Improving diet seems like a daunting task, but researchers from the University of Florida say it is not. The key is as simple as eating a handful of almonds every day.
Nuts are known for its many nutritional benefits, such as reducing belly fat. One key component that makes it a top requirement for a healthy diet is its fiber content. Fiber paves the way for good and varied microbiota, which are good for the health.
The authors hypothesized that almonds could provide good effects to the immune system by fostering improvements in the quality of diet and regulating the composition of microbiota in parent-child pairs. An added benefit is that the participants will be able to improve their gastrointestinal health.
The team analyzed how adding almonds to one's food consumption can affect the overall quality of diet. They recruited 28 mother-child pairs from North Central Florida to do just that.
The authors asked the parents to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds every day for three weeks. Meanwhile, the children were asked to eat 0.5 ounce of whole almonds or an equivalent value of almond butter.
While the mother and the child were the only official participants in the experiments, the authors also encouraged the other family members to join in and eat the same amounts of almonds and almond butter.
Healthier With Almonds
During the start of the experiment, the parents had an average Healthy Eating Index score of 53.7 ± 1.8 and the children had an average score of 53.7 ± 2.6.
Healthy Eating Index is a diet quality measure that looks into the level of compliance to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Having a score of less than 51 signifies poor diet; scores of 51-80 indicate need for improvement and a score of 81 and above mean good diet.
After the experiment, the researchers measured the participants' Healthy Index score once again, but this time the numbers improved. The parents and children both increased their average scores, with 61.4 ± 1.4 for the former and 61.4 ± 2.2 for the latter.
In particular, the participants improved their component scores for total protein intake and decreased consumption of empty calories.
The team believes that the participants were eating almonds instead of salty and processed snacks.
It's All About Habits
Over the last two decades, the intake of nuts and seeds of children aged 3-6 years old declined. Conversely, more and more kids eat chips and other savory treats.
The researchers wanted to see how incorporating a healthy food option like almonds can change their overall dietary habits. This is because they believe that developing good eating habits during childhood can foster long-term benefits.
"The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child's diet, it's more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life," says Alyssa Burns, study author.
Keeping Things Interesting
While incorporating almonds to children's diet shows promise, the authors are aware that kids may get bored along the way. Also, some kids just don't like how almonds or almond butter taste.
The researchers then instructed parents to be creative in adding almonds to their children's diets. For example, they instructed the parents to mix the almonds with cereals, sandwiches and smoothies to gain cooperation.
The study was published in the January edition of the journal Nutrition Research.