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What types of snacks are healthiest?

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What's the best snack you can choose? Are almonds an optimal snack? During the next few days, almonds will be discussed and examined for effects on diet quality, appetite, adiposity and cardiovascular disease risk factors at a meeting of Experimental Biology 2014 in San Diego, California, according to an April 25, 2014 news release, "Are almonds an optimal snack?"

You also could get inspired by Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. The latest news is that six new almond-related research studies will be presented next week in San Diego at the American Society of Nutrition (ASN)'s Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2014 (EB). The conference attracts an international audience of approximately 13,000 leading scientists specializing in various health disciplines.

The science presented will reveal new insights on the effects of almond consumption on overall diet quality and health status, abdominal adiposity, measures of appetite and satiety, and cardiovascular risk factors

"Presenting new research to this audience of scientists and health professionals is critical to turning the findings into practical application and recommendations, said Dr. Karen Lapsley, according to the April 25, 2013 news release, "Are almonds an optimal snack?" Lapsley is Chief Science Officer for the Almond Board of California. "These results help to advance the evolution of our understanding of almonds' beneficial effects as part of a healthy diet."

In a satellite session on Sunday, April 27, researchers will explore the question, "Are Almonds an Optimal Snack?" a hot topic given that snacking has become a way of life for most Americans. You also can check out the study, "Are almonds an optimal snack? New research on the health effects of almonds," Authors are O'Neil CE, Mattes R, and Kris-Etherton P. Or see the American Society for Nutriton Sponsored Satellite Program, Experimental Biology 2014, San Diego, CA, held April 27, 2014. Check out the site, "ASN Scientific Sessions & Annual Meeting at EB 2014."

In fact, 97% of Americans report eating at least one snack a day, with 40% consuming three to four snacks per day, according to the study, "Snacking increased among U.S. adults between 1977 and 2006." published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2010; 140:325-332. Authors of that study are Piernas C, and Popkin BM. So understanding and education about smart snacking is increasingly important. You also may wish to see the PDF article, "Trends In Snacking Among U.S. Children - BANPAC."

At the meeting, Dr. Carol O'Neil of Louisiana State University will present a new analysis of 24,808 adults 19 and older, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2000-2010 showing that almond consumers (n=395; defined as those who reported eating any amount of almonds or almond butter in the previous 24 hours) had increased nutrient intake, improved overall dietary quality and better physiological status compared with non-almond consumers.

This is a cross-sectional study; therefore, the data cannot be used to draw causal relationships, but suggests an association between almond consumption and positive health status. You also may wish to check out the abstract of the study, "Consumption of almonds is associated with increased nutrient intake, better diet quality, and better physiological status in adult participants (19+ y) from the NHANES (2001-2010)." Authors are Papanikolaou Y, O'Neil CE, Nicklas TA., and Fulgoni VL. Program No: 810.17; Poster session: C120.

According to another research work, "Effects of almonds as a snack or meal accompaniment on appetite, glycemia and body weight," by Tan S-Y and Mattes RD." Experimental Biology 2014; Abstract No. 1927, Program No: 641.9; Poster presentation, many commonly consumed snack foods are nutrient-poor and elicit weak dietary compensation. Dr. Richard Mattes from Purdue University examined the effects of snacking on nutrient-rich almonds in 137 adult participants at risk for Type II diabetes in that research. You also may wish to check out the article, "100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love."

Researchers found that consuming 1.5 ounces of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds daily helped curb participants' appetites and moderate blood glucose concentrations, while significantly improving vitamin E and monounsaturated fat intake.

After a month of snacking on 250 calories from almonds daily, participants did not gain weight. While the study was only four weeks long, it suggests that snacking on almonds could be a weight-wise strategy. Dr. Penny-Kris Etherton from Pennsylvania State University will be sharing results from a new randomized, controlled clinical study examining the effects of consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds vs. a calorie-matched, high carbohydrate snack on body weight in 52 adults with elevated LDL cholesterol, according to the study, "Daily almond consumption (1.5 oz./d) decreases abdominal and leg adiposity in mildly hypercholesterolemic individuals." Authors are Berryman, CE, et al. Experimental Biology 2014, Program No: 117.8 ; Oral presentation. You also can check out the abstract, "Daily almond consumption (1.5 oz./d) decreases abdominal and leg adiposity in mildly hypercholesterolemic individuals," at, "Abstracts - The Graduate School at Penn State."

That study found total body weight did not differ between the two treatments, but the almond diet reduced overall abdominal mass, abdominal fat mass, and waist circumference compared to the high-carbohydrate snack. Although the study was just six weeks long, preliminary results suggest that snacking on almonds may help decrease abdominal fat, an important risk factor for metabolic syndrome.

Additional research examining the relationship between almond consumption and cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors will be showcased in a number of poster presentations at the conference:

A randomized, parallel-arm controlled study investigated the effects of adding 1.5 ounces of almonds daily to the diets of adult subjects with poorly controlled type II diabetes on C-reactive protein – without any dietary advice provided, according to the study, "Almond supplementation without dietary advice significantly reduces C-reactive protein in subjects with poorly-controlled type 2 diabetes." Authors of that study are: Sweazea K.L., Johnston C.S., Ricklefs, K., Petersen, K., Alanbagy, S. Program No: 830.24; Poster session: C386.

Another crossover, randomized clinical trial examined the metabolic response of 2 ounces of almonds compared to dairy fat in isocaloric and equal macronutrient meals consumed by overweight/obese pregnant women. Preliminary results suggest that almonds may help improve satiety, reduce appetite, and may help promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy, although further research is needed, according to the study, "The Effect of Almond Consumption on Satiety and the Postprandial Metabolic Response in High-Risk Pregnant Women." Authors of that study are Henderson, M.N. Henderson, Sawrey-Kubicek, L., Mauldin, K. King, and J.C. Program No: 1040.5; Poster session: C289.

The body of evidence that will be presented suggests snacking can be a weight-wise strategy, depending upon the foods consumed. The nutrient profile of almonds – low on the glycemic index and providing a powerful nutrient package including hunger-fighting protein (6 g/oz), filling dietary fiber (4 g/oz), 'good' monounsaturated fats (13 g/oz), according to the good news about almonds and heart health. you also may wish to see another study published online August 2013, at the Clinical Trials.gov website, "Postprandial Response to Almond Consumption in Overweight Hispanic Pregnant Women."

Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

One serving on almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat, and important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E (7.4 mg/oz), magnesium (200 mg/oz) and potassium (77 mg/oz), makes them a satisfying, heart-smart (8) snack choice that can help support a healthy weight.

The research presented reflects the Almond Board of California's strong commitment to the advancement of nutrition science. Lapsley said, according to the April 25, 2014 news release, Are almonds an optimal snack? "To date, the California almond industry has invested over $15 million in nutrition research that has resulted in more than 100 papers published by internationally recognized scientists in peer review journals. The Almond Board of California is proud to present science at the elite level of Experimental Biology."

California Almonds are a natural, wholesome and quality food product, making almonds California's leading agricultural export in terms of value. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,000 California Almond growers and processors, many of whom are multi-generational family operations.

Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit the Almond Board's website.

Another study on consuming a blend of soy and dairy proteins

A new study, "Soy-Dairy Protein Blend and Whey Protein Ingestion After Resistance Exercise Increases Amino Acid Transport and Transporter Expression in Human Skeletal Muscle," published online April 3, 2014 in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows additional benefits of consuming a blend of soy and dairy proteins after resistance exercise for building muscle mass. But the study's abstract didn't mention organic soy or GMO soy, or whether the whey came from organic milk or milk treated with antibiotics or hormones. Was the milk raw or Pasteurized? And was the whey or casein from cow's milk or goat's or sheep's milk?

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that using a protein blend of soy, casein and whey post-workout prolongs the delivery of select amino acids to the muscle for an hour longer than using whey alone. It also shows a prolonged increase in amino acid net balance across the leg muscle during early post-exercise recovery, suggesting prolonged muscle building.

The study shows additional benefits of consuming a blend of soy and dairy proteins after resistance exercise for building muscle mass

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch found that using a protein blend of soy, casein and whey post-workout prolongs the delivery of select amino acids to the muscle for an hour longer than using whey alone.

Scientists conducted research from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) in collaboration with DuPont Nutrition and Health. "This study sheds new light on how unique combinations of proteins, as opposed to single protein sources, are important for muscle recovery following exercise and help extend amino acid availability, further promoting muscle growth," said Blake B. Rasmussen, chairman of UTMB's Department of Nutrition and Metabolism and lead researcher of the study, according to the April 24, 2014 news release, "Study reaffirms soy-dairy protein blend increases muscle mass."

This new research, using state-of-the-art methodology, builds on an earlier publication reporting that a soy-dairy blend extends muscle protein synthesis when compared to whey alone, as only the blended protein kept synthesis rates elevated three to five hours after exercise. Together, these studies indicate that the use of soy-dairy blends can be an effective strategy for active individuals seeking products to support muscle health.

"Because of the increased demand for high-quality protein, this study provides critical insight for the food industry as a whole, and the sports nutrition market in particular," said Greg Paul, according to the news release. Paul is the global marketing director for DuPont Nutrition and Health. "With more and more consumers recognizing the importance of protein for their overall health and well-being, the results of this study have particular relevance to a large segment of the population, from the serious sports and fitness enthusiast to the mainstream consumer."

The study demonstrates that consuming a soy-dairy blend leads to a steady rise in amino acids, the building blocks of muscle.

The double-blind, randomized clinical trial included 16 healthy subjects, ages 19 to 30, to assess if consumption of a blend of proteins with different digestion rates would prolong amino acid availability and lead to increases in muscle protein synthesis after exercise. The protein beverages provided to study subjects consisted of a soy-dairy blend (25 percent isolated DuPont Danisco SUPRO soy protein, 50 percent caseinate, 25 percent whey protein isolate) or a single protein source (whey protein isolate). Muscle biopsies were taken at baseline and up to five hours after resistance exercise. The protein sources were ingested one hour after exercise in both groups.

Data showed that the soy-dairy blend yields an increase in select amino acid delivery for about an hour longer than the use of whey protein alone. The blend also sustained a greater positive net amino acid balance than whey, suggesting there is less muscle protein breakdown during the time period shortly after consumption of a blended protein product. Further research is ongoing to identify the long-term effect on muscle mass and strength.

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