From UF/IFAS Communications:
By Brad Buck
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Eating a moderate amount of almonds each day may enrich the diets of adults and their young children, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Almonds are a good source of plant protein — essential fatty acids, vitamin E and magnesium,” said Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department. Burns conducted the study as part of her graduate work.
Her statement is backed by the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend people eat unsalted nuts.
For the 14-week study, published in the journal Nutrition Research, UF/IFAS nutrition scientists gave almonds daily to 29 pairs of parents and children. Most of the adults were mothers with an average age of 35, while their children were between 3 and 6 years old. The children were encouraged to consume 0.5 ounces of almond butter daily. Parents were given 1.5 ounces of almonds per day.
Participants ate almonds for a few weeks, then they resumed eating their typical intake, which included other foods as snacks.
Researchers based their conclusions about improved dietary intake on participants’ scores on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), a tool used to measure diet quality and adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
UF/IFAS researchers used an online dietary recall to find out what adults had eaten and how much. That way, researchers could measure diet quality, Burns said.
When parents and children were eating almonds, their HEI increased for total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids, Burns said, while they ate fewer empty calories. Parents also decreased sodium intake. Parents and children consumed more vitamin E and magnesium when eating almonds, she said.
HEI is based on 12 dietary components which should be consumed adequately or in moderation, Burns said. All components receive a score between 0 and 10 for maximum score of 100. For all components, a higher score indicates higher diet quality.
When parents and children ate almonds, their HEI score increased from 53.7 to 61.4, Burns said.
The Healthy Eating Index works this way: Categories are given a weight, depending on how much of the current food group a person consumes.