UK guidelines suggest consumers eat five portions of fruit and veg each day for a balanced, healthier diet, with everything from carrots, courgettes and peas to kiwis, cherries and bananas recommended.
Nick Thomas, chairman of The Nut Association (TNA), said nuts had a place in these recommendations.
“With the increasing awareness of the health benefits of nuts, we have submitted an extensive paper to Public Health England to put forward the argument that they should consider including nuts within the ‘five-a-day’ program,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“There is a large body of research evidence from around the world showing the health benefits of including a handful of nuts a day in the diet. Nuts are now clearly within the fruit and vegetable category for nutrient profiling – we would like to see them as part of everyone’s five-a-day.”
Heart health and snacking
Thomas said the heart health value of nut consumption had been particularly well documented and deserved to be more widely communicated.
“The health benefits of four or five Brazil nuts a day, for example, and the selenium effect and how it helps your heart, is all on the Heart Foundation Website but it’s not in your face.”
Nut makers, he said, should work more closely with associations like the Heart Foundation and supermarkets directly to improve consumer communication around such health values.
“Manufacturers are thinking of this, and coming to terms with this. Obviously they want to increase sales but it’s also a good thing to encourage the public to maybe push away from what is the norm – where everything is a bag of crisps or deep fried.”
“…Obesity and snacking in between meals would be a lot healthier if people ate these little things.”
Public perception and retail
However, Thomas said perceptions on nuts remained negative for many consumers. “The public perception is salted peanuts = salted crisps.”
Similarly, he said product placing in key snacking areas remained slow. “I’m one of those silly people who say at the till ‘why aren’t you putting nuts in little pots?’ but in M&S they are doing it now; there is progress in terms of making healthy snacking a priority by most retailers."
Many retailers, he said, were bringing own-line packs into the snack aisle and plenty of small companies were developing new products.
The Nut Association, he said, would continue to drive forward health messaging around nut consumption, working closely with US counter-parts The American Peanut Council and the Almond Board of California.