The healthy way to snack

Could eating raisins lower the risk of heart disease?

This is the thinking behind a new U.S. trial comparing the effects of the dried fruit against other popular snack foods, such as biscuits, crisps and chocolate.

Previous research has shown that people who ate raisins and started walking ­regularly had significant health benefits.

Raisins are rich in potassium, important in regulating blood pressure, and their high fibre content makes them more filling than many other snacks.

They are also a ­significant source of the antioxidants that interfere with cholesterol ­absorption and help fight disease.

The U.S. study of 50 patients, which began last month, is being run at the ­Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Centre.

Patients will be given a handful of raisins or another snack food three times daily.

Eat almonds

Eating almonds could help prevent diabetes and heart disease, according to a study.

Researchers found that incorporating the nuts into our diets may help treat type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 per cent of all cases.

As well as combating the condition, linked to obesity and physical inactivity, it could tackle cardiovascular disease, said the report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Diabetics have a shortage of insulin or a decreased ability to use the hormone that allows glucose to enter cells and be converted to energy.

When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and over time, damage vital organs.

The study found that a diet rich in almonds may help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease LDL-cholesterol levels in those with pre-diabetes, a condition in which people have blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

The study – conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – looked at the effects of consuming an almond-enriched diet on 65 adults with pre-diabetes.

The group on the almond-enriched diet showed greater improvements in insulin sensitivity and significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol compared with the nut-free group.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Wien said: ‘It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.’

Be moderate with nuts

The key though is to eat in moderation as other research shows that dieters who snack on nuts, seeds or dried fruit could actually be putting on weight, rather than losing it.

The research, carried out by the SupermarketOwnBrandGuide website, comes as many people begin strict diet regimes as part of New Year resolutions

It found that nuts and seeds often contain unhealthy amounts of saturated fat, while dried fruit is usually high in sugar

Just 100g of Brazil nuts contains 16.4g of saturated fat – three quarters of a woman’s recommended daily intake, while a handful of dried raisins contains 69g of sugar, more than three-quarters of the recommended amount.

Even pumpkin and sesame seeds contain high levels of saturated fat, it found. The recommended daily amount of sugar for a typical adult is 90g, but 100g of the most popular dried fruits, including currants, raisins, sultanas and dried dates, all contain more than 64g of sugar.