Eating a moderate amount of almonds each day may enrich the diets of adults and their young children, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Almonds are a good source of plant protein — essential fatty acids, vitamin E and magnesium,” said Ms. Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department who conducted the study as part of her graduate work.
The UF study team also included Dr. Volker Mai, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine. Dr. Mai’s lab extracted the DNA from participants’ fecal samples to determine effects of almond consumption on gut microbiota composition.
For the 14-week study, published in the journal Nutrition Research, UF/IFAS nutrition scientists gave almonds daily to 29 pairs of parents and children. Most of the adults were mothers with an average age of 35, while their children were between 3 and 6 years old. The children were encouraged to consume 0.5 ounces of almond butter daily. Parents were given 1.5 ounces of almonds per day.
Researchers based their conclusions about improved dietary intake on participants’ scores on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), a tool used to measure diet quality and adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
When parents and children were eating almonds, their HEI increased for total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids, Ms. Burns said, while they ate fewer empty calories. Parents also decreased sodium intake. Parents and children consumed more vitamin E and magnesium when eating almonds, she said.
The analysis of gut microbiota showed some interesting differences between parents and children, Dr. Mai said.
“More microbiota changes were observed in children compared to their parents, indicating that increasing almond consumption might have more potential to affect microbiota in children,” he said.