Why you won’t get much protein from nuts

“Almonds are a rich source or protein”. I noticed this shamelessly misleading statement on the back of a granola box this morning.

The question is, compared to what?

Well, as an example, let’s compare almonds to potatoes and sirloin steak:

Almonds have around 21g of total protein per 100g, or 3.6g per 100 Calories (nuts have high calorie density).

Potatoes have around 1.8g of total protein per 100g, or 2.2g per 100 Calories (potatoes have low calorie density).

Sirloin Steak has around 24g or total protein per 100g, or 11.5g per 100 Calories (sirloin steak has moderate calorie density).

If you only consider total protein per unit mass of food, almonds appear to be rich in protein (12x richer than potatoes, and only 12% poorer than sirloin steak).

But we don’t measure food intake by mass, we measure it by energy (Calories). And when you consider total protein per Calorie, almonds start to look significantly less protein rich (only 60% richer than potatoes, and 70% poorer than sirloin steak).

And we can’t stop there. Because we should acknowledge that the protein in almonds is poorer in quality and less bioavailable than the protein in both potatoes and beef. We have objective data for this – the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is 1.0 for beef, 0.99 for potatoes, and only 0.39 for almonds.

So, when we look at the detail (something food companies never expect us to do), almonds are not such a rich source of protein. In fact, they’re probably no more protein rich than potatoes (which we certainly don’t consider a protein rich food), and they’re a long way from delivering the quantity and quality of protein in steak (or any other animal food for that matter).

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