Are Almonds the perfect health food? We think they may be. Read on to find out the amazing and little known benefits of this powerful nut.
Almond nuts are packed with energy, protein, antioxidants, minerals, healthy fats and vitamins.
They are an extremely popular tree nut.
They are highly nutritious.
Here are some of the health benefits of almonds.
Almonds are rich in Nutrients
Almonds are grown on a tree known by its Latin name as Prunus dulcis.
They are originally from the Middle East. The United States is the largest producer, followed by Spain, Iran and Morocco.
Almonds are usually sold with the shell removed. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seed coat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo. Almonds, blanched or not, are sold either raw or roasted.
They are also used to produce almond milk, oil, butter, flour or a paste which is known as marzipan.
Almonds boast an impressive nutrient profile. A 30 gram serving (approx 1 ounce) contains:
- Fibre: 3.66 grams
- Protein: 6.37 grams
- Fat: 14.83 grams (9.27 of which are mono-unsaturated)
- Vitamin E: 36% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 60% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 112% of the RDI
They also contain a high (at least 30% of RDI) amount of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
(Ref: Nutrient data obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21 (2008).)
This is all from a tasty small portion, which supplies only 161 calories and 2.5 grams of slowly absorbed carbohydrates.
Some of the calories (approx 10-15%) in almonds are not absorbed. This is because some of the fat cannot be digested by the available enzymes in the human body. (2, 3).
In addition, almonds contain phytic acid. This binds certain minerals and prevents them from being absorbed.
Phytic acid is generally considered a healthy antioxidant, but it can slightly lower the amount of calcium, zinc, and iron that the body absorbs from almond nuts.
Almonds are high in healthy mono-unsaturated fats, fibre, protein and many important minerals and vitamins.
Almonds Are Rich in Antioxidants
Almonds are one of the best food sources of antioxidants.
Consuming foods rich in antioxidants may be good for your heart health and may also help to lower your risk of infections and some forms of cancer.
The antioxidants in almonds are mainly found in the brown skin layer.
For this reason, it is best to eat unblanched almonds.
A clinical trial in 60 male smokers found that about 3 ounces (84 grams) of almonds per day reduced oxidative stress biomarkers by 23–34% over a four-week period (9).
These findings support those of another study which found that eating almonds with main meals reduced some markers of oxidative damage (10).
Almonds are high in antioxidants that can protect your cells from oxidative damage, a major contributing factor in ageing and the development of diseases.
Almonds Contain High levels of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin.
Almonds are among the world’s best sources of vitamin E, with just 30 grams providing 36% of the RDI.
Several studies have linked a higher intake of vitamin E with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
Almonds are one of best sources of vitamin E in the world. A good dietary intake of vitamin E has many health benefits.
Almonds Can Help Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Nuts, including almonds, have a low glycaemic index. This means that the sugar from almonds is released very slowly into the blood stream.
This makes them a perfect choice for people with diabetes. Also, eating nuts regularly can reduce the stress put on the on the pancreas and therefore may lower the risk of developing diabetes.
Almonds also contain high levels of magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in as many as 600 bodily processes, including blood sugar control (17).
30 grams of almonds contains 80mg of magnesium. This is 21 % of the daily recommended requirement (375mg) of magnesium.
Magnesium is important in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Interestingly, 25–38% of people with type 2 diabetes are deficient in magnesium. Correcting this deficiency significantly lowers blood sugar levels and improves insulin function (18, 19, 20).
People without diabetes also see major reductions in insulin resistance when they supplement with magnesium (21, 22).
This suggests that high-magnesium foods such as almonds may help prevent metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, both of which are major health problems.
The Magnesium In Almonds Has Many Health Benefits
Magnesium is important for bone formation. It helps assimilate calcium into the bone and plays a role in activating vitamin D in the kidneys. Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones.
Optimal magnesium intake is associated with greater bone density, improved bone crystal formation, and a lower risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
Magnesium is necessary for maintenance of the health of muscles, including heart muscles, and for the transmission of electrical signals in the body.
Adequate magnesium intake has been associated with a lower risk of :
- atherosclerosis – a fatty build-up on the walls of arteries
- hypertension – or high blood pressure
The magnesium in almonds has been shown to lower blood pressure levels.
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
A deficiency in magnesium is strongly linked to high blood pressure regardless of whether you are overweight.
Studies show that correcting a magnesium deficiency can lower blood pressure.
If you do not meet the dietary recommendations for magnesium, adding almonds to your diet could have a huge beneficial impact on your health.
Ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium, especially combined with vitamin B6, may help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, and breast tenderness.
Almonds are extremely high in magnesium, a mineral that many people don’t consume enough of. High magnesium intake may offer major improvements for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Low magnesium levels are linked to high blood pressure, indicating that almonds can help control blood pressure.
Almonds Can Help to Lower Cholesterol Levels
Having high levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in your blood is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.
Diet affects LDL levels. There are several studies that have shown that almonds can effectively lower LDL.
A 16-week study in 65 people with pre-diabetes found that a diet providing 20% of calories from almonds lowered LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 12.4 mg/dL (28).
Another study found that eating 1.5 ounces (42 grams) of almonds per day lowered LDL cholesterol by 5.3 mg/dL while maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. The participants also lost some abdominal fat (29).
Eating one or two handfuls of almonds per day can lead to reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Almonds Prevent Harmful Oxidation of LDL Cholesterol
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol levels in your blood, almonds prevent the oxidation of harmful LDL cholesterol. The oxidation of LDL cholesterol is a crucial step in the development of heart disease.
Almond skin is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, which prevent oxidation of cholesterol in laboratory research and animal studies (30, 31).
The effect may be even stronger when combined with other antioxidants such as vitamin E. Almonds are rich in vitamin E.
An interesting study in humans found that eating regular small portions of almonds lowered levels of dangerous oxidised LDL cholesterol by 14% (32).
With these combined effects, eating almonds regularly is sufficient to lower your heart disease risk when continued over a long period of time.
Oxidation of so called “bad” LDL cholesterol is an important phase in the development of coronary heart disease. Eating small portions of almonds daily has been shown to significantly reduce the levels of harmful oxidized LDL.
Almonds are a great snack for reducing hunger sensations and for limiting your total calorie daily intake. They are also low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fibre.
Both protein and fibre are well known to increase feelings of satiety. This means that you consume less calories per day in total. (33, 34). Leading to weight loss.
One four-week study in 137 people showed that a daily 1.5-ounce (43-gram) serving of almonds significantly reduced hunger and the desire to eat (35).
Many other medical studies have also revealed the hunger-fighting and weight reducing effects of nuts (36).
While nuts are low in carbs, they are high in protein and fibre. Studies show that eating almonds and other nuts can increase satiety and help in eating fewer calories.
Almonds Can Help You Lose Weight
Nuts contain some components that human digestive systems find it hard to break down and absorb.
Human digestive tracts fail to absorb approximately 10–15% of the calories in nuts. There is also evidence that the consumption of nuts may increase human metabolism (37).
Due to their ability to fill you up, all nuts, including almonds, are a superb component of effective weight loss plans.
Evidence based medical human research has shown these benefits.
In one study, a low-calorie diet which included 3 ounces (84 grams) of almonds daily increased weight loss by 62% compared to a diet enriched with complex carbohydrates (38).
Another study in 100 overweight women found that those consuming almonds lost more weight than those on a nut-free diet. The women also showed improvements in waist circumference and other health markers (39).
Despite being high in fat, almonds are a well proven weight-loss food.
We do, however, advise against eating excessive quantities of nuts.
Though almonds are high in calories, eating them doesn’t seem to promote weight gain. Some studies even suggest the opposite, showing that almonds can enhance weight loss.
The Bottom Line
Almonds contain a high quantity of healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E.
The health benefits of almonds include lowering blood sugar levels, reducing blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels. The consumption of regular small portions of almonds can also reduce hunger and aid weight loss.
After reading this article, we are sure that you will agree almonds are as close to a perfect food as there is.