A new study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a mid-morning snack of almonds helped control appetite and resulted in reduced calorie intake by the participants, 32 healthy women, during the rest of the day. The study suggests that almonds may be a smart snack option given they acutely enhanced satiety, the feeling of fullness, without increasing total daily calorie consumption.
Given that snacking has become nearly universal behavior, with an estimated 97% of Americans reporting snacking at least once a day, combined with persistently high obesity rates, identifying nutrient-rich snack options that pose little risk for weight gain is of growing importance.
This is the first study to examine short-term changes in eating behavior when eating almonds as a mid-morning snack. The researchers investigated the effects of two different portion sizes of almonds as a mid-morning snack on satiety and energy intake, in comparison to having no snack. The study had a randomized crossover design, meaning that each participant completed all three interventions – no almonds, 1 ounce almonds and 1.5 ounces almonds. Despite eating approximately 170 or 260 calories (~1-1.5 1 oz. servings) from almonds as a mid-morning snack (depending on portion), there were no significant differences in total daily energy intake between any of the groups, indicating that participants compensated for the almond calories consumed, whether they had one or 1.5 servings of almonds as the mid-morning snack.
“We expected whole almonds to be a food that provides satiety because of their combination of protein, fiber and good fats,” said Sarah Hull, MS, lead researcher of the study. “However, it was interesting to see the mid-morning snack provided a long-lasting effect on appetite at dinner, not only at lunchtime.”
During the study, participants completed baseline appetite ratings, and then were given their usual breakfast. The same breakfast was given to each participant on all three test days, ensuring that all participants felt their typical level of fullness after breakfast. They were then given a mid-morning snack of either 1 or 1.5 ounces of almonds or no snack. Participants were fed lunch midday and permitted to eat as much as they wanted until they were comfortably full. Appetite ratings were then assessed every 30 minutes until dinner and again participants were instructed to eat as much as they wanted, until comfortably full. Ratings of appetite and fullness were dose-dependent, with participants reporting being the least hungry when eating 1.5 ounces of almonds, and the hungriest on the day when they didn’t eating almonds.
Energy intake was assessed by weighing the meals before and after consumption. Participants ate significantly fewer calories at lunch and dinner when consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds as a snack. “This study suggests that snacking on almonds can be a weight-wise strategy, and may provide day-long benefits when consumed as a mid-morning snack,” said Jenny Heap, MS, RD, Manager of Global Health and Nutrition Communications for the Almond Board of California.
“Although many commonly consumed snacks provide empty calories that don’t fill you up, snacking on nutrient-rich almonds can help you stay in control of your cravings and help eat less later in the day.”
This new, short-term study joins longer-term studies that indicate that eating almonds does not lead to significant changes in body weight in both healthy people, and those at increased risk of diabetes. The nutrient profile of almonds – low on the glycemic index and providing a powerful nutrient package in 160 calories per ounce, including hunger-fighting protein (6 g), filling dietary fiber (4 g), “good” fats (13 g), and important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, magnesium and potassium (200 mg), makes them a satisfying snack.