Washington, Feb 23: Eating a handful of almonds everyday can improve a person's diet quality which may have numerous lifelong health benefits, a new study suggests. Researchers from University of Florida in US conducted a study on 28 parent-child pairs.
The parents were instructed to eat 42 grammes of whole almonds each day during the three-week intervention portion of the research period, and the children were encouraged to eat 14 grammes of whole almonds or an equivalent amount of almond butter each day.
At the beginning of the 14-week research period the participants' average Healthy Eating Index scores were 53.7 for the parents as well as children.
The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA's) Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A score below 51 is reflective of a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 reflects a need for improvement and a score greater than 80 indicates a good diet.
After the almond intervention, the average Healthy Eating Index score for parents as well as children increased to an average 61.4.
They increased their Healthy Eating Index component scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories. Researchers believe the parents and children were replacing salty and processed snacks with almonds.
Over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds has decreased in children 3 to 6 years old, while the consumption of savoury snacks - like chips and pretzels - increased, researchers said.
They studied the addition of almonds into 3- to 6-year-old children's diets, because encouraging healthy eating habits during early childhood could have numerous lifelong benefits.
"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 is more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life," said Alyssa Burns from University of Florida.
"Some of the challenges that we saw were that the kids were getting bored with the almonds, or they did not like the taste of the almonds or the almond butter," said Burns.
To counter that, researchers came up with creative ways for the parents to incorporate the almonds into their children's diets - for instance, adding them to familiar foods like oatmeal, smoothies or sandwiches.
The results suggest whole food approaches, like adding almonds to one's diet, may be an achievable way to improve overall public health. "Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet can improve your overall diet quality," said Burns. The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition Research.