It Turns out Nuts Aren’t as Calorie Dense as You Might Think

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Nuts are known to be good for you; they’re and a great way to settle your appetite before a meal if you’re worried about over-partaking.

But for some reason, in the circles of people looking to lose inches or drop pounds, they can be an automatic nope.

They have a lot of calories, right? Like, way too many to justify in such a small handful.

It turns out that for the past several years, research has been trickling in that confirms the calorie content in whole nuts is lower than we’ve previously thought.


The reason? Older calorie calculations were based on the idea that the body gets 9 usable calories out of each gram of fat in our food, 4 calories out of each gram of protein, and so on – but over the years, scientists have realized that our bodies digest varying types of food in different ways. They’re starting to make adjustments to their calorie calculations as a result, and nuts are coming out on the winning end.

To understand why nuts aren’t as calorie dense as expected, we’re going to have to go into a kinda gross experiment.

Nuts are plants, which means they are made of cells that have cell walls (animal cells don’t have cell walls). The cell walls in nuts are extra tough (crunchy, yum!), which means that when you eat a whole nut, some of the nutrients (including fats) get trapped inside and aren’t digested.


To quantify exactly what wasn’t getting digested, researchers from the USDA did an experiment. First, they set a diet up for people. Then they dried and burned the exact same food the people were eating to count the calories (a calorie is just an amount of energy and can be measured by being burnt). Once they had their baseline caloric count, they went through subjects’ poo to figure out how many calories from their food had remained undigested on the other end.

So many people are out there, doing their part and sacrificing their dignity for science. We should all give them more collective thank yous because ick.

Here’s what we know. Cashews have 16% fewer calories than previously thought, walnuts come in at 21% lower, and almonds contain 32% fewer calories.

To be clear, this only goes for whole nuts – nut butters or other ground nut products are pretty much digested for the entirety of the the nutrients they start with, since the cell walls have already been broken down.

Though the science behind the calorie reductions is accepted, not many foods have begun to change their labels accordingly – though KIND has started dropping the calories on their bars, they’re definitely one of the first.

So, if you’re watching your calories and want to indulge in some nuts, add a couple more to your handful. You might not be 100% sure on how many calories you’re eating, but hey. Bodies are so different that counting them has never been an exact science, anyway.

Crunch away, my friends!