Snacks between meal times have been suggested as a viable alternative to reduce cravings, and keep feeling satiated. But what kind of snacks are ideal once you get older? A new study throws some light.
According to the study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, nuts and dried fruit can help prevent abdominal fat as one ages.
The observational, descriptive, cross-sectional, and correlational study of individuals between 65 and 79 years of age looked at these people eating 30 grams of either nuts or dried fruit for at least three days each week. In the end, researchers noted that those who didn’t eat the recommended amount of suggested snacks had “a 19 per cent higher prevalence of abdominal obesity”.
The January 2022 study also noted that there was 61 per cent higher prevalence of MetS compared to consumption of less than three times a week. Notably, MetS is a set of risk factors associated with abdominal obesity and insulin resistance, characterised by high blood pressure, hyperglycaemia and lipid alterations such as hypertriglyceridemia and lower HDL-c, which facilitates the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) and cardiovascular diseases.
The study is pertinent considering that there is a common perception that nuts provide excess energy and thus, promote obesity, said Minal Shah, senior nutrition therapist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund. “There are a lot of misconceptions about nuts. But there is significant scientific evidence indicating no adverse effects of frequent consumption of nuts, even though they are rich in energy. It helps a person to reduce their body weight to an extent. Some studies also relate frequency of nuts consumption with a reduction in incidences of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or diabetes, or even an inverse relation with the Body Mass Index,” said Shah.
The study also mentioned that despite the fatty acid-rich nutritional composition, nuts facilitate adherence to a healthy diet as individuals who consume nuts frequently tend to eat less red meat and processed meat.
The study observed that nuts are rich in macronutrients and micronutrients that will promote health because they contain a series of bioactive compounds. These include fat-soluble compounds such as unsaturated fats (monounsaturated fatty acids: MUFAs, polyunsaturated fatty acids: PUFAs), tocols (tocopherols and tocotrienols), phytosterols, sphingolipids, carotenoids and chlorophylls, vegetable protein, dietary fibre, water-soluble vitamins (group B), minerals (magnesium, potassium and calcium), and phenolic compounds, which are divided into flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes (resveratrol), hydrolysable tannins (derived from ellagic acid and gallic acid) and condensed tannins, which will be determinant in a series of beneficial biological effects.
The study therefore mentioned that the “nutritional composition of nuts makes them of particular interest to older people by improving the quality of their diet, nutritional status, and levels of oxidative stress and inflammation“.
How much to have?
The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. It recommends raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than nuts cooked in oil. Experts say it is good enough to have a handful of nuts — as much as what fits in to the palm of your hand.