Almonds are one of the most nutritious of all nuts. They are one of my favorite craving killers and are a vital part of my whole food arsenal.
A handful of almonds (about 1 ounce/20-23 almonds) contains 12 % of your daily allowance of protein and absolutely NO CHOLESTEROL! In fact, most of the fats in almonds are monounsaturated, also known as “healthy” fat.
These fats (mainly oleic and palmitoleic acid) help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diets, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring this healthy blood lipid profile.
THE BENEFITS DON’T END THERE THOUGH!
- 1 ounce contains as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk, a valuable tool in maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
- You’ll also get 35% daily allowance of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant with proven cancer-fighting qualities.
- This little nut is also loaded with zinc (immune booster) as well as lots of healthy fiber.
- If you’re pregnant, or thinking about it, almonds are a great source of the folic acid (reduces the risk of neural tube defects) you need!
- Almonds contain more magnesium (which can help reduce blood pressure) than oatmeal or even spinach.
- Almonds are free in gluten and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten free food formulas. Such formula preparations are in fact healthy alternatives in people with wheat food allergy and coeliac disease.
- These nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. These vitamins function as co-factors for enzymes and aide in cellular metabolism.
- Almond oil is an excellent emollient, which helps to keep skin well moisturised and protected from dryness.
Reduced risk of Heart Disease
By lowering your “bad” LDL cholesterol and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, almonds can help to reduce your cardiovascular risk. Five large human epidemiological studies, including the Nurses Health Study, the Iowa Health Study, the Adventist Health Study and the Physicians Health Study, all found that nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.
Researchers who studied data from the Nurses Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate/fats in an average diet, resulted in an impressive 30% – 45% reduction in heart disease risk.
In addition to their cholesterol-lowering effects, almonds’ ability to reduce heart disease risk, may also be due to Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which helps to prevent arterial damage and plaque formation, which is the precursor to heart attacks and strokes.
- Reduced risk of Diabetes
Almonds appear to decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar and insulin. Research shows that eating almonds along with a high glycemic index food/meal significantly lowers the glycemic index (the rate at which glucose is made available) of the meal and lessens the rise in blood sugar after eating. This helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels and helps you feel energised for longer.
A report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that consuming a diet rich in almonds may help improve insulin sensitivity in those with prediabetes, a condition in which people have blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
[stextbox id=”warning” shadow=”true” color=”ff0000″]WW TIP: When eating foods with a higher glycemic index, including almonds in the meal can help keep your blood sugar under control. Don’t just enjoy almonds as a between-meal snack. Spread a little almond butter on your toast, or add a handful of lightly roasted almonds to your salad, or chop and use as a topping for pasta or your morning cereal![/stextbox]
- Reduced risk of Weight Gain
Despite the variety of cardioprotective benefits that almonds provide, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows that such fears are groundless. It revealed that people who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts!
So, why not grab a handfull of almonds the next time you feel a bit peckish. It’s the nutritionally smart way to snack!