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A handful of almonds could be all it takes to improve your dietary health, new research suggests.
A study out of the University of Florida found that daily almond consumption is associated with higher-quality diets that involve more protein and fewer empty calories. The results were recently published in the journal Nutrition Research.
The study participants were parent-child pairs. The parents were instructed to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds every day, while the children were encouraged to eat half an ounce of almonds or almond butter every day.
According to the Almond Board of California, about 23 whole almonds — enough to fill a quarter-cup — constitutes 1 ounce.
The UF researchers evaluated the almonds’ effect on the participants’ diets based on their Healthy Eating Index scores before and after the “almond intervention.”
The Healthy Eating Index measures the quality of a person’s diet by comparing it with the federal government’s recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Scores of 50 or lower reflect a poor diet.
- Scores of 51 to 80 reflect a need for improvement.
- Scores of 81 or higher reflect a good diet.
After a three-week period of daily almond consumption, the UF study participants’ Healthy Eating Index scores increased from 53.7 to 61.4, on average. Specifically, their score for protein foods increased and they consumed fewer empty calories.
The researchers believe that’s because the participants replaced salty and processed snack foods with the almonds, according to Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who conducted the study.
Over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds has decreased in children ages 3 to 6 years old, while the consumption of savory snacks like chips and pretzels has increased, according to UF. The researchers also wanted to study how the addition of almonds would affect the diets of preschool-age children because food preferences are developed at that age.
“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.”
Some of the children who participated in the study got bored with the almonds or disliked the taste of almonds or almond butter, but researchers helped parents counter those obstacles by incorporating almonds into foods their children are familiar with.
What’s your take? Would you start eating more almonds in hopes of improving your diet quality? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.