- Eating potato chips instead of protein-packed almonds might not tip the scales in the short term, but that doesn’t make the decision as healthy.
- A new study says there is NO significant difference between eating a serving of potato chips and a serving of almonds.
- The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In a perfect world, enjoying a daily serving of potato chips instead of almonds it would be a simple option, and it would not have negative consequences when selecting the salty and fried option.
There is no significant difference between eating a serving of potato chips and a serving of almonds
But a Harvard expert says we should take the findings of a new study that supports this scenario. This research funded by the potato industry suggests there is no significant difference between eating a 300-pound serving french fries calories and a 300-calorie serving of almonds every day for a month, in terms of weight gain or other markers of diabetes risk.
Eating potato chips instead of protein-packed almonds may not tip the scales in the short term, but that doesn’t make the decision all the healthy, says Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard TH. Chan School of Public Health.
Crunchy, satisfying almonds provide health benefits, including lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. In the long term, they are a much better option to help prevent chronic diseases, including diabetes, or delay its complications.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers randomly divided a group of 165 adults (average age 30; 68% women) into three groups for 30 days and assigned them to eat a daily 300-calorie serving of one of the following:
- Almonds, toasted and salted (about 1/3 cup)
- Plain French Fries (medium portion)
- Fries seasoned with herbs and spices (medium portion).
The researchers provided participants with 30 single-day servings of their food, telling them to incorporate it into their daily diet, but they did not offer additional instructions to change the diet or activity levels to offset the 300 calorie intake.
The amount of fat in the participants’ bodies was measured, along with total weight, blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1C (a longer-term reflection of blood sugar levels) both at the beginning and end of the month. Five participants from each group also underwent post-meal testing to assess short-term blood sugar responses.
Weight is not all that matters for health
After 30 days, changes in the amount of body fat and total body weight were similar between the potato chips and almond groups. Glucose and insulin levels were also measured through blood tests after fasting.
However, a key difference emerged: participants in the subgroup of potato chips had higher blood glucose and insulin levels right after eating their fries compared to those who ate almonds.
It is tempting to conclude that there is not much difference between French fries and almonds: it’s the calories that count. But a closer reading reinforces the notion that two items that are usually placed at opposite ends of the health food spectrum are even further apart than the study’s findings might lead us to believe.
“The only clear finding was that eating potato chips increased blood glucose and insulin secretion much more than almonds,” says Dr. Willett. “This is consistent with long-term studies showing that potato consumption is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially when compared to whole grains.”
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