Discover what makes almonds good for you, from monounsaturated fat to vitamins, and the truth about whether almonds can aid weight loss and boost brainpower.
What are almonds?
Although almonds are commonly referred to as a nut, they are actually teardrop-shaped edible seeds that are the fruit of the almond tree. You can buy them shelled or blanched, which is when shelled almonds have been treated with hot water to remove the brown outer coating, leaving behind a smooth white interior.
Nutritional benefits of almonds
Almonds are a high-fat food, but they are largely a monounsaturated fat which helps to protect the heart by maintaining levels of (good) HDL cholesterol versus (bad) LDL cholesterol. They are a great source of fibre and protein, and contain important nutrients including vitamin E, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, especially folate and biotin (vitamin B7).
What counts as a portion of almonds?
There is currently no clear guidelines from the NHS on consuming nuts, and they don’t count towards one of your five a day due to their high fat content. However, looking at the research studies mentioned below, it would appear that between 20g-50g almonds a day for adults could be beneficial as part of a balanced diet.
Can almonds help with weight loss?
The natural instinct is to assume that almonds aren't beneficial for weight maintenance, as they are high in fat. However, research by the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming nuts as part of a healthy diet, around 55g a day, is not only beneficial to reducing the risk of heart disease but also has limited risk of weight gain. A study from 2013 also concluded that almonds, when consumed as a snack, help to reduce hunger and do not increase the risk of weight gain.
Can almonds help reduce the risk of heart disease?
Almonds are rich in nutrients that can help protect the heart including unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, magnesium, vitamin E, copper and manganese. Two research studies in 2012 and 2014 found that almonds can improve the risk of heart disease, specifically in overweight individuals. Further research has shown that almond consumption helps to reduce LDL cholesterol which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Does eating almonds affect diabetes?
A recent study in India on patients with type 2 diabetes found that including almonds as part of a balanced diet had multiple benefits on both glycemic and cardiovascular risk factors. A further study in China also demonstrated that regular almond consumption resulted in lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting glucose, so it would appear that including almonds as part of a healthy diet is a good thing for those with diabetes. That said, you should always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Are almonds good for the brain?
Almonds are a good source of nutrients that are important for brain health, including vitamin E, folate and unsaturated fatty acids, as well as l-carnitine which is known for its neuroprotective benefits. More research is required, but recent animal studies have shown that almond consumption may well boost memory function.
Can almonds improve longevity?
A 10-year Dutch study found that consuming half a handful of nuts a day, rather than specifically almonds, was associated with an average 23% lower risk of early death from conditions including neurodegenerative disease or diabetes.
Can almonds improve the gut microbiome?
It would appear that consuming almonds is good for the gut. A 2016 study found that consuming moderate amounts of almonds or almond butter not only improved diet quality in both adults and children, but also altered the composition of the gut microbiome, possibly in part to their high fibre content.
Healthy ways to cook with almonds...
Trout with almond & red peppers
Savoy cabbage with almonds
Wholewheat pasta with broccoli & almonds
Warm cauliflower salad
Creamy veggie korma
Chicken biryani bake
Crunchy bulghar salad
Pomegranate chicken with almond couscous
This article was published on 31st August 2017.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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