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Almonds or french fries: what is the healthier snack food?

Salty Snack Drama: Fries vs. Almonds

In this corner, the Almond. In that corner, the Potato. Ding-ding.

In the world of salty snacks, the potato industry-funded research to try and prove that french fries are just as healthy as salted almonds. In the nutrition world, comparing these two foods seems preposterous – almonds are a healthy staple! But one research study has muddied the waters on what really makes a salty snack “healthy.” So, what makes a snack “healthy?” Read further as we discuss the study and the findings on snacks.

The study put 165 participants (average age 30) into groups and told them to eat a 300-calorie portion of salted almonds or french fries for 30 days. Before they started the study, investigators measured participants’ total weight, blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1C. They did the same measurements on day 30. Seeing no significant difference in weight gains or losses, the internet was buzzing with research: “Does this mean we can eat lots of fries? Does this mean almonds will make me fat?” Here are the essential takeaways for readers less inclined to jump into the data details.

Consider these healthy alternatives to cure your next snack attack.

Blood sugar vs. weight:

You’re missing the point if you are only eating almonds to lose weight. Research on almonds concludes that weight loss is one of the benefits of eating almonds, but it is not the only benefit. Almonds are a natural source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. In the study, there may not have been a significant difference in weight loss in 30 days, but there was a substantial difference in blood glucose and insulin! After eating french fries, participants had higher blood glucose and insulin levels.

The results are a good reminder that eating healthy is not all about losing weight. What you put into your body also affects other areas of your health. Many other almond studies have shown that eating almonds lowers insulin levels and cholesterol levels.

Weight a minute…

As with most research, this study had some limitations. Several other studies on almonds show that adding almonds to one’s diet can reduce body fat. However, many nutrition scientists would argue that the most conclusive studies on weight loss are studies that last over a year. Discussing the almonds vs. fries research, Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard, argued that a study lasting only 30 days is “less than useless” in the world of weight loss research. In other words, when there is already so much research that contradicts this single comparison, it’s difficult not to pay attention to why they might have come to different conclusions.

A word from the author:

Although the Alliance for Potato Research funded the research, those obviously were in favor of eating potatoes. Other scientists did carry out the research. When asked about the study, Daniel Smith, co-author of the study and a professor of the department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, made this comment:

“Nutrition recommendations that focus primarily on single foods in isolation may be missing the mark. A more effective approach to dietary guidance is likely one that considers total diet, lifestyle, individual needs, and risk factors.”

Even the author’s conclusions encourage readers not to focus on fries or almonds. Instead, he argues that individuals should consider balance. Healthy eating doesn’t start with adding or eliminating a single food. It begins with balance. Don’t just gravitate to the most clickable food-worthy news. Make a change with consistent healthy choices.

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French-fried potato consumption and energy balance: a randomized controlled trial

French fries versus almonds: Calorie for calorie, which comes out on top?

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