Almonds and Health

Almonds
Almonds

The Almond is a tree nut native to the Mediterranean region.  Historically, almond trees grew there wild and were later cultivated as early as 3000 BC.  The edible part of the almond is actually a seed from a drupe.

Almonds are rich in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, fiber, biotin, minerals (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium), and phytonutrients (flavonoids, plant sterols, phenolic acids).

One serving of almonds equals one ounce (28 grams), about 23 almonds or 1/4 cup.  It is a calorie-dense food but also nutrient-dense with the majority of its fat being monounsaturated fat.  One ounce provides about 165 calories, 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat (80% monounsaturated, 15% polyunsaturated, 5% saturated), 6 grams carbohydrate, and 3 grams fiber.

Reasons to Eat Almonds

1. Almonds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol

Plant sterols as found in almonds may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol.  The high amount of unsaturated fat in almonds favors an improved lipid profile, especially when almonds replace other foods high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrate.

2. Almonds are rich in fiber

Almonds contain the highest amount of fiber of all the tree nuts.  One ounce provides 3 grams of fiber.  Fiber helps improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Fiber also helps control appetite by keeping you full for a longer period of time.

3. Almonds lower blood pressure

Almonds contain potassium.  An ounce of almonds contains over 200 mg of potassium.  Almonds also contain arginine.  Both potassium and arginine relax arteries causing them to open up, which lowers blood pressure.

4. Almonds lower cardiovascular disease risk

Almonds have been suggested to lower cardiovascular disease risk by lowering total and LDL cholesterol, and exerting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.  A large study found that eating tree nuts, including almonds, two or more times weekly was associated with a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ways to Enjoy Almonds

  • Almond Milk: This dairy-free plant milk is free of cholesterol and lactose.  It is made by finely grinding almonds with water, which is then strained to remove the almond pulp.  The remaining liquid may then be fortified with nutrients like calcium and vitamins A and D.  The best choice is unsweetened almond milk.
  • Almond Butter: Almond butter has a similar consistency to peanut butter.  Jarred almond butter is typically more expensive than peanut butter, ranging in price from $5 to $15.  Almond butter can be spread on whole grain toast or sliced apples.  it can also be stirred into freshly cooked oats for a richer tasting oatmeal.
  • Almond Flour or Almond Meal: Made of finely ground almonds, this flour alternative is gluten-free and low in carbohydrate.  The almonds are usually blanched with the skins removed to create a finer texture.  It is more nutrient-dense than wheat flour but also higher in calories and fat.  Almond flour can be used as a breading for fish.
  • Topping: Whole, chopped, or slivered unsalted almonds are an easy topping for salads, hot or cold cereals, and baked goods.
  • Snacking: Try crunchy and nutritious almonds in place of less healthy snacks like pretzels and chips.
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