Almonds contain vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, and so they may offer a number of health benefits. Just a handful of almonds — approximately 1 ounce — contains one-eighth of a person's daily protein needs.
People can eat almonds raw or toasted as a snack or add them to sweet or savory dishes. They are also available sliced, flaked, slivered, as flour, oil, butter, or almond milk.
People call almonds a nut, but they are seeds, rather than a true nut.
Almond trees may have been one of the earliest trees that people cultivated. In Jordan, archaeologists have found evidence of domesticated almond trees dating back some 5,000 years.
In this article, find out some of the reasons for almonds being a healthful choice.
There are several potential health benefits that scientists have associated with almonds.
1) Almonds and cholesterol
Almonds are high in fat, but it is unsaturated fat. This type of fat does not increase the risk of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol.
In moderation, the American Heart Association (AHA) note that unsaturated fats may improve a person's blood cholesterol status.
In addition, almonds contain no cholesterol.
A study from 2005 suggests that consuming almonds may:
- increase vitamin E levels in the plasma and red blood cells
- lower overall cholesterol levels
According to these researchers, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help stop the oxidization process that causes cholesterol to clog the arteries.
Further studies have found similar results.
Authors of a 2018 review note that the nutrients in almonds may help boost or maintain levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol. They advised people to consume around 45 grams (g) a day of almonds to protect heart health.
Which foods should you eat and avoid if you have high cholesterol? Click here for some tips.
2) Almonds and cancer risk
The authors identified a two to three times lower risk of breast cancer among individuals who consumed higher quantities of peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, compared with those who did not.
They concluded that "peanuts, walnuts, and almonds appear to be a protective factor for the development of breast cancer."
Is there a link between diet and cancer? Find out here.
3) Almonds and heart disease
Almonds, along with other nuts and seeds, may help improve lipid, or fat, levels in the blood. This can benefit heart health.
In a study from 2014, scientists found that almonds significantly increased the levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream, reduced blood pressure, and improved blood flow. The participants were all healthy males from 20–70 years of age who took 50 g of almonds per day for 4 weeks.
The researchers believe this may be due to:
- vitamin E, healthy fats, and fiber, which help a person feel full
- the antioxidant impact of flavonoids
They recommend eating a handful of almonds a day to obtain these benefits.
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4) Almonds and vitamin E
Almonds contain relatively high levels of vitamin E. Vitamin E contains antioxidants, such as tocopherol. One ounce (28.4 g) of plain almonds provides 7.27 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E, which is around half a person's daily requirement.
Vitamin E and other antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage in the body. This damage can occur when too many free radicals accumulate.
Free radicals result from natural bodily processes and environmental stresses. The body can eliminate many of them, but dietary antioxidants help remove them, too. High levels of free radicals can cause oxidative stress, resulting in damage to cells. This can lead to various diseases and health problems.
A 2016 review notes that one antioxidant in vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer. However, more studies are needed to confirm this as findings have been contradictory overall.
Find out which other foods are a good source of vitamin E.
5) Almonds and blood sugar
There is some evidence that almonds may help manage blood sugar levels.
Many people with type 2 diabetes have low magnesium levels. A deficiency is common among those who have difficulty managing their blood sugar levels. Scientists have suggested there may be a link between magnesium deficiency and insulin resistance.
In a 2011 study, 20 people with type 2 diabetes ate 60 g of almonds a day for 12 weeks. Overall, they saw improvements in:
- blood sugar levels
- blood lipid, or fat, levels
Some experts suggest using magnesium supplements to improve blood sugar profiles, but almonds may offer a suitable dietary source instead.
Learn more about how nuts may help people with diabetes.
6) Almonds help manage weight
Almond are low in carbohydrates but high in protein, healthful fats, and fiber.
According to research appearing in 2015, eating almonds as a mid-morning snack can leave a person feeling full for some time. People consumed either 28 g (173 calories) or 42 g (259 calories). The extent to which the participants' appetites remained low was dependent on the quantity of almonds they consumed.
Feeling full can help people lose weight, as they will be less tempted to seek more snacks.
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7) Almonds boost bone health
Experts have recommended almonds as a way to obtain some of these nutrients.
What are some other ways to improve bone strength? Find out here.
The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in one ounce (28.4 g) of almonds. This is approximately equivalent to a handful of almonds or around 23 almond kernels.
It also shows how much an adult needs of each nutrient, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations vary according to the individual's sex and age.
|Nutrient||Amount in 1 ounce||Daily adult requirement|
|Carbohydrate (g)||6.1, including 1.2 g of sugar||130|
|Fat (g)||14.2, of which 12.4 g is unsaturated||20%–35% of daily calories|
|Selenium (micrograms or mcg)||1.2||55|
|Folate (mcg, DFE)||12.5||300–400|
|Vitamin E (mg)||7.27||15|
The B vitamins, choline, and protein may all be lacking in a plant-based diet. People who follow a vegan diet can supplement their needs by eating almonds.
There are potential risks that health experts associate with the consumption of almonds.
People with a nut allergy should avoid almonds. If a person experiences hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing after eating almonds, they should seek immediate medical help. A condition known as anaphylaxis can develop quickly and can be life threatening.
Those with a known allergy should check the packaging of premade foods and ensure that dishes in restaurants do not contain nuts. There is a risk that cakes, candies, savory rice, and many other foods and dishes may contain nuts.
Choking and aspiration
Young children, some older people, and anyone who has difficulty swallowing should avoid whole nuts, due to the risk of choking.
Click here to find out what to do if someone is choking.
People with dementia, Parkinson's disease, and reduce mobility may have a higher risk of aspiration, which can cause food to enter the lungs. Aspiration of food can lead to complications, such as pneumonia.
Learn more here about aspiration.
Almonds are a healthful food. They provide a range of essential nutrients and can be good source of protein for people who follow a plant-based diet.
They are also vesatile, and people can incorporate them into the diet in many ways.
People with a nut allergy should not eat almonds or almond products.
Shop for almonds:
The almond products listed in this article are available for purchase online.
Will almond milk have the same benefits as almonds?
Almond milk has similar nutrients to almonds but in much lower amounts.
An ounce of almonds will provide more protein and fiber, which will increase feelings of fullness compared to a cup of almond milk.
However, there are fewer calories in a cup of almond milk, and it can be a good alternative milk to use if dairy is an issue.Natalie Olsen, R.D., L.D., ACSM EP-C Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.