Just go nuts for almonds!

A new study from the University of Florida suggests that you can improve your diet simply by eating a handful of almonds each day.

In the study, the team of researchers asked 28 pairs of parents and their children living in North Central Florida to add almonds or almond butter to their diet for a three-week period. Parents were asked to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds everyday, or the equivalent in almond butter, with children consuming half an ounce of whole almonds or the equivalent in almond butter.

Healthy Eating Index scores were taken before the participants started adding almonds into their diet. The score is a measure of diet quality in line with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A score below 51 indicates a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 suggests a diet that needs improvement and a score higher than 80 indicates a good diet.

The researchers saw that after adding almonds to their diet, the parents’ Healthy Eating Index average scores increased from 53.7 ± 1.8 to 61.4 ± 1.4, while the children’s scores went up from 53.7 ± 2.6 to 61.4 ± 2.2.

Participants also increased their Healthy Eating Index scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories.

The researchers believe the explanation for the improvements is that both parents and children were replacing their usual unhealthy snacks with almonds. In the past 20 years, there has been a decrease in the per-capita consumption of healthy nuts and seeds in children aged 3 to 6 years old, and an increase in the consumption of salty processed snacks such as potato chips and pretzels.

Researchers also believe that what 3 to 6 year-old children eat is particulary important in providing lifelong health 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,” said doctoral student Alyssa Burns, who conducted the study.

The team also advised that in addition to nuts, adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to one’s diet can help to improve its overall quality. Whole food approaches, such as adding in almonds, could be a simple and achievable way to improve overall public health.

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