healthy nuts and seeds

By FDA's new guidance, other foods and ingredients may now be 'healthy'

As the agency takes testimony on the meaning of "healthy" on food labels, it revises its stance on high-fat foods.

The FDA announced plans recently to redefine what "healthy" means in the world of food labeling—prompted by Kind bar protesting the agency’s complaint about its use of the word healthy. While the FDA seeks public input on the new definition, it has issued a guidance for manufacturers to follow that will allow many foods to now claim "healthy" that couldn’t before. With the key change being an emphasis on the type of fat—rather than amount of fat—in a product, most of the impact will be seen in foods that have high healthy fat content, reflecting the growing body of evidence showing how important the right kind of fat is to a healthy diet. The new guidance will allow manufacturers to claim “healthy” if their products are low in saturated fat or if their fat content comes primarily from mono and polyunsaturated fats, are low in sodium, and if they contain at least 10 percent of the daily value per serving of vitamins A, C or D, calcium, iron, protein, fiber or potassium.

Here are some food labels that could start changing soon:

Avocados. They’ve got potassium, vitamin C and most of their fat is monounsaturated fat. 

Macadamia nuts. Its high fat content is primarily monounsaturated, plus they’re rich in fiber.

Sunflower seeds. The popular snack has mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats, plus protein, fiber and iron.

Pistachios. The fat in pistachios is predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats, and the nuts also offer protein and potassium.

Chia seeds. Most of the fat in these tiny seeds is polyunsaturated, plus they have fiber, calcium and iron.

Almonds. Almonds contain mostly monounsaturated fat, while also boasting fiber and protein among some vitamins and minerals. Molly Spence of the Almond Board of California said the board has already started changing its marketing materials, “and we’ve also alerted health professionals and food professionals, as well as the almond industry itself, so they can all use the word 'healthy' for almonds. We’re very excited about the news.”

And, of course, Kind bars—which were already claiming healthy, but now they’ll have FDA’s backing in doing so.

If you sensed a theme here—lots of nuts and seeds—that’s no coincidence, given the growing evidence that nuts are a good, healthy snack—fat content and all.

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