The snacking industry accounts for a large part of the fat, sugar and sodium intake in the American diet, as well as many empty calories. The empty calorie snacks, like chips and sweets are nutrient poor, yet contribute to weight gain and the risk of obesity. Frequently, folks consume too many of these foods, yet neglect to eat whole, healthy foods.
One possible solution is to exchange processed snacks for a whole food solution like nuts. But do nuts improve the quality of diet, while reducing empty calorie consumption? Nuts actually do add nutritional benefits. They are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. When replacing processed snacks with nuts, the nuts have the potential of reducing saturated and trans-fat consumption and shifting the fatty acid ratio away from solid fats towards oils, because they are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
A huge study, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), followed the diets of 6,881 children and 10,563 adults, to examine the effect of replacing snacks with tree nuts. They found the diets with tree nuts were significantly lower in empty calories, added sugars, sodium and added fats. They were also higher in potassium, magnesium, and mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This study showed that tree nut consumption can improve the quality and nutrient value in diets when they replace empty calorie type snacks.
Nuts have numerous health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer risk. They are also a powerhouse of nutrients. Tree nuts are where trees come from, so all of the nutrients to start the growth of the tree are packed inside. One important consideration is that nuts are high in fat and calories. So, like any food, eating nuts in moderation is best.