Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Does It Matter if Almonds Now Contain Fewer Calories?

Image from Fooducate - one of my most favorite blogs!

Not sure if you caught the buzz on this, but according to a new study we've been measuring almond calories wrong for years.

So does it matter?

Depends. If you're aiming to ensure you hit at least a minimum number of calories per meal or snack - absolutely as if correct, you may be getting less than your aim (where hitting minimums may be part of a strategy to reduce hunger or to gain weight).

On the other hand, if your hunger is well managed and you're eating almonds as snacks - I certainly wouldn't take it upon yourself to up the number as despite the fact that each almond may have fewer calories than you thought, eating more of them will of course increase total calories.

And what if we're calculating the calories wrong in everything (which may in fact be what we're doing)? Well it'll certainly impact upon formal recommendations (including my own), but unless eating too few calories is your primary problem, it's nothing I'd lose sleep over.

My advice? 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.

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  1. Judy April RD8:59 am

    I have always wondered how calories are calculated in high fibre foods like beans.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size 1 cup (172.0 g)

    Calories 227
    Total Fat 0.9g
    Saturated Fat 0.2g
    Cholesterol 0mg
    Sodium 2mg
    Total Carbohydrates 40.8g
    Dietary Fiber 15.0g
    Protein 15.2g

    According to the formula we figure out calories by multiplying fat by 9 kcal/g and carbs and protein by 4 kcal/g...this works out to 232.1 kcals, which is close to the 227 kcals states as the calories in this cup of beans...BUT, my understanding is that we do not process the calories in fibre, which is included in the total carbohydrate amount. I would think that one would need to subtract the fibre from the total carbohydrates to figure out the actual calories consumed. (Just as when we teach people with diabetes how to count carbs, we always subtract the fibre from the total carbohydrates as it does not turn to sugar and does not require insulin to be processed.)

    This cup of beans would only have 164 kcals/cup if we subtract the fibre from the calorie formula verses the stated 227 kcals/cup. Sometimes I do have clients who look at the calories in a high fibre food and they have more calories than the low fibre foods. They find this confusing and may actually choose the lower fibre/?lower calorie? food.

  2. meredith @ceara_red8:39 pm

    i was thinking that i have been pretty satisfied eating two meals/day, which means i'm having no problem with my 1400 cal/day goal.

    but when i get up at 5 am, i have to add some kind of lunch in the middle of the day (to prevent hypoglycemia) and then, my calorie count shoots sky high (my boss takes me out to lunch)...which is great, but...

    i'm gonna gain weight when i'm still trying to lose some.

  3. I think the real question, though, isn't "Am I overestimating my calories?", but "Is our means of counting calories actually accurate?" I'vve read a study or two here or there (sorry, don't have links to back this up or to check the validity of the research process) that suggest that processed foods end up being more easily digested than whole foods, and, as a result, we get more calories from them than we do from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, etc. If that is the case, then almonds may have fewer calories than we initially thought, but the quarter pounder with cheese may have even more comparatively.

  4. The thing is that it's more about self control, I mean it's one thing to say "I'm happily satisfied" but another thing to stop eating when that happens. I know I sometimes eat stuff because It's there, not because I actually need it.

  5. Amanda8:21 am

    I loveee almonds. Am I killing myself by eating them so much? lol. I can eat around a half a cup, maybe a bit more. I don't eat any sugar or empty carbs (only super fibery rye/whole wheat breads I make myself). But I'm unsure if this too much of a good thing could be bad.