Food Reward Test: Almonds vs Almond Butter

Last October in the post High Satiety Paleo Friendly Foods?, I outlined my problem. Right before I go to bed is when I seem to be the most hungry. I seek out foods that are calorie dense that have high food reward. The two foods that I overeat are cheese and almond butter. If it is in the house, I’m going to eat them in excess. In a future post, I will do a follow up to the ideas from the comments in that post. For this post, I’m going to share my results from a test I did comparing the satiety of almond butter versus regular almonds.

In preparation for my last Hunting Headaches experiment, I had to give up fermented foods including dairy. I had already scaled back on dairy to a bare minimum, because prices for yogurt and cheese spiked. This meant for 3 weeks, my only trouble food was almond butter. I tried to control myself, but after 3 weeks, I had finished 3 jars of almond butter. At the end of the 3rd week, I switched to regular almonds. To make them more healthy, I soaked them Nourishing Traditions style.

Soaking raw almonds with a small amount of sea salt helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors present in the nuts. It makes them easier to digest.

For 3 weeks, my hand went into the almond jar whenever I wanted some nuts for snacking. At the end of 3 weeks, I had polished off 3 pounds of almonds. Now let us run the numbers.

  • Almond Butter: 4140 calories * 3 jars = 12,420 calories
  • Raw Almonds: 2576 calories * 3 pounds = 7,728 calories

I was able to reduce my calorie level by 4,692 calories over a 3 week period without increasing hunger. The raw nuts provided greater satiety per calorie. My brain clearly reacts differently to almond butter than raw almonds and the difference was substantial. I was able to consume two foods that were nutritionally equal that provided satiety at different caloric levels.

The difference between the almond butter and the raw almonds was much greater than I thought it would be. I wanted to learn more, so I went looking for more information and I found an excellent article titled Five Ways Eating Nuts Can Help You Lose Weight by Kevin Richardson. Go read the full article if this topic interests you. Actually the entire site is excellent. The paragraph I found most interesting was how chewing itself triggers the satiety.

A rather controlled clinical study found that chewing almonds 25 times (which is the average number for most people who eat almonds without trying to choke) elicits the strongest reduction in hunger and increased feeling of fullness two hours after eating, compared to chewing 10 or 40 times.[16] Which leads us to believe there is no need to exaggerate chewing in order to reap the appetite suppressing attributes of nuts since regular chewing seems to do the trick.

With almond butter, there is far less chewing and it takes more calories to reach satiety. This food reward theory has merit.

Comments

  1. Glenn Whitney says

    Very interesting Michael – thanks.

    Have you tried eating one or two tablespoons of coconut oil as a snack before bedtime? It works for me.

  2. Dan says

    Hey Michael,
    Timely article, my wife and I were just discussing food reward theory over our Sunday morning omellette and I opened up this post immediately after brekkie with our first cup of coffee. How do you eat your almond butter? Do you gobble it from a spoon? My wife likes to put some on cut apple pieces, and as a result doesn’t eat too much – when the apple is done so is the nut butter.

    BTW, we made “pecash” butter, using pecans and cashews prepared the nourishing traditions way. After soaking and drying, they went into the food processor. Boy if you think almond butter is good, you should try this!
    dan

  3. says

    @Dan – I was eating almond butter mostly straight up from the spoon, but occasionaly would add it to apple slices.

    Pecash sounds great, but I know myself and I’d eat the entire batch in days.

  4. says

    I’m not sure what it says about me that three jars in three weeks doesn’t sound excessive. Of course, if the jars in your neck of the woods are significantly larger than the ones I used to buy, it might be. At least you weren’t sprinkling in semi-sweet chocolate chips before you were spooning it out.

    When I went with whole almonds (also mixed with chocolate chips) I ate a large bag from Safeway every week. The problem I found with whole almonds is that I’d get them stuck in my gums. Maybe I wasn’t chewing enough? I never soaked them but the problem I have with nuts in general is the fibre disagrees with me, so I doubt soaking would make any difference. Still, it’s good to know about.

    I think I’m lucky I get my munchies first thing in the morning, and not at night.

  5. says

    @Anemone – Soaking would absolutely make their digestion easier. To what extent, only you can determine that.

    When I had 3 jars in 3 weeks, I was consciously limiting myself. I could have had double that. When I switched to raw almonds, I ate as much as I wanted.

  6. says

    How does soaking reduce the effects of fibre? I get indigestion from all fibre, and there’s a lot in nuts. The only thing I know that breaks it down is cooking.

    Where do people generally experience indigestion from nuts, that soaking helps? I did a quick search and people were talking about their stomachs, not their large intestines, but I didn’t look very far.

  7. says

    @Anemone – Sounds like you know more than me on this topic. All you can do is run your own tests. If soaking fails to help, convert those nuts into a nut butter.

  8. says

    I actually don’t know anything at all about what soaking does, which is why I asked. Sorry if I’m being difficult. I know I’m not supposed to eat them regardless. :p I was just curious.

  9. Matt says

    Wow! I have the same evening hunger and weakness. One point about almond butter vs almonds: Your body won’t extract all the calories out of the whole nuts unless you really pulverize them in your mouth – some undigested nuts always end up in your stool, as proof. Though perhaps soaking will eliminate this factor. The almond butter is obviously much more easily and likely completely digested. So the calorie difference is probably even more than what the book says about total calories.

  10. says

    @Matt – Excellent point. That is what Kevin Richardson’s article says too. He says “…cells that aren’t broken down from chewing may pass through our bodies without releasing the high calorie fats they contain.”

  11. Geoff says

    MAS – Might the next step in this experiment be to make a nut butter from the soaked nuts to test whether it’s the soaking that causes you to eat less?

  12. says

    @Geoff – I’m pretty sure it is the chewing. It might be fun to make my own almond butter, but right now I don’t own a working food processor.

  13. Kat says

    The question I have is… Are the almonds you are soaking truly RAW? There is a law that says all almonds sold in the US have to be pasteurized (unless you buy them direct from the farm… and they supposedly can’t be shipped).

    Years ago I was trying to be a raw food vegan and I tried soaking almonds. They never did sprout or act like they were coming alive, unlike say sunflower seeds. Then a friend told me about the law that almonds had to be pasteurized (cooked/killed).

    Here is a link to a website that explains the pasteurization requirements and they have a couple of links to buy raw almonds, but I see no raw almonds for sale at that link (I guess they were stopped from selling them): http://renegadehealth.com/blog/2011/03/30/yes-raw-almonds-still-arent-raw

    I found another link for raw almonds, but you have to go to their farm in Fresno, CA to pick them up. http://organicpastures.com/products_almonds.html

    If you or anyone has a source for truly RAW almonds, I’d like to know what it is.

    Thanks!

  14. says

    @Kat – I do not know if they are really raw. I try not to get too neurotic about food. I eat almonds to prevent myself from eating almond butter. For me it is about getting calories that fill me up.

  15. Jimmy Crackcorn says

    I have been told to eat almonds for heart health benefits, in particular, to raise HDL levels.

    I’m always busy, and if something isn’t easy for me to do, I just simply will not stick with it.

    Eating a bunch of raw almonds is just not something I am going to do. They’re too crunchy and chewy. I don’t like that.

    But, getting a bottle of raw almond butter at the store, and then simply taking out a tablespoon of it and eating it once per day for health benefits is more up my alley. That’s something I am willing and able to do every day. And it works. My HDL has risen from the low 30s to the upper 50s. Not bad!

    It wasn’t just almond butter alone that did that. I also started drinking a small glass of unsweetened coconut milk each day, and eating a tablespoon of avocado oil each day.

    I personally don’t like any of these foods. I just treat them as medicine.

    I also eat a small can of tomato paste each day. Just open it up and dip a spoon in there and eat it.

    None of these foods have any added salt or added sugar.

    They’re good for you, but they’re not very tasty.

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