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Almond Board :: Healthful Snacking

Healthful Snacking

Everyone gets snack attacks. They're often triggered by stress rather than hunger and people grab what's nearest - nibbling on candy and other junk food. Keeping a handful of almonds in your pocket, recycling an empty mint tin like Altoids® and filling it up with almonds, or carrying a plastic sandwich bag in your purse, briefcase or glove compartment is a wholesome and satisfying solution to your next snack attack. Susan Lord, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. offers advice on healthful snacking and explains why almonds are such a terrific option.

Q. When should you snack and what should you snack on?

A. Your body needs fuel on an ongoing basis - about every four hours. If you find yourself going six to eight hours between meals, you need a snack. You want to have a steady stream of fuel throughout the day in order to keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel.

It's nice if you can come up with a snack that has a little bit of fat, a little bit of carbohydrate and a little bit of protein. That is going to sustain you the best until you get to the next meal.

Q. Why are almonds a snack of choice?

A. Almonds have all three of the macronutrients -- carbohydrates, protein and fat. That's one of the reasons almonds are a good snack. Almonds are also very high in micronutrients --- they have a lot of vitamins and minerals and they also have fiber.

In particular, almonds have a lot of vitamin E and high levels of manganese and magnesium, two very important minerals. Magnesium is good for sleep, preventing leg cramps, good for your heart, and may promote a healthy blood sugar level. It is very important and it is often deficient in people.

Q. Aren't almonds fatty?

A. A lot of people are afraid of almonds (and nuts in general) because they have a high fat content. Most of the fats in almonds are what we consider good fats. The good fats or unsaturated fats help keep your heart healthy and your cholesterol down. They also make up all your cell membranes.

I recommend my patients eat almonds because it is a good way for them to get these fatty acids.

Q. Do women need snacks more than men?

A. No. But women tend to snack more than men and so it is important for them to think about healthy snacking. The fatty acids and vitamin E in almonds are all good things for your skin (another benefit of almonds that might appeal especially to women.)

Q. How many almonds should you eat daily?

If someone is at an ideal body weight, I suggest that they try to listen to their body about how many almonds to eat. If someone wants to lose weight, I suggest they limit the almonds they eat to about an ounce or 23 almonds a day.

Almonds are very convenient - you can just stick a handful in your pocket or, as the Almond Board recommends, fill an empty mint tin with almonds, or carry a plastic sandwich bag of natural or roasted almonds in your purse, briefcase or glove compartment. It is best to eat whole natural, unsalted almonds or roasted almonds. Other good snacks are almond butter on carrots, celery or a banana. Almond butter is very satisfying so a little bit goes a long way.

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