Are almonds beneficial for people with diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term condition that affects how the body regulates blood sugar levels.
Although snacking on almonds and drinking almond milk cannot reverse diabetes or substitute medical treatment, eating these nuts as part of a balanced diet may help a person manage their symptoms and reduce their risk of complications.
In this article, we examine the potential benefits of eating almonds for people with diabetes. We also cover the nutritional content of almonds, how many almonds to eat a day, ways to eat more almonds, and other nuts that may be good for people with diabetes.
Blood sugar control
Almond milk is lower in carbohydrates and sugars than dairy milk.
In a 2011 study involving 20 people with type 2 diabetes, the participants who ate 60 grams (g) of almonds daily experienced lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting blood sugar than those who ate a control diet.
Almonds may also be beneficial for prediabetes, a condition in which a person's blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with prediabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The results of a 2010 study indicate that an almond-enriched diet, in which almonds contribute 20 percent of the total calories, may improve insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels in people with prediabetes.
In addition to eating whole nuts, people with diabetes may benefit from drinking almond milk. Unsweetened almond milk is lower in both carbohydrates and sugars than dairy milk:
- a cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 3.43 g of carbohydrates and 2.12 g of sugars
- a cup of low-fat cow's milk contains 12.18 g of carbohydrates and 12.69 g of sugars
However, it is essential to check the nutrition label of almond milk as many brands contain added sugars.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), diabetes is one of the seven main controllable risk factors for heart disease. The AHA also report that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely than those without diabetes to die from heart disease.
Some research suggests that almonds and other tree nuts may play a role in the prevention of heart disease.
In a 2017 paper that analyzed data from three large studies, the researchers concluded that there was an association between the higher consumption of tree nuts and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
Almonds may benefit the heart because they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
They are also rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which might help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which people often refer to as "bad" cholesterol.
In addition, these healthful fats may help increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol.
Almond milk contains beneficial fats too, although in smaller amounts than whole nuts.
Both whole almonds and almond milk are high in vitamin E. This vitamin protects cholesterol against oxidation. Research suggests that oxidized LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
For people with diabetes, a healthy body weight is important.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for people with diabetes. Obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its complications, including heart disease. Weight loss may help people with prediabetes to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Almonds are high in protein, fiber, and healthful fats. As a result, they may help people manage their weight by increasing feelings of fullness. A large body of research demonstrates that tree nuts can help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
A 2017 systematic review of the effects that nuts have on human health reports that eating almonds does not cause weight gain, despite the high number of calories that they contain.
A 2018 study suggests that people who eat nuts regularly have a lower risk of being overweight or obese and tend to gain less weight over time than those who do not eat nuts. This 5-year study looked at dietary and lifestyle data from over 373,000 people aged 25 to 70 years from 10 European countries.
Almond milk is unlikely to contribute to satiety as it is low in protein. However, unsweetened almond milk is a low-calorie drink option, containing just 39 calories per cup in comparison with 102 calories per cup of low-fat cow's milk.
A source of magnesium
- 18 to 19 percent of an adult male's recommended dietary allowance (RDA)
- 24 to 25 percent of an adult female's RDA
Almond milk is not such a good source as it only contains 16 mg of magnesium per cup.
People with diabetes may have abnormally low levels of magnesium in their blood. A 2012 study suggests that having high blood sugar for extended periods may reduce magnesium levels in the body because more of this mineral leaves in the urine.
Furthermore, 2017 research suggests that low magnesium levels may increase a person's risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Nutritional properties of almonds
Almonds are high in fiber and a great source of plant-based protein and healthful fats.
A cup of whole, raw almonds contains a wealth of macronutrients:
- calories — 828
- carbohydrates — 30.82 g
- fiber — 17.90 g
- sugars — 6.22 g
- protein — 30.24 g
- fat — 71.40 g
The following quantities of micronutrients are present in a cup of whole, raw almonds:
- calcium — 385 mg
- folate — 63 micrograms (mcg)
- iron — 5.310 mg
- magnesium — 386 mg
- niacin — 5.174 mg
- phosphorus — 688 mg
- potassium — 1,048 mg
- riboflavin — 1.627 mg
- sodium — 1 mg
- thiamin — 0.293 mg
- vitamin A — 3 international units (IU)
- vitamin B-6 — 0.196 mg
- vitamin E — 36.650 mg
- zinc — 4.460 mg
How many almonds to eat per day?
While almonds are a healthful food, it is best to avoid eating more than 1 oz, or about a quarter of a cup, per day. These nuts are high in calories and fats, and they may contribute to weight gain if a person does not eat them as part of a balanced diet.
To avoid eating too many almonds, measure out a 1-oz portion and avoid second helpings.
It is important to choose unsalted almonds and avoid those that have a coating of sugar, honey, or chocolate. Salt can increase blood pressure and heart problems, while sugar is a carbohydrate and not a good choice for people with diabetes.
Ways to eat more almonds
It is easy to incorporate more almonds into the diet as they are a versatile and tasty type of nut. People can eat almonds:
- on oatmeal
- in homemade muesli
- in trail mix
- as a topping for fresh fruit
- on their own
- sprinkled on top of salads, stir-fries, or cooked green vegetables
Ground almonds, or almond meal, can also add flavor and texture to many baked goods.
People can enjoy sugar-free almond milk on its own as a hot or cold beverage. Alternatively, they can have it in smoothies, on cereals, or in tea and coffee.
Another option is to eat almond butter with no added sugar or salt. This product works well with apple slices, on whole-wheat toast, or as a smoothie ingredient.
Other nuts that are good for people with diabetes
Pistachio nuts may improve blood sugar control.
Most other unsalted nuts are an excellent choice of snack for people with diabetes. Some of the best options include:
Although they are technically legumes, whole peanuts and peanut butter may improve blood sugar control in individuals at high risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a small 2013 study.
A 2014 study reported that snacking on pistachio nuts may improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
Research from 2013 indicates that women who eat walnuts regularly have a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Almonds and almond milk are good options for people with diabetes. Whole almond nuts, in particular, appear to provide several benefits, including superior blood sugar control, better weight management, and improved heart health. They are also a great source of magnesium.
Almonds are nutritious and versatile nuts, which a person can easily include more of in their diet. However, nuts are high in calories and fat, so it is best to avoid exceeding a daily serving of 1 oz. It is also important that people with diabetes avoid nuts and nut products that contain added sugar or salt.