Almonds may be eaten on their own, raw, or toasted; they are available sliced, flaked, slivered, as flour, oil, butter, or almond milk.
Almonds 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 3000-2000 BC have been unearthed in Jordan.
The health benefits of almonds have been documented for centuries, and modern research backs up some of these claims - there any many goods reasons to include them in your diet.
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.
- The almond is a species of tree native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East.
- Wild almonds contain a powerful toxin.
- Some evidence suggests that almonds can lower cholesterol levels.
- Almonds were first domesticated thousands of years ago.
Benefits of almonds
There are a number of potential health benefits associated with almonds.
1) Almonds and cholesterol
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests 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
Almonds could potentially reduce cancer risk.
A study, published in 2015 in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, looked at nut consumption and cancer risk.
The authors concluded that "peanuts, walnuts, and almonds appear to be a protective factor for the development of breast cancer."
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 some evidence indicating that including almonds in your diet may help ward off heart disease, but overall, the evidence is inconclusive.
In a study, published in 2014, scientists found that almonds significantly increased the amount of antioxidants in the bloodstream, 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.
4) Almonds and vitamin E
Almonds contain relatively high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant. In fact, they are one of the best natural sources of vitamin E, providing 37 percent of the recommended daily intake in just 1 ounce. Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative damage.
However, some studies have found a slight increase in prostate cancer risk with higher intakes of vitamin E; and a paper published by the American Heart Association in 2014 reported no significant benefits of vitamin E against heart disease or stroke.
5) Almonds and blood sugar
Almonds contain relatively high levels of magnesium.
There is some evidence that almonds may help keep blood sugar under control.
This ability is thought to be due to their high levels of magnesium — containing almost half the daily recommended amount in just 2 ounces of almonds.
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes and low magnesium levels took magnesium supplements. The researchers measured an increase in their magnesium levels, and they also saw improvements in insulin resistance.
6) Almonds help manage weight
There have been numerous studies on almonds and a variety of nuts that demonstrate their ability to keep people feeling full.
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 may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
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
Almonds are nutrient dense.
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
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).