Almonds are the edible seeds of the fruit of the almond tree (Prunus dulcis). They are native to Iran and surrounding countries but they have been cultivated worldwide, and now the largest producer of almonds in the world is the United States.
Almond is often called a nut but it is technically a drupe which is composed of an outer hull and a hard shell that contains a seed. This is the edible part of the almond tree, which is widely consumed all over the world.
Aside from being delicious on their own, they are useful for making almond milk, almond butter, or almond flour. There are two varieties of almonds: sweet and bitter.
Sweet almonds are edible type consumed as nuts. They are sold in the market either shelled or unshelled. Shelled almonds are available whole, sliced or slivered in either their natural form, with their skin, or blanched, with their skin removed.
Bitter almonds are used to make almond oil that is used as a flavouring agent for foods. They are inedible as they naturally contain toxic substances, such as hydrocyanic acid, but these compounds are removed in the processing of almond oil.
Almond Nutrition Facts
Almond is one of the most nutrient dense-nuts. It is rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. It also contains zinc, selenium, copper, niacin, as well as fiber and monounsaturated fat which support a healthy heart. Just a handful of almonds a day is a great way to get the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and can keep diseases at bay.
The following is the nutrition information for one ounce (28g) of almonds, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 164
- Fat: 14.1 g
- Sugars: 1.2 g
- Sodium: 0.3 mg
- Fiber: 3.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 6.1 g
- Protein: 6 g
- Vitamin E: 7.3 mg
- Calcium: 76.3 mg
- Iron: 1.1 mg
- Magnesium: 76.5 mg
- Phosphorus: 136 mg
Health Benefits of Almonds
1. Keep your heart healthy
Almonds may support your heart health in several ways. Almonds are loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in your bloodstream.
A 1994 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at men with normolipidemic and found that those who supplemented their diets with almonds for three weeks saw a 10% reduction in LDL levels .
Almonds are also rich in magnesium which can help lower blood pressure. Studies show that having a low magnesium level in your blood can put you at risk for high blood pressure. Furthermore, the presence of vitamin E in almonds acts as an antioxidant vitamin, which combats several fatal heart diseases.
2. Regulate blood sugar
There is some evidence that almonds can be helpful in regulating blood sugar levels. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at giving participants controlled meals based either around almonds, bread, rice, or potatoes. Researchers found that participants’ blood sugar and insulin decreased after eating the almond meal but not the others .
A 2011 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 may be beneficial for those with diabetes .
Moreover, almonds are a great source of magnesium, which is known to be beneficial for blood sugar control .
3. Promote digestion
Almonds are a great source of fiber and polyphenols, which can improve digestive health by increasing good bacteria in the gut.
In a 2019 study, college freshmen were randomly assigned to snack on almonds or graham crackers. After eight weeks, researchers found that the almond eaters experienced important changes in their gut microbiome makeup, including a decrease in a pathogenic bacterium, and an increase in the diversity of good bacteria .
4. Enhance brain function
Research has shown that almond, as well as almond oil, contain L-carnitine, folate, unsaturated fats, tocopherol, and polyphenols, which have been linked to increased brain function, resulting in an enhanced memory function and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease [6, 7]. While animal studies show positive results, more human studies are required to make any stronger connections.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Almonds contain protein which satisfies your appetite and therefore you are less likely to overeat. There is considerable evidence that high-protein foods are more satiating than those that are high in carbohydrate and/or fat .
In addition to being satiating, the dietary fiber in almonds also helps control the amount of calories intake. A study on 65 overweight adults found that those who ate a diet rich in almonds lost up to 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more body fat than those who rarely ate almonds .
6. Prevent cancer
Almonds are found to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. A 2015 study of 97 breast cancer patients revealed that there is a protective effect of many types of nuts, including peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, on the development of breast cancer. The results from this study showed that high consumption of those nuts significantly reduced the risk for breast cancer by 2-3 times .
Another study followed 30,708 participants between 4.6 years and 30 years found that eating nuts regularly was associated with a decreased risk of colorectal, endometrial, and pancreatic cancers .
Still, more studies are needed to determine whether nuts are responsible for this association, or whether other factors are involved.
7. Strengthens bones
Almonds are rich in calcium and phosphorus which help in strengthening your bones and teeth. It also provides other nutrients that help to increase the bone mineral density, including vitamin K, cooper, and magnesium.
To further promote healthy bones, pair a handful of almonds with a bowl of unflavoured yoghurt with your morning oatmeal or just blend them into your smoothies.
8. Skin care
Almond oil is an excellent moisturizer as it contains olein glyceride linoleic acid. It helps in moisturizing your skin and prevents the occurrence of various skin diseases, such as acne, pimple, etc.
Almonds also contain vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from the damage caused by free radicals. The vitamin E in almonds nourishes and softens the skin when applied daily.
Mix 1 teaspoon of the grounded oats, 1 teaspoon of almond powder and 1-2 teaspoon of raw milk to prepare a paste. Apply this pack all over your face and massage gently in a circular motion. Keep it for 15 minutes and rinse off with cold water.