Almonds have long been recognized for their heart health benefits, but new research suggests they may have benefits for your waistline as well. A new study just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association1 showed that snacking on 1.5 ounces of almonds every day vs. a muffin with the same number of calories not only reduced LDL and total cholesterol, but also reduced abdominal (belly) fat and waist circumference in study participants.
Study at a glance
During the study, the 52 adult participants (who were overweight with elevated LDL cholesterol but otherwise healthy) ate standard healthy diets that were identical except for the snack, either almonds or a high-carbohydrate muffin. While the test diets were not matched for macronutrients, the diet with the almond snack had several advantages:
- Compared with snacking on muffins, eating almonds significantly decreased total cholesterol (-5.1 mg/dL) and LDL (bad) cholesterol (-5.3 mg/dL).
- In addition, HDL (good) cholesterol levels remained stable with almonds, but dropped on the muffin diet.
- Overall body weight did not differ between the diets, but snacking on almonds reduced abdominal fat and waist circumference compared with snacking on muffins.
Why is belly fat so bad?
Belly fat is more than just a cosmetic concern; carrying extra weight around the middle is a risk factor for heart disease, which remains the number one cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide. Belly fat can be particularly challenging to take off as we age, and making smart diet choices are an important strategy to help take and keep it off.
Simple swap, big benefits
The study adds to the evidence that regularly choosing almonds instead of a high-carb snack may be a simple dietary strategy to help improve body composition and prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. The nutrient profile of almonds -- low on the glycemic index and providing a powerful nutrient package including 6 grams of hunger-fighting protein, 4 grams of filling fiber, plus good fats2 and important vitamins and minerals -- makes them a heart-smart, satisfying snack choice that can help you keep your new year’s resolutions on track all year long.
1. Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults with Elevated LDL-Cholesterol: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Heart Association 2015; 4:e000993 DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.114.000993.
2. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that the majority of your fat intake be unsaturated. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 oz of most nuts, such as almonds, part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.