Snacking between meals has had a huge amount of bad press in recent years and is now seen as one of the cardinal sins in the nutritional stakes, alongside drinking fizzy drinks, eating fast food and deep frying things. While reaching for a chocolate bar, a slice of cake or a pack of crisps is obviously going to be bad news, snacks don't necessarily have to be bad for you though. While the obvious healthy choices are fruit or vegetables (carrot sticks, apple wedges, a bunch of grapes or even the newest fad of air-dried fruit pieces), I've always been a bit unsure about nuts - I know they are relatively high in calories and fats but I also know that in moderation, they are seen as a healthy option. I was therefore very interested when California Almonds got in touch with some hard facts about the possible health benefits of introducing nuts to the family's diet, alongside some mini snack packs of almonds and some cute snack tins.
Apparently, a new study - the first study of its kind investigating the effects of dietary change on digestive health and immune function in parent-child pairs - found that adding a moderate amount of almonds to the family diet (42 g/day of whole almonds or almond butter for parents, 14g/day for children) significantly improved overall diet quality. The health benefits of almonds have been well-established and they are recommended as a non-dairy protein source as part of a healthy dietary pattern, but due to their high content of fibre, vitamin E, unsaturated fats and flavonoids, almonds also offer potential for changing gut microbiota, which may in turn impact immunity, inflammation and general health.
As it was an American study, the results mentioned a Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score, which I was unfamiliar with - it is a U.S. standard measure of adherence to recommended dietary guidance, which should be comparable in other populations.
Key findings from the research show that :
· Adding almonds to the usual daily diet increased total Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores from below average to well above the U.S. national averages. In particular, parents and children increased their HEI component scores for total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids, while intake of empty calories decreased, suggesting that participants ate a healthier diet overall and replaced some of their empty calorie snacks with nutrient-rich almonds.
· Based upon dietary recall, when eating almonds, both parents and children consumed significantly more vitamin E and magnesium while maintaining the same calorie intake.
Although many commonly consumed snacks provide empty calories, the unique nutrient package in almonds makes them a nutrient-rich and satisfying snack. A 28g serving of almonds provides 160 calories with 6g of plant based protein, 4g of filling dietary fibre, 13g of good unsaturated fats and important vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, magnesium and potassium, which makes them an easy way for the entire family to snack smarter and improve their diets. I'm always on the lookout for guilt-free and diet-friendly snacking options so this is obviously great news !
Disclosure : I received some almonds and snack tins to encourage the Madhouse Family to get into healthy snacking.