According to researchers at Loma Linda University in California, when individuals added almonds as a snack to their regular diet, their overall intake of several important nutrients increased.
The findings indicate that incorporating almonds into a diet may promote the natural displacement of less nutrient-dense foods, making the overall diet better.
For one year, researchers followed 81 men and women, ranging in age from 25 to 70 years old, to evaluate the long-term impact of a diet supplemented with almonds. During the first six months, patients in the study followed their standard diet. For the next six months, they added an average of 52g of almonds per day (approximately two 1-ounce handfuls) to their routine.
After incorporating almonds into their diets, patients demonstrated a significant increase in their intake of several nutrients, including monounsaturated fats (42%), polyunsaturated fats (24%), dietary fiber (12%), vegetable protein (19%), alpha-tocopherol vitamin E (66%), magnesium (23%) and copper (15%). Meanwhile, researchers found a decrease in patients' intake of trans fats (14%), sodium (21%), cholesterol (17%) and sugars (13%).
These findings are particularly timely, as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released its report on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. In the report, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber were each identified as nutrients that are currently not adequately consumed. Meanwhile, the committee also called for low intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
"The changes we saw in nutrient intake are consistent with the dietary recommendations experts make to reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, including recommendations recently set forth by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee," said Karen Jaceldo-Siegl of Loma Linda University, the study's lead researcher. "We found that those who ate almonds tend to naturally balance their calorie intake. So, even though they were introducing an additional food into their repertoire, they were making appropriate dietary substitutions, so there was not a significant change in body weight."
Researchers also noted that, not only did the nutrient profile of the almond-supplemented diet meet dietary recommendations, but it was also well above the average nutrient intake of the general population.
"This study demonstrates that consumers can get a real nutrient boost from incorporating a nutrient-rich snack like almonds into their daily routine," said Elizabeth M. Ward, a registered dietitian. "We've known almonds are a delicious, crunchy and satisfying snack. Now, we know they can also help deliver important nutrients our bodies need, and that experts recommend."
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study "Long-term almond supplementation without advice on food replacement induces favorable nutrient modifications to the habitual diets of free-living individuals" was authored by Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, Joan Sabate, Sujatha Rajaram and Gary E. Fraser.
The objective of the study was to identify the impact of almond supplementation on nutrient profile and nutrient displacement of an almond supplemented habitual diet. All subjects were followed for 12 months. The first six months was the controlled diet period, where all subjects followed their habitual, self-selected diet. The second six months involved the intervention, where subjects consumed a daily allowance of almonds.
The results showed that a daily supplement of almonds can induce favorable nutrient modifications for chronic disease prevention to an individual's habitual diet.