Planning to shed some pounds? Researchers say it is healthier to choose nuts as snacks instead of rice crackers or baked cereal bars. Adding more evidence to the benefits of nuts, a new study has found that snacking on almonds aids in weight loss and protects the heart.

Nuts packed with both protein and fat may not immediately seem like the perfect choice when you are on an energy-restricted diet for weight loss. In a recent study, however, researchers from the University of South Australia found that including almonds in an energy-restricted diet not only helps in weight loss but also improves cardiometabolic health.

"Nuts, like almonds, are a great snack. They're high in protein, and fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals, but they also have a high-fat content which people can associate with increased body weight," Dr. Sharayah Carter, a lead author of the study, said in a news release.

"In this study, we examined the effects of an almond-supplemented diet with a nut-free diet to identify any influence on weight and cardiometabolic outcomes," Dr. Carter said.

For the trial, the researchers examined 106 participants who were on a nine-month eating program, with the initial three months focused on an energy-restricted diet for weight loss, followed by six months of an energy-controlled diet to maintain their weight.

During both the trial phases, the participants were placed on a diet where 15% of their energy intake was either from unsalted whole almonds or carbohydrate-rich snacks such as rice crackers or baked cereal bars. At the end of the trial, participants in both diets lost an average of around 7 kilograms.

"Both the nut and nut-free diets resulted in approximately 9.3% reduction in body weight over the trial. Yet the almond-supplemented diets also demonstrated statistically significant changes in some highly atherogenic lipoprotein subfractions, which may lead to improved cardiometabolic health in the longer term," Dr. Carter said.

The researchers hope their findings will offer additional evidence for dietitians and nutritionists to include almonds while designing a well-balanced weight loss diet.

"Nuts contain unsaturated fats – or healthy fats – which can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, and contribute to a healthy heart. Additionally, nuts have the added benefit of making you feel fuller for longer, which is always a pro when you're trying to manage your weight," Dr. Carter explained.