A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, US, has found that replacing typical snack foods with almonds and other tree nuts will reduce empty calories, solid and saturated fat, as well as sodium in the diet.

Funded by the Almond Board of California, the study further revealed that the replacement will increase intake of key nutrients.

For this study, researchers used data of more than 17,000 children and adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and applied two food modelling patterns.

As part of the first model pattern, they evaluated the hypothetical impact of replacing all snack foods with tree nuts, and all but ‘healthy’ snack foods such as wholegrains, whole fruits and non-starchy vegetables were replaced with tree nuts in the second pattern.  

"The study shows that replacing typical snack foods with almonds would result in better nutrient intakes and overall healthier eating patterns."

The research team replaced all reported snacks with almonds or other tree nuts, and used the Healthy Eating Index 2010, which measured adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to assess the diet quality.

It was found that snacks such as cookies, brownies, frozen dairy desserts, cakes, pies, and candy that contained chocolate were the predominant sources of snack calories under both models.

On the other hand, snacks such as potato chips, pastries, popcorn, cheese, bread, apples, pretzels, bananas, cereal and cereal bars, yoghurt and cold cuts contributed more than 1% of snack calories.

After examining both models, it was revealed that consumption of empty calories, solid fats, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates and added sugars declined, while increasing consumption of oils and good fats.

The study shows that replacing typical snack foods with almonds would improve nutrient intakes and result in overall healthier eating patterns.

Image: Simple snack swaps with almonds can lead to significant nutrition benefits. Photo: courtesy of California Almonds.