to make us feel a little less guilty about that third handful we grab from our snack drawer for a late morning snack.
And the study findings are kind of encouraging in the way of other snacks, too. According to the paper:
This study provides evidence for the inaccuracies of the Atwater factors for certain applications and provides a rigorous method for determining empirically the energy value of individual foods within the context of a mixed diet.
So, in layman’s terms, some calorie counts might be off based on the most common estimates, which means almonds may not be the only thing we’re overestimating.
But this doesn’t mean we should go hog wild for almonds: If you’re trying to increase your calorie intake, or manage your hunger and metabolism through very specific serving sizes; fine. You should adjust your almond intake. But if you’re just eating a few as a snack until you feel satisfied, then don’t worry about it. As Yoni Freedhoff explained on his blog, Weighty Matters:
Aim for the smallest number of calories that leaves you happily satisfied, and if suddenly that number is in fact smaller than it was before, that won’t change the fact that you were already happily satisfied.