A recent study found eating 1.5 ounces of almonds daily instead of a high-carbohydrate muffin, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, improved a number of heart disease risk factors in the study’s participants.
Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and worldwide, yet it’s estimated that at least 80 percent of premature deaths from CVD can be avoided if diet and lifestyle risk factors are controlled.
While consumers still want indulgent snacks, healthy options are increasingly popular, and almonds can provide the healthful appeal consumers want in their snacks. In fact, almonds are the No. 1 nut used in new snack product introductions in North America, and are also the most popular nut in bars, according to the 2013 Snack Revolution report by Innova Market Insights.
It’s no surprise almonds bode well with consumers—almonds provide fiber and protein (4 g/oz and 6 g/oz, respectively) and have been linked to numerous health benefits, according to the FoodTech Toolbox report, “The Evolution of Snacks."
Based on the results of the present study, in addition to significantly improving LDL and total cholesterol, snacking on almonds instead of muffins also reduced central adiposity (belly fat), a well-established cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor.
The twelve-week, randomized, controlled clinical study, led by researchers at Penn State University, was conducted in 52 overweight, middle-aged adults who had high total and LDL cholesterol but were otherwise healthy. Participants ate cholesterol-lowering diets that were identical except that one group was given a daily snack of 1.5 ounces (42g) of whole natural almonds, while the other group was given a banana muffin that provided the same number of calories. Participants were provided all meals and snacks in amounts based on their calorie needs to maintain body weight, and followed each diet for six weeks.
The diet containing the almond snack decreased total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and remnant lipoproteins. In addition, the diet with the muffin snack reduced HDL (good) cholesterol more than the almond diet.
Despite no differences in body weight or total fat mass, the almond diet significantly reduced abdominal fat mass, waist circumference and leg fat mass compared to the diet with the muffin snack.