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Replace Junk Food with Almonds

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Looking for an easy way to control the calories you consume every day? A new study finds that substituting whole almonds for less healthy snacks can help you stick to a restricted calorie diet while also lowering your cholesterol.

According to the study leader, Dr. Gary Foster of Temple University, nuts and especially almonds should never be on a restricted food list because they can be very effective for controlling weight. Te most important thing, however, is portion control, as nuts as high in calories.

This study was just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and looked at 123 otherwise healthy but obese adults who stuck to a restricted calorie diet for 18 months straight. The men in the study consumed 1,500 to 1,800 each day while the women consumed 1,200 to 1,500 calories.

Half of the participants were randomly assigned to eat two 28-gram almond packages every day, which contained approximately 24 almonds each. This is about 350 calories worth of almonds each day. The other half of the study participants agreed to avoid all kinds of nuts for 18 months.

Researchers found that, after six months, the nut-free group lost an average of 16 pounds compared to only 12 pounds lost by the group that ate almonds. After one more year, both groups of participants had re-gained some weight and the difference in total weight loss was no longer clear between the groups.

Research has found in the past the almonds and other nuts can reduce risk factors for heart disease, so researchers looked for cholesterol and triglyceride changes in participants. After 6 months, the group that ate almonds saw a cholesterol decrease of 8.7mg/dL compared to only 0.1mg/dL from the nut-free group. When the study ended after 18 months, the cholesterol levels in both groups rose a bit but were still lower in the almond-eating group.

According to Dr. Foster, this study shows that almonds and other nuts can be effectively incorporated into any weight loss program with an added benefit of lowered triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Marcona AlmondsA nutrition researcher named Dr. Wien explains that it’s hard for dieters to remain on a diet for 18 months and those who are healthy have less incentive to lose weight than those with existing health problems. The fact that there was little difference in triglyceride levels when the study ended may show that many participants simply stopped following their diet as the study progressed. This is typical of any weight loss program.

Nuts, which are considered a healthy source of many nutrients, are often seen as off-limits for people trying to lose weight because they have a high fat content. Almonds, however, are high in vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber, according to the Almond Board of California, which funded this new study.

Dr. Wein emphasizes that dieters choose foods that are nutrient-dense with a good balance of quality fats, minerals and vitamins such as almonds while they limit their calories. Choosing foods that are satisfying also improves the success of any weight loss program.

Dr. Foster does caution that almonds should not be considered a “free food” and you can’t eat as many as you like and still lose weight. Instead, they should be incorporated into a healthy diet to improve weight loss success.

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