We all know that nuts are good for us. Packed with magnesium and calcium, so long as they're not honey-roasted, chocolate-coated, or from a possibly urine-tainted bowl on the side of a bar, nuts can be counted on as the go-to healthy snack.
But new research suggests that nuts may be even better for us than previously thought. According to a study carried out by the University of Florida's Food Science and Nutrition department, incorporating just a couple of almonds into children's diets could stop them from gorging on unhealthy snacks later on in life.
Published in the Journal of Nutrition, the study saw researchers collect data from 28 parent-child pairs over a period of 14 weeks. They began by rating each pair's eating habits by the US Department of Agriculture's Healthy Eating Index, which assesses how closely a person's diet quality aligns with national guidelines. Those with a rating of below 51 are considered to be eating a "bad" diet, while 51 to 80 shows a need for improvement and anything above 80 is "good."
The Florida researchers found that their parent-child participants scored an average rating of 53.7. After capturing this information, they incorporated almonds into the pairs' daily diet. Parents were told to eat 1.5 ounces of the nut while children ate half an ounce—around ten almonds—or an equivalent portion of almond butter each day.
After three weeks, the researchers rated the parent-child pairs' diets again, using the same Healthy Eating Index. The result? The almond intervention had increased their rating to an average of 61.4, well on the way to that golden 80.
Study co-author Alyssa Burns from the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department said that this switch to healthy snacking could positively impact children's diets as they develop. She 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."
Indeed the study stated that the number of US children between the ages of three and six eating nuts and seeds had decreased in the past 20 years, while consumption unhealthy snacks like pretzels and chips had risen. So too, has childhood obesity.
Of course, warding off afternoon hunger pangs with almonds, instead of crisps makes nutritional sense. As the study noted, almonds contain high levels of protein, making participants were less likely to crave salty, processed snacks.
So, almonds are great for kids and adults alike. Let's just not go overboard and start feeding babies almond milk.