Many of us struggle to maintain a balanced diet. We long to lose weight and stay trim – but can’t seem to put down the chips or cookies.
But now, a new study revealed that all we need to do is swap those unhealthy snacks for almonds.
Eating a handful of almonds a day replaces those empty calories, while decreasing a person’s salt intake and increasing their protein, according to University of Florida scientists.
The findings suggest that incorporating almonds into a person’s diet could improve overall health.
The team of researchers set out to study the effect that the addition of almonds can have on a person’s diet.
They analyzed data collected from 28 parent-child pairs in North Central Florida.
For three weeks, the parent participants ate 1.5 ounces of whole almonds each day.
Similarly, the children ate half an ounce of whole almonds – or the equivalent amount of almond butter – each day.
At the beginning of the study, the scientists measured the participating parents and children’s Healthy Eating Index, which is a measurement of diet quality.
The Healthy Eating Index assesses a person’s adherence to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
A score under 51 indicates a poor diet, while a score between 51 and 80 shows a need for improvement, and a score over 80 reflects a healthy diet.
The parents’ average score at the beginning of the 14-week period was 53.7 (plus or minus 1.8), while the children’s were 53.7 (plus or minus 2.6).
However, after the almond intervention the Healthy Eating Index score for both parents and children increased.
The parents’ average rose to 61.4 (plus or minus 1.4), while the children’s average increased to 61.4 (plus or minus 2.2).
All participants also increased their component scores for protein foods.
Furthermore, they decreased their intake of empty calories.
The scientists believe that the participants were replacing salty and processed snacks with almonds.
They noted that over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds decreased in children between the ages of 3 and 6 – while consumption of chips, pretzels and other savory snacks increased.
As a result, the scientists were most interested on seeing the impact of adding almonds into young children s’ diets.
Study author Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in food science and human nutrition, said: ‘The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child’s diet, it’s more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life.’
The researchers also honed in on how easy or difficult it was to incorporate almonds into those children’s’ diet, since it’s an age when food preferences are developed.
Ms Burns said: ‘Some of the challenges that we saw were that the kids were getting bored with the almonds, or they didn’t like the taste of the almond or almond butter.’
And so, the study suggests that parents incorporate almonds into their children’s diets in creative ways – such as adding them to familiar foods, such as oatmeal or sandwiches.
The study also found that such whole food approaches are important for a person’s health.
Ms Burns added: ‘Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet can improve your overall diet quality.’