We’ve heard there’s no magic pill to make us slim. But what about a nut? Quite possibly! According to the latest findings, almonds control blood sugar better than some diabetes meds — and as sugar improves, fat burns more readily. It has led a growing number of experts to recommend almonds for weight loss. “Getting blood sugar down brings down levels of insulin, a hormone that drives hunger, accelerates fat storage and blocks fat burning,” notes women’s health expert Emi Hosoda, MD, who shed 100 pounds herself. “For many of us, excess insulin can play a bigger role in weight gain than excess calories.” No wonder Arizona social worker Amy Sather says snacking on almonds was the most effective trick she used to get off diabetes meds and melt 217 pounds. Read on for more of her inspiring story — and to learn how to harness the power of almonds for weight loss yourself.
How Amy learned about almonds for weight loss
Amy, a former foster kid, was raising one daughter when she married her husband, Todd. The couple planned to grow their little family by fostering or adopting — and their dreams came true in a flash. They agreed to take sibling groups, and within two years, Amy found herself a mom of nine.
Amy felt beyond blessed. Yet at 389 lbs, she could barely keep up with the demands of her new life. “I needed to change, but I’d already tried every diet. If it was out there, I’d been on it,” she recalls. So instead of starting another plan like ones that had already failed, she decided to visit both a therapist and a nutritionist. The therapist began teaching her to cope with stress without bingeing; meanwhile, the nutritionist offered practical strategies to nourish and heal her body. For example, “I learned that protein and veggies keep me full longer and make me feel better, so I make better choices,” she shares. “I also learned to always carry almonds in my purse.”
Why experts recommend almonds
To help Amy break her fast-food habit, “I needed a snack I could carry with me, something I enjoyed and that filled me up enough to keep me from the drive-thru,” she says. “The nutritionist said almonds were perfect for someone with diabetes, which I’d had for 20 years.” (Click through for more healthy snacks for diabetes.)
Turns out, scientists recently tested almonds to see if the nuts might be a natural antidote for high blood sugar. They gave prediabetic test subjects regular “doses” of almonds and monitored the impact on sugar and insulin. The result? Almonds proved as effective as the diabetes drug acarbose. On top of that, the almond group “dropped over four times more weight than a group not given almonds,” notes Dr. Hosoda. The explanation? Dr. Hosoda says almonds help trigger very slimming biochemical changes inside us.
4 reasons to eat almonds for weight loss
1. Almonds downsize appetite
Dr. Hosoda explains that the mix of good fat, protein, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients in almonds “helps slow and flatten the spike in blood sugar after a meal.” And when blood sugar is well controlled, hunger and unhealthy cravings typically are too, says Dr. Hosoda. (Click through to learn about more slimming nutrients in almonds.)
On top of that, Australian researchers found that nutrients in almonds trigger the release of special peptides that make us feel ultra-satisfied and less interested in processed food. They say the effect is so potent, on days we eat almonds, we’ll automatically reduce intake of junk by about 371 calories.
Anytime hunger hit when Amy was out and about, she’d eat almonds and drink some water. “I found that 15 almonds really does hold me over.” But there was more to it than that: By the time Amy sat down to lunch or dinner after an almond snack, she noticed it became easier to make healthy choices and stick to healthy portions. “I didn’t need so much willpower anymore.”
Here’s a bonus for anyone feeling frazzled: One study found 4 weekly servings almonds provides enough brain-boosting good fat and antioxidants to improve mental sharpness by up to 52%.
2. Comfort cravings vanish
Of course, hunger isn’t the only reason we overeat. We often snack to distract ourselves from negative feelings. Can almonds help with that? Yes! A study in Nutrients found the nuts significantly reduce depression — likely because they “feed” bacteria in our digestive tract that release feel-good chemicals linked to happier moods.
For Amy’s part, she has made great strides with overcoming emotional eating. And while therapy played the biggest role, that was a big commitment. Eating almonds was an easy little thing she could do to help keep her progress on track.
3. ‘Sugar bellies’ flatten
Turns out, fat cells in our midsection have extra receptors that make it easy for insulin to store excess blood sugar as abdominal fat. The good news: When we eat almonds, and blood sugar and insulin drop, we’re not constantly storing sugar as belly fat anymore. And as insulin normalizes, it “unlocks” abdominal fat cells, allowing their contents to be burned off. In one study, almond eaters shrunk their waist 330% more than healthy eaters who skipped almonds.
Amy went from a size 32 to an 8 or 10, which means her waistbands are now about 23 inches smaller than they once were.
4. Fat finally lets go
Here’s one last super-interesting scientific finding: Studies show that as almonds lower insulin, they also prompt a 38.7% spike in a hormone called glucagon. And that’s a very good thing because one of glucagon’s main jobs is to release stored fat so it can be turned into energy. “Almonds aren’t just bringing sugar down,” says Dr. Hosoda. “They’re helping more fat burn.”
It’s a factor that likely gave Amy a nice boost. She settled into a rhythm of planning healthy meals, carrying almonds as snacks and having lots of active fun with family. Over the course of about five years, she was able to transform her body. Her doctor took her off three diabetes meds she’d taken for 20 years, and she shed a total of 217 pounds. And while she doesn’t give almonds total credit, “I found early in my journey that they really help with my sugar cravings, and that was a big factor in keeping me on track throughout my weight-loss journey,” she shares.
Now 49, Amy has been maintaining for a few years. “I did this so I could be more active with my kids, and that definitely happened. But it ended up being about so much more than that,” she reflects. “The more I was able to do with them, the more connected we felt and the more confidence we all seemed to have.”
Almonds may seem like a small thing, but they can have a huge impact. “You can’t beat almonds,” she says. “Just throw them in a bag and go. No prep, no condiments. They’re pretty cheap and hold up in hot weather. You can even get them in convenience stores in a pinch.” Best of all: “My whole family loves them!”
How to use almonds for weight loss and better blood sugar
Experts say almonds help kill hunger and burn a ‘sugar belly’ faster on any healthy eating plan. Dr. Hosoda’s favorite way to use them for optimal weight loss: Have a serving almonds (about 15 nuts) plus 8 oz. water 20- 30 minutes before big meals. Alternately, simply enjoy almonds with meals. We’ve got ideas below to inspire you. A free app like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal can help ensure you get just-right amounts of almonds and all foods. For more great info, follow @doctor.emi on TikTok.
Sample breakfast: Sweet Almond Yogurt
Jazz up 32 oz plain Greek yogurt with ⅛ tsp. almond extract and zero-sugar sweetener to taste; enjoy with toasted almonds.
Sample lunch: Souped-Up Soup
Make your healthy soup more filling and delish by topping with cooked chicken and a serving smoked almonds.
Sample dinner: Nut-Crusted Salmon
Mix ¼ cup sliced almonds, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. mustard, salt and dill to taste. Spread on salmon fillet; bake at 450ºF 12 minutes. Enjoy with veggies and optional brown rice.
Bonus recipe: Almond yum bars
This low-carb take on granola bars has a full serving of almonds in each treat and makes an ultra-satisfying snack or dessert
- 1¼ cups chopped almonds
- ⅓ cup allulose or zero-carb sweetener to taste
- ½ cup salted almond butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbs. chia seeds
- ¼ cup zero-sugar chocolate chips, optional
- Toast almonds on a baking sheet at 375ºF for 10 minutes.
- Mix allulose, nut butter and egg. Fold toasted almonds, chia and chocolate chips.
- Firmly press in a lined 8×8 pan. Bake at 350º until just set, 15 minutes. Cool. Slice.
Click through for more strategies that help improve blood sugar and fight diabetes:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.