Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. Their benefits range from improved skin complexion, to reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks
Their health benefits are particularly significant when consumed as part of a healthy diet. They are by no means a wonder cure or an effective treatment on their own, but knowing what they consist of and how that helps our bodies will give you a better understanding of their importance.
Almond Origins and Facts
Contrary to popular belief, almond is not a true nut but a drupe, which consists of an outer hull and a hard shell. They are grown from almond fruit trees and the seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut.
There are two kinds of Almonds – sweet and bitter. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bitter almonds are deemed unsafe to eat in their raw state and only the oil and extract are used and sold.
Sweet almonds are perfectly safe to eat in their raw state and are sold as such. Unfortunately, many manufacturers still pasteurize sweet almonds which can greatly reduce their nutrient and health benefits.
The USDA allows pasteurized almonds to be labeled as “raw! ” Don’t be fooled. When you buy them, ensure the label states they are ‘unpasteurized’ or ‘not pasteurized’. Farmers markets are a good place to buy them or reputable companies online – just make sure you read the label!
The common white nut most of us are familiar with is the sweet almond, which goes through a blanching process. The outer shell is removed and further treated in hot and cold water to soften the seed coat. This seed coat is then removed to reveal the white embryo.
This lengthy process is the reason almonds are usually more expensive than other nuts. Fortunately their health benefits more than makes up for the added cost!
Almonds are grown sporadically throughout the warmer European countries, but more than 80% of the world’s production comes from the almond groves of California. It is estimated that sweet almonds command over 60% of all nut sales in the US.
The common belief is that nuts are high in fat and should be eaten only as a treat. Well the good news is that almonds are indeed high in fat, but mainly in mono-unsaturated fat which the body needs to stay healthy.
Almonds are at the top of the tree as far as being the healthiest nut we can eat, and their nutritional value makes impressive reading.
They are a good source of protein and fiber with a 95 grams serving (1 cup) providing 11.6 grams or 46% of your recommended daily dietary fiber intake and 20.2 grams or 40% of your recommended daily protein intake.
The same amount provides 125% of your RDA of vitamin E, 64% magnesium, 25% calcium and 20% iron.
Almonds also contain significant amounts of essential fatty acids – omega-3 and omega-6 which are commonly found in oily fish.
How Do These Nutritional Sources Benefit Us?
Good For The Heart
Almonds contain 47 grams of fat – 30 grams of mono-unsaturated fat, 11.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat and just 3.5 grams of saturated fat. The high amounts of this ‘good’ mono and poly unsaturated fat helps to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol).
High levels of bad cholesterol which is found in a lot of the foods we eat, can eventually lead to heart disease.
Oxidized LDL is even more harmful and can create inflammation in arteries that supply blood to our organs, thus promoting atherosclerosis and increasing the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
The high levels of Vitamin E contained in almonds may help prevent or delay heart disease by limiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol.
So it’s imperative we consume various foods that help keep this bad cholesterol in check, and a daily handful of almonds have been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as 12%.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a combination of heart healthy foods, including almonds, had the same benefits of reducing LDL cholesterol as taking statin drugs.
Almonds are rich in protein and eating them every day will ensure your body receives enough protein to function properly. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein and so cannot call upon it when needed. So we need to consume it on a daily basis.
Protein is essential for healthy skin, hair, nails and cartilage. It helps repair and build tissue as well as building healthy muscles and providing us with energy.
Helps Prevent Gallstones
Studies have found a lower risk for gallstone problems in people who consume foods containing monounsaturated fats, fruit, vegetables and fiber. Almonds ticks 2 of these boxes and may significantly reduce the risk of developing gallstones when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Almonds and Weight Loss
Almonds can be extremely beneficial for weight loss. So many meals we eat these days are highly processed or ‘fast foods’ that contain little to zero beneficial nutrients. Our body therefore continues to send hunger signals to the brain after these foods are eaten and we eat again and pile on the weight.
Almonds are high in fiber, healthy fats and contain lots of important nutrients. So by incorporating them into your diet or having them as snacks, will make you feel more nourished for longer and you won’t crave sugary or processed treats.
A study reported in a WHFood’s article on almonds, involving 8865 adults found that those who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were those who never or seldom ate them.
This is quite a significant study and it really makes sense. Snack on healthy, nutrient filled foods like almonds and you won’t feel the need to eat other more tempting, but fat laden treats.
Almonds and Diabetes
Almonds can help towards stabilizing insulin levels for type 2 diabetics. They have a low glycemic index (GI), which means they do not cause a spike in blood glucose levels.
Although I don’t fully understand how diabetes affects people when different foods are involved, I have read on a number of occasions that almonds can reduce or limit the rises in blood sugar levels after meals.
This doesn’t mean almonds are a cure for diabetes but they may help to regulate insulin and sugar levels.
Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often the result of a bad diet including foods rich in sodium (salt). Almonds are low in sodium and high in potassium which helps lower overall blood pressure and improves blood circulation.
Almonds are a good source of magnesium and potassium. Magnesium helps take the pressure off veins and arteries and so improves the flow of nutrient and oxygen rich blood through our bodies.
Potassium is another mineral essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and keeping the heart functioning.
Lactose and Gluten Free Almond Milk
Almond milk contains the same healthy benefits but also come lactose free and gluten-free. This is ideal for anyone who is suffering from such an intolerant or who can’t drink soy milk.
It is estimated that around 70% of the world’s population may be lactose intolerant to some degree but only show a few or mild symptoms.
Almonds health benefits are considerable. The good news is, they are readily available and can be either added to meals during cooking or eaten as a snack.
I often have a bowl of almonds at my desk to snack on. They taste great and keep me from munching on
crap sweet foods!
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