Nuts may get a bad rap as being high in fat, but a new study suggests that people trying to maintain a healthy weight can still eat them without sacrificing poundage -- and get a cholesterol benefit, to boot, a small new study suggests.
Reuters reported on Temple University research that included 123 women -- half of whom ate about 48 almonds a day and half of whom didn't eat any nuts -- for a year-long period. Researchers found that after half a year, the people who ate the almonds lost about 12 pounds, while those who didn't eat any nuts lost about 16 pounds. But 18 months later, researchers did not find a difference in the amount of weight lost between those who ate almonds and those who abstained from nuts.
"Compared to a group that didn't consume any nuts, those with almonds were able to lose comparable amounts of weight at six months and 18 months," study researcher Dr. Gary Foster told CBS Philly.
Plus, those who consumed the nuts had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels at the six month period, the researchers found.
"Incorporating limited portions of almonds -- an energy-dense food -- into a behavioral weight-loss program still resulted in significant weight reduction," the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
It should be noted that the Almond Board of California was allowed to give input into the design of the study, but the researchers said in the study that the board "had no input or involvement in the study implementation, data analysis, or interpretation of data."
Recently, another American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that almonds might not be quite as dense in calories as once thought. United States Department of Agriculture researchers found that the total amount of calories in a 1-ounce serving -- which consists of about 23 almonds -- may actually only have about 129 calories, and not 160 calories as previously thought.
But how is it possible for the amount of calories to change in a food? USDA researchers explained that they used a different way of calculating what calories are actually digested from almonds, and not just consumed.
Registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of "The Small Change Diet," said that the change in calorie count for almonds is an opportunity for people to diversify their snacking options.
"My message is not to necessarily eat more nuts, but maybe then it's your opportunity to grab a piece of fruit," Gans told HuffPost.
The ideal snack is 200 calories, and satiates the body until the next meal, while providing nutrients you might not otherwise get at a meal, she said.
Snacking "should not be just because I think I should have a snack and then eat anything in sight," Gans said. "It should be well thought out, planned ahead. You should be prepared. You should be bringing snacks to work every day and you should have snacks in your home, healthy snacks that you can grab because if they're not there then you'll be more likely to gravitate toward a food that might not be the healthiest choice."
So what are some good snacks to keep around? We asked Gans and American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Ximena Jimenez, M.S, R.D, L.D., to share some of their favorite picks -- check them out in the slideshow below. Then tell us in the comments -- what's your favorite healthy snack to keep you satiated?
"This smooth and rich yogurt is a great source of protein," Jimenez says. "Protein fills you up and helps to keep your weight off. Yogurt also provides healthy bacteria (acidophilus, bifidum), the good guys that can keep your digestive system in good shape." Gans says that adding some fruit, like berries -- fiber! -- to your Greek yogurt -- protein! -- can help to keep you full for longer. "Your body uses carbohydrates the quickest, so the protein helps us to digest it slower so you're fuller, longer," she says.
"Bananas and apples are some of my favorite fruits because they are portable and convenient, plus they are a good source of fiber," Jimenez says, citing a study from the State University of Rio de Janeiro suggesting that women who eat three apples a day may lose more weight.
"People don't think of tuna as a snack, but an individual can of tuna is 90 calories," Gans says. She recommends snacking on tuna with some crispbreads, topped with some mustard or hummus.
If you're on the run and don't have time to actually prepare a snack, Gans says that granola-type bars -- not necessarily granola bars -- can be a good, convenient option. However, she says to make sure you check the nutrition information before buying your nutrition bar because a lot of them are loaded with sugar. "I'm looking for a bar that is relatively high in protein but not too much, and also lower in sugar and has some fiber," Gans says.
"Low-fat milk is a great source of calcium," Jimenez says. "Studies indicate that calcium may speed up your metabolism. Get creative and add some of your fave fruits for a rich and nutritious shake."
Gans says that a half-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese makes for a good snack, especially when sprinkled with some slivered almonds. "Almonds have more fiber than any other nut," Gans says, "and the cottage cheese is protein and carbs."
"Hummus is on my top five snacks because it has the right combination of protein and fiber, your two best accomplices when you want to control your appetite and weight," Jimenez says. Gans adds that hummus is great paired with tuna and crispbread, turkey slices or raw vegetables (though she mentioned that if pairing with raw vegetables, it might be wise to go with a quarter-cup serving of hummus instead of the two-tablespoon serving on the package label to keep you from being hungry).
"A lot of times I'll recommend a cup of a bean soup, black bean or split pea, ... because those also have protein and are packed with fiber," Gans says.
"A quarter cup [of roasted edamame] has an excellent amount of protein and fiber," Gans says. Flickr photo by justgrimes.
"They are fiber rich, which helps to keep your appetite at bay," Jimenez says, adding that they can boost the metabolism to help burn more calories.
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