Almonds: Health benefits, nutrition, and risks

Almonds: Health benefits, nutrition, and risks
Almonds are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, and are associated with a number of health benefits. Just a handful of almonds — approximately 1 ounce — contain one-eighth of our daily protein needs.

Almonds may be eaten on their own, raw, or toasted; they are available sliced, flaked, slivered, as flour, oil, butter, or almond milk.

Almonds are, in fact, seeds; they are a “drupe” and are therefore not considered a true nut.

Almond trees are believed to have been one of the earliest trees to have been domesticated. Evidence of domesticated almond trees dating to 3000-2000 BC have been unearthed in Jordan.

Also Read: Benefit of nuts

The health benefits of almonds have been documented for centuries, and modern research backs up some of these claims – there any many goods reasons to include them in your diet.

Fast facts on almonds
Here are some key points about almonds. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Almonds are not, in fact, a true nut.
  • The almond is a species of tree native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Wild almonds contain a powerful toxin.
  • Some evidence suggests that almonds can lower cholesterol levels.
  • Almonds were first domesticated thousands of years ago.

Benefits of almonds

There are a number of potential health benefits associated with almonds.

1) Almonds and cholesterol

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that consuming almonds increases vitamin E levels in the plasma and red blood cells, and also lowers cholesterol levels.

One of the study’s authors said:

This study is important because it shows that eating almonds can significantly boost levels of vitamin E in the diet and bloodstream. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that defends your cells against damage on a daily basis and prevents artery-clogging oxidation of cholesterol. Eating a handful of almonds a day is a great way to get the vitamin E your body needs to stay healthy.”

Ella Haddad, DrPH, RD, Loma Linda University, CA

2) Almonds and cancer risk

Pile of almonds
Almonds could potentially reduce cancer risk.

A study, published in 2015 in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, looked at nut consumption and cancer risk.

They found that individuals who consumed higher quantities of peanuts, walnuts, and almonds had their risk of breast cancer reduced by 2–3 times.

The authors concluded that “peanuts, walnuts, and almonds appear to be a protective factor for the development of breast cancer.”

3) Almonds and heart disease

Almonds, along with nuts and seeds in general, are often associated with improved levels of blood lipids and being good for the heart.

There is some evidence indicating that including almonds in your diet may help ward off heart disease, but overall, the evidence is inconclusive.

In a study, published in 2014, scientists found that almonds significantly increased the amount of antioxidants in the bloodstream, reduced blood pressure, and improved blood flow. Their findings add weight to the theory that Mediterranean diets with lots of nuts have big health benefits.

4) Almonds and vitamin E

Almonds contain relatively high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant. In fact, they are one of the best natural sources of vitamin E, providing 37 percent of the recommended daily intake in just 1 ounce. Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative damage.

Also, higher vitamin E intake has been tentatively associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some cancers, and heart disease.

However, some studies have found a slight increase in prostate cancer risk with higher intakes of vitamin E; and a paper published by the American Heart Association in 2014 reported no significant benefits of vitamin E against heart disease or stroke.

5) Almonds and blood sugar

Magnesium symbol and pills
Almonds contain relatively high levels of magnesium.

There is some evidence that almonds may help keep blood sugar under control.

This ability is thought to be due to their high levels of magnesium — containing almost half the daily recommended amount in just 2 ounces of almonds.

In around one-third of people with type 2 diabetes, magnesium levels are low.

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes and low magnesium levels took magnesium supplements. The researchers measured an increase in their magnesium levels, and they also saw improvements in insulin resistance.

6) Almonds help manage weight

Because almonds are lower in carbohydrates and high in protein and fiber, they can help people feel fuller for longer; this has the potential to reduce the number of calories taken in overall.

There have been numerous studies on almonds and a variety of nuts that demonstrate their ability to keep people feeling full.

Nutrition

Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high-quality protein; they also contain high levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids along with high levels of bioactive molecules (such as fiber, phytosterols, vitamins, other minerals, and antioxidants), which may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Also Read: Fight inflammation using these foods

As far as vegetable foods are concerned, nuts and seeds are the richest in fiber after cereals, which could explain why almonds are good for cardiovascular health.

Almond nutritional report

Three almonds

Almonds are nutrient dense.

One cup of whole, raw almonds (143 grams) contains:

Water – 6.31 grams

Energy – 828 kilocalories

Protein – 30.24 grams

Total lipid (fat) – 71.40 grams

Carbohydrate, by difference – 30.82 grams

Fiber, total dietary – 17.9 grams

Sugars, total – 6.01 grams

Cholesterol – 0 grams

Calcium, Ca – 385 milligrams

Iron, Fe – 5.31 milligrams

Magnesium, Mg – 386 milligrams

Phosphorus, P – 688 milligrams

Potassium, K – 1048 milligrams

Sodium, Na – 1 milligrams

Zinc, Zn – 4.46 milligrams

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid – 0 milligrams

Thiamin – 0.293 milligrams

Riboflavin – 1.627 milligrams

Niacin – 5.174 milligrams

Vitamin B-6 – 0.196 milligrams

Folate, DFE – 63 micrograms

Vitamin B-12 – 0 micrograms

Vitamin A, RAE – 0 micrograms

Vitamin A, IU – 3 International Units

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) – 36.65 milligrams

Vitamin D – 0 International Units

Vitamin K (phylloquinone) – 0 micrograms

Caffeine – 0 milligrams

Risks

There are potential risks associated with the consumption of almonds. Allergy to almonds is actually quite common. Symptoms of almond allergy can include:

  • stomach pain or cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • problems swallowing
  • diarrhea
  • itching
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing

If you are allergic to almonds, it’s important to avoid any food products that may contain them. Almonds are used to make frangipane, marzipan, and praline. Almonds are also sometimes used in cakes, biscuits, bread, chocolates, ice cream, and certain liqueurs (such as Amandine).

The almond products listed in this article are available for purchase online.

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