The almond is a type of drupe nut, which means it has several layers around a hard seed in the middle. It is typically extracted from its shell before being sold at the store. Macadamias, walnuts, and pecans have the same structure.
Like other nuts, almonds are high in calories, but they provide many minerals and compounds critical for good health. Protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and iron are just a few of the nutrients these wonder nuts contain. Eating just a few almond snacks a day can boost your brain function, protect your heart and even help you lose weight.
An almond snack offers plenty of protection against illness. Eating a handful of almonds every day (or at least a few times a week) can help you avoid many life-threatening conditions. Here are a few of the health benefits of this high-fiber superfood.
Lower Blood Fat Levels
Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats or healthy fats. They are an excellent alternative to the trans fats and polyunsaturated fats you find in processed foods. All nuts, avocados, and olive oil are common sources of monounsaturated fats. The healthy fats in these foods have many benefits including reduced cholesterol, lower risk for breast cancer, and reduced belly fat.
A study at Canada’s University of Toronto showed that eating 2.5 ounces of almonds lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol better than a whole wheat muffin. Antioxidant markers in your body can improve by consuming a natural almond treat daily. The flavonoids in these nuts are thought to be the source of all the health benefits.
A Better Cardiovascular System
Eating the whole nut with almond skins will give you a double dose of nutrients. The skins have antioxidant flavonoids, and the nuts contain heart-healthy Vitamin E. Researchers found 20 flavonoids in almond skins, including catechins, which are prevalent in green tea. Eating an almond with its skin attached can significantly improve your LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. Eating these nuts, along with other whole, natural foods may even reduce cholesterol as much as taking certain statin drugs.
Improved Brain Function
The L-carnitine and riboflavin (Vitamin B2) in an almond can improve cognitive activity. A study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology showed that (Prunus amygdalus (almond) reduced serum cholesterol and improved memory in rats. The research suggested there is a basis for using this healthy nut to prevent the inflammation that causes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in older adults.
Lower Blood Sugar to Prevent Diabetes
The monounsaturated fats in an almond slow down the release of glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. It prevents your body from resisting insulin and helps control other factors that cause diabetes, including weight gain, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Younger- Looking Skin
This fatty nut has lots of Vitamin E to keep your skin supple and young-looking. Catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, kaempferol and other flavonoid antioxidants combine with Vitamin E to prevent lines and wrinkles. Flavonol compounds also work to reverse damage caused by a poor diet, oxidative stress, and UV rays, reducing your chance of skin cancer.
The vitamins and minerals in Prunus amygdalus include copper and manganese, which help form an enzyme called superoxide dismutase. This oxidative enzyme fights free radicals that damage energy-producing mitochondria in your cells. The Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) in this healthy nut helps produce glutathione, another enzyme that protects your cells’ energy centers.
Almond’s healthy fats may help you lose weight. Most nuts offer protection against diabetes and heart disease, but some people avoid them due to their fat content. The fats in nuts are monounsaturated fats that provide health benefits, so there’s no reason to avoid eating them.
Research in the medical journal Obesity showed that people who ate nuts twice a week were less likely to gain weight than people who rarely ate nuts. A 28-month long study in Spain found that subjects who ate nuts at least twice a week had 31% less chance of gaining weight than subjects who never or rarely ate nuts.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes daily consumption of nuts and seeds and has been shown to help people control their weight better than a standard American diet. An almond-enriched diet has also been shown to help overweight adults shed pounds quicker than a diet containing complex carbohydrates (whole grains, green veggies, peas, lentils).
A study cited in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders indicated that people on a low calorie, almond-enriched diet lost 56% more in body fat and had a 62% greater reduction in their body mass index (BMI) than subjects on a low-calorie diet rich in complex carbohydrates.
Study participants who had Type 1 diabetes reduced intake of diabetes medication by 96%, compared to a 50% reduction by people on the complex carbohydrate diet.
Raw vs. Roasted
The health benefits of raw almonds slightly outweigh those of roasted almonds. A quarter cup of natural raw almonds has 132 calories and is high in biotin (49% of the daily value) and Vitamin E (40% of the daily value). Other nutrients in raw almonds include copper, manganese, magnesium, Vitamin B2, and fiber. One ounce of dry roasted almonds has 169 calories and is slightly lower in protein, Vitamin E, and fiber than a comparable amount of raw nuts.
The popular honey-roasted version of these nuts has more fiber than the dry-roasted variety. One ounce of oil-roasted nuts has 172 calories and more unsaturated fat than its counterparts. Although roasted nuts are easier to digest, choose raw ones for a lower calorie count and more nutrition. Roasted nuts may also contain sugar, salt, and preservatives.
The food value of almond adds crunch and fiber to meals without adding many calories.
Almond Dishes Around the World
Raw badam is used in dishes worldwide. In Iran, chaqale bâdam (green almonds with sea salt) are sold as a snack in street markets. Sweet almonds are used to prepare a special bâdam for babies.
Indian cuisine uses almond in chutney, a sauce that can be used on meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian dishes.
It tastes similar to the better-known coconut chutney but provides more riboflavin, fiber, L-carnitine, protein and healthy fat. The high-fiber nut is also used to flavor Shahi Paneer (Curd Cheese).This badam gravy can be used with chicken or fish instead of cheese.
Murgh Badami, or curried chicken in almond sauce, is one of the korma (thickened milk) recipes used in Indian cuisine. It also features green peppers, onions, and cardamon as part of the light but spicy sauce.
Healthy Almond Recipes
A cinnamon-toasted almond tastes great, and cinnamon has several health benefits to make the snack delicious and nutritious. The spice makes food sweeter without the calories of sugar and contains antioxidants to fight infections and inflammation. It also sweetens your breath instead of harming teeth like sugar.
Combine two cups of the raw nuts, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Spread them out on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast on low heat for an hour. Remove and store in an airtight container. Try not to eat them all right away!
Don’t spend your money on energy bars from the store, which may contain preservatives. Make coconut almond energy bars at home by adding raisins, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, oats and peanut butter to the main ingredients for a carb and protein-packed treat.
Almond Butter, Flour, and Milk
Vegans and anyone who wants to be healthier can substitute almond-derived products for cow’s milk or butter. Health food stores, online retailers and most supermarkets sell vegan almond butter and milk. You can find almond flour online and in health food stores, but it isn’t readily available in most supermarkets.
Nut butters are healthy, low-calorie replacements for dairy butter. Cow’s butter has 99% fat, with 60% of it coming from saturated fat. Eating dairy butter and other saturated fat daily can increase your chances of heart disease. Peanut butter has been around a long time, although other vegan butters are now gaining popularity. Almond butter has more vitamins, healthy fats and minerals than organic peanut butter, but peanut butter has more protein than almond butter.
You can make almond butter at home by blending unsalted almonds (and a few honey-roasted peanuts for added taste, if you want) in a food processor. Stir the mixture until it’s smooth. (You can add peanut or canola oil if the butter is too crumbly.)
Unsweetened almond milk is lower in calories than other vegan or dairy milk. Lactose-free almond milk has no saturated fat, but its production is unsustainable due to excessive use of water. If you have problems drinking dairy milk or are vegan, then almond milk may be the best choice for you.
Gluten-free almond flour is a heart-healthy alternative to white flour. One cup of this nut flour contains 100% of the daily requirement for Vitamin E. Almond has a low glycemic score, which means it is digested slowly and prevents insulin and blood sugar levels from spiking. Eating foods with a low glycemic index helps prevent diabetes.