Almonds are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, and are associated with a number of health benefits. Just a handful of almonds, approximately 1 ounce, contains one-eighth of our daily protein needs.
Almonds may be eaten on their own, raw, or toasted; they are available sliced, flaked, slivered, as flour, oil, butter, or almond milk.
The health benefits of almonds have been documented for centuries, and modern research is backing up many of these claims - there any many goods reasons for people to include them in their diet.
Fast facts on almonds
Here are some key points about almonds. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Almonds are not, in fact, a true nut
- Wild almonds contain a powerful toxin
- Some evidence suggests that almonds can lower cholesterol levels
- Almonds were first domesticated thousands of years ago
What are almonds?
Almonds are not a true nut.
The almond is a species of tree native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East.
The almonds which we consume are, in fact, seeds; they are a "drupe" and are therefore not considered a true nut.
Almond trees are believed to have been one of the earliest trees to have been domesticated. Evidence of domesticated almond trees dating to 3,000-2,000 BC have been unearthed in Jordan.
The almond gets no less than ten mentions in the Bible, the first of which, in Genesis, describes it as being "among the best of fruits."
Wild almonds (bitter almonds) contain glycoside amygdalin. Once an almond is crushed or chewed, this compound is converted into prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) - a deadly poison.
Eating a few dozen could be fatal. Domesticated almonds (sweet almonds), however, do not contain glycoside amygdalin and are, of course, safe to eat.
Possible health benefits of almonds
Potential health benefits associated with consuming almonds include lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
1) Almonds and cholesterol
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggested that consuming almonds increases vitamin E levels in the plasma and red blood cells and also lowers cholesterol levels.
One of the study's authors, said:
"This study is important because it shows that eating almonds can significantly boost levels of vitamin E in the diet and bloodstream. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that defends your cells against damage on a daily basis and prevents artery-clogging oxidation of cholesterol. Eating a handful of almonds a day is a great way to get the vitamin E your body needs to stay healthy."
Ella Haddad, DrPH, RD, Loma Linda University, CA
2) Almonds and cancer risk
Researchers at the Department of Nutrition, University of California, conducted a study to determine the effect of almonds on colon cancer.
According to the authors, the results suggested that "almond consumption may reduce colon cancer risk and does so via at least one almond lipid-associated component."
Their research was published in Cancer Letters.
3) Almonds and heart disease
Almonds, along with nuts and seeds in general, are often associated with improved levels of blood lipids and being good for the heart.
There is evidence indicating that including almonds in your diet can help ward off heart disease.
One study, published in the journal Circulation, assessed almonds' effect on coronary heart disease risk factors, the researchers concluded that "almonds used as snacks in the diets of hyperlipidemic subjects significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors, probably in part because of the nonfat (protein and fiber) and monounsaturated fatty acid components of the nut."
In another study, published in 2014, scientists found that almonds significantly increased the amount of antioxidants in the blood stream, reduced blood pressure and improved blood flow. Their findings add weight to the theory that Mediterranean diets with lots of nuts have big health benefits.
Nutritional profile of almonds
Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high-quality protein; they also contain high levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids along with high levels of bioactive molecules (such as fiber, phytosterols, vitamins, other minerals, and antioxidants) which can help prevent cardiovascular heart diseases.
As far as vegetable foods are concerned, nuts and seeds are the richest in fiber after cereals, which could explain why almonds are good for cardiovascular health.
Almond nutritional report
One cup of whole, raw almonds (143 grams) contains:
|Water - 6.31 grams||Energy - 828 kilocalories|
|Protein - 30.24 grams||Total lipid (fat) - 71.40 grams|
|Carbohydrate, by difference - 30.82 grams||Fiber, total dietary - 17.9 grams|
|Sugars, total - 6.01 grams||Cholesterol - 0 grams|
|Calcium, Ca - 385 milligrams||Iron, Fe - 5.31 milligrams|
|Magnesium, Mg - 386 milligrams||Phosphorus, P - 688 milligrams|
|Potassium, K - 1048 milligrams||Sodium, Na - 1 milligrams|
|Zinc, Zn - 4.46 milligrams||Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid - 0 milligrams|
|Thiamin - 0.293 milligrams||Riboflavin - 1.627 milligrams|
|Niacin - 5.174 milligrams||Vitamin B-6 - 0.196 milligrams|
|Folate, DFE - 63 micrograms||Vitamin B-12 - 0 micrograms|
|Vitamin A, RAE - 0 micrograms||Vitamin A, IU - 3 International Units|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) - 36.65 milligrams||Vitamin D - 0 International Units|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) - 0 micrograms||Caffeine - 0 milligrams|
Potential risks associated with almonds
There are potential risks associated with the consumption of almonds. Allergy to almonds is actually quite common. Symptoms of almond allergy can include:
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
If you are allergic to almonds, it's important to avoid any food products that may contain them. Almonds are used to make frangipane, marzipan, and praline. Almonds are also sometimes used in cakes, biscuits, bread, chocolates, ice cream, and certain liqueurs (such as Amandine).