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At the Wellness Way, we emphasize the pivotal role dietary choices play in restoring or optimizing health. That’s why we pay close attention to food allergies and harmful substances in foods, like GMOs, artificial food dyes, and the “dirty dozen” produce. While it can be challenging to make these changes, the awareness presents an opportunity to make better choices and improve our health in the long term. With the back-to-school season quickly approaching, there’s no better time to delve into healthy snacks. One of these health-promoting snack foods is almonds.

Nutrients in Almonds

Almonds are the teardrop-shaped edible seeds of the almond tree (Prunus dulcis). Even though they are native to the Mediterranean region, the USA is the world’s largest producer of almonds. They’re hardy little nuts, rich in nutrients and health benefits. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of almonds provides: [1]

  • Fiber: Roughly 4 grams of dietary fiber, making them a satiating snack and contributing to digestive health.
  • Protein: Around 6 grams of protein, making almonds a good source of plant-based protein.
  • Fat: Approximately 14 grams of fat, primarily heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, along with some polyunsaturated fats and a small amount of saturated fat.
  • Carbohydrates: About 6 grams of carbohydrates, with a significant portion coming from dietary fiber.
  • Vitamin E: Approximately 7.27 milligrams of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative stress.
  • Magnesium: Around 76 milligrams of magnesium, which is important for various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function.
  • Manganese: Roughly 0.6 milligrams of manganese contribute to bone health and antioxidant defenses.
  • Calcium: Approximately 76 milligrams of calcium, which supports bone health and various physiological processes.
  • Potassium: Roughly 136 milligrams of potassium, essential for maintaining fluid balance and proper muscle function.

They also provide a fair amount of copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and phosphorus, and this is all from a small handful of almonds supplying 164 calories. Almonds are also loaded with antioxidants, which combat free radicals and reduce damage to tissues in the body. Following are some additional health benefits of almonds.

Cardiovascular Health

Nutritionists and dietitians often promote eating nuts, including almonds, as a way to lower the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and improve heart health. Nuts accomplish this in several ways; reducing inflammation, providing healthy fats, and balancing cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Those who eat nuts regularly were shown to have lower waist circumferences and better metabolic numbers, lowering the risk of developing heart disease. [2]

Reduced Inflammation

Almonds have long been recognized for their ability to mitigate inflammation, a natural physiological response that plays a central role in the development of chronic diseases. Their antioxidants, healthy fats, and beneficial impact on blood sugar all help keep inflammation under control. Polyphenols in almonds can work through various inflammatory pathways and potentially help lower inflammatory markers in the body, like C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleuken-6 (IL-6). [3]

Almonds’ low glycemic index and beneficial impact on blood sugar levels can indirectly contribute to reduced inflammation. Spikes in blood sugar can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, so stabilizing blood sugar levels is important for managing inflammation. [4] A study of 200 young people (ages 16 to 25) found that eating two ounces of almonds daily for 12 weeks reduced inflammatory markers like TNF-α and IL-6. Hemoglobin A1C, LDL, and total cholesterol also went down. [5]

It’s important to note that while almonds can be a valuable addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, the overall dietary pattern matters. A well-balanced diet that eliminates your food allergens is key to effectively managing inflammation. Incorporating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods, including almonds if you’re not allergic, can contribute to vibrant health over time.

Heart-Healthy Fats and Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy fats. These monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, can influence the body’s production of inflammatory molecules and promote a more balanced inflammatory response. [6] A 2014 study published in Free Radical Research researched almonds’ effects on the human heart. After four weeks of eating 50 grams of almonds daily, healthy middle-aged men, healthy young men, and young men with two or more cardiovascular concerns had improved heart function. They also had increased levels of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and their systolic blood pressure decreased significantly. [7] Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, helping to protect cells from free radical damage and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Blood Pressure Regulation

Food high in magnesium, including almonds, may help regulate blood pressure. Studies have shown that A lack of sufficient magnesium can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). [8] Taking in enough magnesium helps keep blood vessels healthy, reducing the risk of heart disease. [9] The daily recommended intake of magnesium is 420 mg. Just two ounces of almonds supplies nearly half that amount, so adding one or two servings of almonds daily may support magnesium levels and lower cardiovascular risk. [10]

Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Almonds may also help lower oxidized (damaged) LDL cholesterol, which plays a major role in atherosclerosis — a narrowing of the arteries. A human trial with 27 participants demonstrated that snacking on almonds over the course of one month led to a 14% reduction in oxidized LDL cholesterol. [11] Over time, eating almonds on a regular basis could reduce the risk of heart disease. Almonds may also help change LDL and HDL cholesterol levels to a more favorable balance. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often called “bad cholesterol,” while HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is referred to as “good cholesterol.” While it’s more complex than that, having a good HDL to LDL balance is linked to better cardiovascular outcomes.

Blood Sugar Control

Almonds have a low glycemic index, which means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. High blood sugar and diabetes are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In a study of those with type 2 diabetes, eating almonds lowered hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) and BMI, potentially lowering heart disease risk. [12]

Incorporating a handful of almonds into your diet as a snack, topping for salads, or as an ingredient in various dishes can contribute to these heart-protective benefits. However, it’s important to consider overall dietary patterns and lifestyle factors in maintaining a healthy heart.

Hair, Skin, and Nail Health

Hair

Almonds contain B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc, which have all been shown to aid in hair growth. [13][14] The antioxidants, fatty acids, and magnesium in almonds support healthy blood flow, and increased blood flow in the scalp stimulates hair growth. [15] Almond oil combined with amla juice is used topically in Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for dandruff, thinning hair, and premature graying. Regularly massaging your scalp with this oil helps keep hair strong, soft, and shiny by reducing inflammation, moisturizing, and softening the skin and tissues around the hair follicles.

Skin

The antioxidants, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory attributes of almonds are also great for the skin. Whether you eat almonds regularly or apply almond oil or almond milk to the skin, these nuts can help keep skin soft and supple. Almonds also contain manganese–a vital ingredient in the production of collagen, which not only keeps joints healthy but gives skin its elasticity. In fact, a 2019 study shows that almonds can practically turn back the clock on wrinkles. [16]

Nails

You’ll find almond oil is frequently used in commercial cuticle oils due to its hydrating and antioxidant properties.

Brain Health

The same antioxidants and other nutrients that help increase blood flow in the scalp increase blood flow in the brain. Tree nuts like almonds have essential nutrients that fight against age-related brain conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Almonds help in the production of neurotransmitters called acetylcholine, which aid in the transmission of messages. A low level of this neurotransmitter can create a brain fog wherein thinking becomes unclear. This may lead to headaches and cognitive decline, eventually becoming a disease. [17]

Gut Health

The gut does It is connected to your digestion, mental health, immune system, hormone production, and even the thinking part of the brain. The gut is comprised of a large microbiome, and it’s very easy for this microbiome to become unbalanced. There are certain foods you can eat that have fibers called prebiotics. These prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut, boosting its ability to do what it’s supposed to do. A study in 2014 showed that the skin of almonds contains some of these prebiotics. [18]

How to Enjoy Almonds

There are so many ways to enjoy almonds these days! You can use almond milk in your lattes and cooking, bake with almond flour, spread almond butter on apples, or enjoy a handful of roasted or raw almonds as a snack. Here are some delicious almond-containing recipes you can try:

Snacking on almonds is a good way to keep the carbs down and the healthy fats up. However, remember that portion control is key, as almonds are calorie dense. Overeating almonds and other nuts can quickly lead to weight gain if you’re not careful. However, they are satiating and can promote weight loss when eaten in moderation. A small handful (about 1 ounce or 28 grams) is a typical serving size. Including almonds alongside a variety of other nutrient-dense foods can help you get their health benefits while enjoying their nutty taste and versatility.

Another consideration is other ingredients that may be added to almonds. If you buy roasted almonds or almond butter, make sure no harmful fats were added in the process. You want to stay away from high omega-6 oils like canola, cottonseed, and peanut, which are often used in these products. Roasted almonds should be dry roasted without added oils, as should almond butter. You can find some almond butter with palm oil added, which is preferable, as it’s a saturated (less likely to be oxidized/damaged) fat.

Learn Whether Almonds Are Healthy For YOU

Almonds have so many benefits–even more than are listed here. However, the benefits listed above will be canceled out if your immune system believes it’s responding to a hazardous foreign substance (a food allergen). That’s why it’s crucial to eat in accordance with your food allergy list. To get your allergies tested or discover other superfoods, contact a Wellness Way clinic today!

References

  1. FoodData Central (usda.gov)
  2. Nuts, body weight and insulin resistance – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. The Effects of Almond Consumption on Inflammatory Biomarkers in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. New insights into insulin: The anti-inflammatory effect and its clinical relevance – PMC (nih.gov)
  5. Effect of Almond Consumption on Metabolic Risk Factors-Glucose Metabolism, Hyperinsulinemia, Selected Markers of Inflammation: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Adolescents and Young Adults – PubMed (nih.gov)
  6. Fatty acid composition of nuts–implications for cardiovascular health – PubMed (nih.gov)
  7. An almond-enriched diet increases plasma α-tocopherol and improves vascular function but does not affect oxidative stress markers or lipid levels: Free Radical Research: Vol 48, No 5 (tandfonline.com)
  8. Magnesium and Blood Pressure: A Physiology-Based Approach – PubMed (nih.gov)
  9. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials – PubMed (nih.gov)
  10. Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels | FDA
  11. Dose response of almonds on coronary heart disease risk factors: blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine, and pulmonary nitric oxide: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial – PubMed (nih.gov)
  12. The Effects of Almonds on Gut Microbiota, Glycometabolism, and Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials – PubMed (nih.gov)
  13. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review – PubMed (nih.gov)
  14. On the Potential Role of the Antioxidant Couple Vitamin E/Selenium Taken by the Oral Route in Skin and Hair Health – PubMed (nih.gov)
  15. Blood Vessels Hold Key To Thicker Hair Growth — ScienceDaily
  16. Phytotherapy Research | Medicinal Chemistry Journal | Wiley Online Library
  17. Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia – PubMed (nih.gov
  18. Prebiotic effects of almonds and almond skins on intestinal microbiota in healthy adult humans – PubMed (nih.gov)

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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