Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

About The Buzz: Almonds Increase Overall Diet Quality, Reduce ‘Empty Calories’?

March 23, 2016

TheBUZZ Almonds Increase Overall Diet Quality, Reduce ‘Empty Calories’?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

New research shows that by eating almonds, parents and children increase their overall diet quality and eat fewer “empty calorie” foods.*

WHAT THIS MEANS

Adding almonds along with other nuts to the diets of parents and children may prove to be an excellent way to improve diets in adults and children alike. A new study, which included parent/child pairs, explored the relationship between almond intake and nutritional quality over a 6-week period.

For the study, parents were asked to eat 1.5 oz of almonds every day and feed their children 0.5 oz of almonds every day for 3 weeks. The almonds could be consumed as either a whole nut or as almond butter. Parents completed daily questionnaires for both themselves and their children to assess the difficulty of having their children eat the almonds each day. Stool and saliva samples were collected along with the dietary questionnaires to determine the impact of the almond intake on the health and nutritional quality of both the parents and children.

The results show that including almonds in the diet improved the overall diet quality of both the parents and children alike, without an increase in calories. Parents and children increased their Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores for total protein, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids and their intake of empty calories decreased. Salt intake also decreased, and fewer carbohydrates were consumed during the study.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage individuals to consume “a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.” Over the years, Americans’ intake of nuts and seeds has decreased in children between the ages of 2-6, while the intake of savory snacks has increased. This shift does not benefit children’s diet quality, as these savory snacks lack nutritional density, failing to provide protein, healthy fats, fiber and vitamins and minerals.

Replacing savory snacks with whole foods, such as nuts and seeds, can be an effective means of ensuring children and adults alike consume adequate amounts of fiber, healthy fats and protein. Whole foods, due to their fiber and/or protein content, can aid in the feeling of fullness to help reduce mindless snacking and overeating. Encouraging the intake of nuts, along with other whole foods like fruit and vegetables, may have numerous positive health benefits for children.

OUR ADVICE

Part of the reason almonds helped to improve parent/children diets was because almonds replaced less nutritious foods. Instead of munching on snacks that contain “empty calories,” or calories that offer no nutritional benefit, the parent/child pairs ate almonds. If you’re looking to improve your diet and eat more healthfully, be sure to incorporate nuts and seeds into your daily routine!

6 Ways to Add Nuts & Nut Butters to Foods You Already Enjoy

  1. Pair an banana or an apple with nut butter
  2. Sprinkle nuts on oatmeal, yogurt or cereal for added protein and fiber
  3. Add nuts to salads for an extra nutty crunch
  4. Spread almond butter on whole grain toast or crackers
  5. Dip carrots in peanut butter for a crunchy, nutty snack
  6. Try a baked sweet potato with almond butter and cinnamon

 

* Burns, Alyssa M. et al. Diet quality improves for parents and children when almonds are incorporated into their daily diet: a randomized, crossover study. Nutrition Research, 2015: 36(1), 80-89. View

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