Thanks to new FDA guidance, almonds are now defined as healthy



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Almonds are high in vitamin E and magnesium, with 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per one-ounce (28-gram) serving. A one-ounce serving of almonds has 13g of unsaturated fat, of which 9 grams are monounsaturated fat and 3.5 grams are polyunsaturated fat, and only 1g of saturated fat. Not surprisingly, they are as much an ideal snack as they are the perfect ingredient to add to salads, desserts or even entrees.

But did you know that until this week, manufacturers were not allowed to refer to almonds as “healthy” on food labels? Until this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not allowed it because of its regulatory definition of the term that considered foods' total fat almonds are now officially healthyinstead of distinguishing among different types of fat.

As a result of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans that reflect updated nutrition research, the FDA began a process to redefine the term “healthy” as it applies to labeling food products. It also issued revised guidelines stating it does not intend to enforce the regulatory requirements for products that use the term if certain criteria are met. The criteria are as follows:

  • Foods must meet the "low fat" requirement (<3 g fat per serving) or total fat per serving must be primarily comprised of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Mono- and polyunsaturated fat content must be declared on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
  • Foods must contain at least 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, fiber, potassium or vitamin D. If using potassium or vitamin D to substantiate, the amount per serving must be declared on the label.

That’s good news for almonds. Thanks to the new guidelines, almonds now meet the FDA's revised criteria since they contain predominantly "good" monounsaturated fats and provide 14% of the Daily Value for fiber.

“At the Almond Board of California and in the nutrition science community, we applaud the FDA's decision to redefine the term ‘healthy’ to reflect the evolving state of the science,” said Karen Lapsley, DSc, chief scientific officer at the Almond Board of California.

The FDA said in its Sept. 27 announcement that they revised the “healthy” criteria so it could be more in line with the updated Nutrition Fact Label as well as the nutrition science reflected in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Furthermore, healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet. Nutrients of public health concern — meaning nutrients for which most consumers don't meet recommendations — have also changed.

With these steps, the agency said it hopes to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations, as well as to provide current guidance to the food industry to help it focus on foods and ingredients that support healthy dietary patterns. 

Almonds are grown by more than 6,500 growers in California's Central Valley, which is the only region in the U.S. able to successfully grow almonds commercially, according to California Almonds and the Almond Board. They're the second most valuable crop in California, and make up 80% of the world's almonds.

The majority of almond farms in California are fewer than 100 acres, and 91% of them are family farms, many operated by third- and fourth-generation growers. Back in 1950, almond growers decided to combine their resources to found and fund what is now the Almond Board of California, a nonprofit Federal Marketing Order that operates under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Almond Board supports growers with a research-based approach to production and marketing. It has funded more than $42 million since 1973 in research related to almond production, quality and safety, nutrition and environmental aspects of farming. This has led to a number of breakthroughs and a spirit of continual improvement that has helped almond growers be increasingly efficient, productive and responsible with their valuable resources.