Almonds have long been hailed as a health food due to the fact that they are jam-packed with nutrients. But if you’re yet to incorporate the tree nut into your diet, you should definitely consider doing so. That’s because eating just one handful of the tiny superfood each day could have far-reaching benefits for your health, as well as bringing some more unexpected advantages.
While almonds are commonly described as nuts, they are in fact the edible seed of the Prunus dulcis, which is more commonly known as the almond tree. While the plants were originally found in the Middle East, in recent times, America has become the world’s leading producer of the foodstuff.
Often, the almonds we see in stores have their shells removed, leaving only the edible element. These tiny, teardrop-shaped seeds are small but mighty. That’s because they are packed with nutrients including zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and B vitamins such as biotin and folate.
Not only are almonds nutrient-rich, but they can also provide a great source of protein and fiber in a person’s diet. Meanwhile, while they are considered high-fat foods – with a portion of 23 almonds containing around 160 calories – they predominantly contain the healthy, unsaturated variety, as opposed to the less-desirable saturated kind.
While almonds are high in unsaturated fats they are, nonetheless, relatively low in sugar and free from salt and cholesterol. So thanks to their high credentials when it comes to nutrients, they are ranked among the healthiest of tree nuts. Moreover, almonds have the highest rates of calcium, protein and fiber in the category in proportion to their mass.
According to the Healthy Eating website, consuming roughly 23 almonds per day is enough to incorporate a number of essential nutrients into our diets. Furthermore, a serving of this size contains 13 grams of unsaturated fats and just 1 gram of the saturated kind. It amounts to 160 calories and as previously intimated, contains no cholesterol or salt.
But what’s the best way to incorporate almonds into a healthy diet? Well, there are a number of solutions. However, perhaps most importantly of all, you must first choose the right variety, aiming to eat the tree nut in its natural form. That means that dry-roasted, salted, or other processed versions aren’t suitable.
Once you’ve found the correct kind of almonds, you could simply carry a portion of the tree nuts around in your bag for a simple snack when hunger strikes. Alternatively, you could spice things up a bit by tossing your plain almonds in chili flakes or sweeten them with maple syrup to add more flavor.
If you’d prefer to enjoy your almonds as part of a nutritious meal, you can do that as well. They make the perfect breakfast when scattered onto yogurt or muesli, or you could also blend them with fruit or vegetables to make a scrumptious smoothie. Failing that, if you’re stuck for time, a smattering of natural almond butter on bread should also hit the spot.
Another way to enjoy the health benefits of almonds without changing your diet too much is to switch your regular milk or flour for alternatives made from the tree nut. Almond milk is a healthy substitute for full-fat cow’s milk and can be easily used in hot drinks or on cereal. Almond flour, meanwhile, can be used when making baked goods or pancakes.
However you decide to enjoy almonds, the benefits they may have on your health cannot be overstated. Pennsylvania State University professor Penny Kris-Etherton has conducted research into the apparent superfood. And in quotes cited by the Daily Mail newspaper in 2017, she sang the tree nut’s praises.
Referring to almonds, Dr. Kris-Etherton said, “If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits… They’re not a cure-all, but when eaten in moderation – and especially when eaten instead of a food of lower nutritional value – they’re a great addition to an already healthy diet.”
So what kind of benefits can those who incorporate almonds into their diets expect to see? Well, it seems that there are many, some of which are perhaps unexpected. However, among the better-known advantages of eating the tree nuts is the positive effect that they can have on our heart health.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming 1.5 ounces per day of many nuts – including almonds – can lower the risk of heart disease. And this is specifically true in the case of overweight people. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that eating almonds can lower rates of LDL cholesterol, once again contributing towards a healthy ticker.
It is the nutrients contained within almonds that give them their ability to boost heart health. These include magnesium, which is essential in preventing hypertension and heart attacks. Furthermore, the tree nuts also contain vitamin E, copper, manganese, phytosterols and fatty acids, which also aid in protecting the organ.
Elsewhere, almonds can be used to help you stop piling on the pounds. A study by the British Journal of Nutrition found that because of the protein, fiber and fat content of almonds, just eating a handful can help keep you feeling full-up and satisfied, meaning you’re less likely to overeat. Meanwhile, the Healthy Eating website observed that the magnesium in the superfood can aid in regulating blood sugar, which in turn helps to reduce cravings.
It’s also been suggested that almonds may have the ability to prevent calories from being absorbed by the body. As a result, they are the perfect snack when it comes to weight management. However, because they are high in calories, it’s best to stick to the recommended daily serving of 23 nuts, which amounts to approximately a handful.
Almonds could also be beneficial to those with diabetes. An Indian study cited by British news broadcaster the BBC found that including the tree nut in a balanced diet had lowered blood sugar and heart risks in those with type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, the BBC noted a study in China had found that the regular consumption of almonds led to a reduction of glucose and insulin when subjects weren’t eating.
And because almonds contain minimal carbohydrates but lots of fiber, protein and healthy fats, they’re the ideal snack for people with diabetes. Furthermore, they contain a high level of magnesium, which has been linked to blood-sugar control. That’s because it’s thought that 25 to 38 percent of individuals with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency, according to the website Healthline.
By correcting their magnesium deficiencies, those with type 2 diabetes could lower their blood-sugar levels and boost insulin function. Furthermore, Healthline observed that individuals with diabetes could also lower their insulin resistance by incorporating magnesium into their diets. So it would seem that magnesium-rich foods such as almonds could mitigate the problems of type 2 diabetes.
The magnesium contained in almonds isn’t just beneficial to those with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes. Healthline noted that several studies have shown that the mineral can help to lower blood pressure. And this in turn can have major health impacts, helping to reduce the risk of strokes, cardiac arrests and kidney failure.
It would also seem that almonds may be good for our brains, according to the BBC’s website article. They contain a number of nutrients that support the health of the organ. These include unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E and folate. The tree nuts also contain l-carnitine, which is known to protect neurons against degeneration or injury.
Alongside boosting brain health, almonds may help to support a healthy stomach. A study conducted in 2016 also cited by the BBC suggested that moderate consumption of either almonds or almond butter altered the composition of the bacteria in our intestines, which contributes to our health in a number of ways.
Indeed, among the most staggering of all the potential health benefits of the humble almond is the suggestion that it may even have the ability to extend our lifespan. A Dutch study conducted over ten years and included in the BBc’s article found that eating just half a handful of nuts per day reduced the risk of early death from conditions such as diabetes and neurodegenerative disease by 23 percent on average.
Almonds are rich in antioxidants; Healthline’s article explained that these substances help reduce cell damage and inflammation, slow down the aging process and help to prevent diseases such as cancer. As a result, consuming the tree nut on a daily basis could have a positive impact on our overall health.
In fact, one clinical trial conducted on 60 male smokers discovered that consuming about 3 ounces of almonds each day lowered oxidative stress biomarkers by 23 to 34 percent over the course of four weeks. This discovery was said to support the results of another study which suggested that eating almonds alongside main meals could also reduce such damage.
Among the antioxidants that the almond contains is vitamin E. This helps to boost cell membranes in the body, which protect against damage via oxidization. Furthermore, Healthlined noted that a number of studies have linked high consumption of the antioxidant with lower rates of cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
As well as having a range of health benefits, almonds may also contain a number of unexpected beauty-boosting qualities. Regular consumption of the tree nuts can provide the body with a stable source of vitamin E, which according to the British NHS website is not only important in aiding the immune system but also supports healthy eyes and skin.
The Positive Health Wellness website also notes that almonds contain a mix of tocotrienols and tocopherols, which can protect collagen and elastin proteins in the skin – and it’s these proteins that apparently help to keep our complexion taut and firm. So it seems that by eating the tree nuts to support them, you can stay looking youthful and help to keep wrinkles at bay.
And combating signs of aging isn’t the only useful service that almonds can provide for our skin. As per the Positive Health Wellness website, eating the food could help to protect against damage caused by free radicals and environmental factors. Furthermore, the tree nuts contain up to 20 kinds of antioxidant flavonoids, which work together with vitamin E to keep skin in fantastic shape.
Eating almonds may not only contribute towards the overall look of our skin, but it could also improve the general condition of our hair, according to Positive Health Wellness. That’s because they contain high levels of nutrients such as magnesium, manganese and copper. And these have all been associated with healthy hair.
With all this in mind, it seems that almonds can be a powerful food when it comes to both health and beauty. If you’re considering including them in your diet, opt for a raw, unsalted variety. While roasted nuts still contain a high level of minerals and nutrients, some of the beneficial healthy fats can be lost in the cooking process.
But while almonds are a great source of minerals and nutrients, you should be careful of eating too many. Consuming more than the recommended handful of the tree nuts each day could have some unwanted side effects. As a result, gorging on the superfood could in fact be detrimental to our health.
One side effect of consuming too many almonds could be gaining weight. You should account for the energy contained in the tree nuts when planning your meals and snacks. According to the MD Health website, as a rule almonds should not make up more than between 20 and 35 percent of your calories per day – when following an average 2,000-calorie diet – if you don’t want to gain weight.
Furthermore, consuming too many almonds could lead to a vitamin E overdose. The tree nuts contain 7.4 mg of the nutrient per ounce, which is almost half of the recommended daily amount. The Curejoy website states that consuming more than this can potentially lead to lethargy, headaches, flatulence and diarrhea – so it’s best not to eat too many.
Eating an excess of almonds could also lead to increased toxicity in the body, according to MD Health. This is particularly the case with bitter varieties of the nut, as they contain the poisonous hydrocyanic acid. Overconsumption of this compound can apparently lead to serious side effects including nervous breakdown and choking – and in extreme cases it can reportedly even be fatal.
Another unwanted side effect of over-consuming almonds is an increased risk of developing kidney stones, says MD Health. That’s because they contain a large amount of oxalates, an excessive amount of which can cause calcium stones. Fortunately, our bodies can process such compounds found in the tree nuts more easily than they can the oxalates in other foods. Nevertheless, you should eat the foodstuff in moderation if you have a history of kidney stones.
Aside from the health-related side effects of eating too many almonds, there are also ethical factors to consider when upping your intake of the popular tree nut. Specifically, the American almond industry is believed to place a huge burden on the environment, and reportedly may be contributing significantly to the decline in bees, according to a January 2020 report by British newspaper The Guardian.
Moreover, the almond industry uses a lot of water. An article by newspaper The Irish Times in January 2020 noted that it takes over 7 pints to produce just one, single almond. This poses even more of a problem given that a massive 82 percent of the world’s almonds are produced in California, a state that has been afflicted by droughts in recent years.
So when it comes to eating almonds, it seems there are some pros and cons. With that in mind, as with many things, the tree nuts are best enjoyed in moderation, not exceeding one handful a day. That being said, when consumed responsibly, there’s no denying the food’s beneficial effect on our health and wellbeing.