The Bible makes numerous references to almonds, describing them as an object of value and a symbol of hope, for example, in Genesis 43:11. Today, Ayurveda practitioners believed that almonds were capable of increasing brain capacity, intellectual ability and longevity. Almonds are in two ranges: sweet and bitter. According to Levy(2019), oils from sweet almonds are extracted to form almond oil, a beneficial and hydrating oil with many healing body and household uses.
Almonds are the edible seeds of Prunus dulcis, more commonly called the almond tree. They are native to the Middle East, but the US is now the world’s largest producer. The almonds found in stores usually have the shell removed, revealing the edible nut inside. They are sold either raw or roasted. They are also used to produce almond milk, oil, butter, flour or paste — also known as marzipan.
According to research on almonds nutrition data published by the United States Department of Agriculture, one ounce (approximately 28 grams) of almonds nutrition provides about:
6.1 grams carbohydrates
5.9 grams protein
13.8 grams fat
3.4 grams fiber
7.3 milligrams vitamin E (37 percent Daily Value)
0.6 milligram manganese (32 percent DV)
57 milligrams magnesium (19 percent DV)
0.3 milligram riboflavin (17 percent DV)
136 milligrams phosphorus (14 percent DV)
0.3 milligram copper (14 percent DV)
73.9 milligrams calcium (7 percent DV)
1 milligram iron (6 percent DV)
197 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
0.9 milligram zinc (6 percent DV)
0.9 milligram niacin (5 percent DV)
In addition, almonds nutrition contains some thiamine, folate, pantothenic acid, choline and selenium. Almonds also contain vitamins, like vitamin E and riboflavin, and trace minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.
Evidenced Based Health Benefits of Almonds
1. SupportHeart Disease and Heart Attacks
One study by Kamil and Chen(2012) is of the view that, the medical world praised almonds nutrition due to the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber and antioxidants. Almonds specifically supply antioxidant flavonoids, plant-based compounds present in the skin of almonds that work with vitamin E to improve artery health and reduce inflammation. key nutrients to heart health, including arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium are also found in almonds. Studies show almonds have a consistent “bad” LDL cholesterol-lowering effect, especially in individuals with high cholesterol and diabetes. For instance, Liu et al.,(2017) found that consuming almonds as a daily snack reduced the levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol without changing high-density lipoprotein (HDL “good” cholesterol).
Another study by Berryman et al.,(2011) agrees that almonds help prevent damage from forming within artery walls and protect against dangerous plaque buildup. This makes Almonds a great food to support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, in addition to fighting weight gain and obesity — three of the biggest risk factors associated with heart attacks and stroke.
2. Good for the Brain
Almonds are often regarded as one of the best brain foods. This is attributed to riboflavin and L-carnitine, two key nutrients capable of positively affecting neurological activity and preventing cognitive decline.
Almonds seem to help protect the brain by fighting oxidative stress. For instance, one study by Batool et al., (2015) found that almonds can help improve memory, fight neurological diseases and protect against age-associated cognitive dysfunction. This is one reason why adults, especially the elderly, are encouraged to eat nuts several times per week. They are associated with a reduction in the risk for inflammation that can cause brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Dermatological Health
Almonds are a great source of vitamin E and other antioxidants that nourish the skin and reduce signs of aging. Study by Chen and Milbury(2005) demonstrates that almonds nutrition are loaded with high concentrations of catechin, epicatechin and flavonol antioxidants, including quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. These compounds according to research fight skin cancer and damage by reversing oxidative stress from a poor diet, pollution and UV light exposure. Almonds’ healthy fats, plus their ability to improve circulation, also help keep skin hydrated and better able to heal wounds.
4. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels and avert Diabetes
Gulati et al.,(2017) is of the view that, almonds have positive effects on glucose tolerance and risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Almonds further avert diabetes risks: unhealthy body weight, inflammation and high levels of oxidative stress.
5. Suppresses Weight Loss
One study by Tan & Mattes(2013) provided some answers and affirmed that, “Almonds provide post-ingestive metabolic and appetitive benefits and did not increase the risk for weight gain.”
Although nuts are high in fat and calories, they prolong the feeling of satisfaction after you eat and keep your blood sugar more stable than low-fat meals do. For instance, the Nurses’ Health Study, to be accessed at https://nurseshealthstudy.org/ , demonstrates that almonds support a healthy metabolism. Additionally, another study by Wien et al.,(2003) demonstrates that frequent almonds eaters and other nuts retain healthier body weights and lower rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome over time compared to those who avoid nuts.
Notwithstanding, Wien et al.,(2003) also reported some negative studies. For instance, the study further demonstrates that, when dieters eat almonds daily, they are less likely to overconsume carbohydrates and more likely to reach and maintain a healthier body weight. This can include having less dangerous visceral fat. Visceral fat is the kind that surrounds your organs and increases the risk for certain diseases. This study argues that when women consumed almonds over a six-month period, compared to other women who didn’t eat almonds, they experienced greater reductions in weight/BMI, waist circumference, fat mass and systolic blood pressure.
6. Increases Nutrient Absorption
Levy(2019) attests that, the body needs adequate amounts of fat in the diet in order to correctly absorb “fat-soluble” nutrients, like vitamins A and D. A review study by Grundy et al.,(2016) found that almonds have the tendency to positively affect the gastrointestinal tract, reducing acid buildup and balancing the body’s pH. A healthy pH level is crucial for proper digestion, immunity and disease prevention. Furthermore, Axe(2021)believes that the nutrients present in almonds may help regulate digestive enzymes that are involved in nutrient extraction, cholesterol synthesis and bile acid production.
7. Supports Digestive Health
In a recent study by Holscheret al.,(2018), almonds (especially the skin of almonds) contain prebiotic components that help with digestion, detoxification and healthy bacterial growth within the microbiota/gut flora. This is key to actually utilizing nutrients from the foods we eat.
This is supported by another study by Liu et al.,(2016) which also demonstrates that almonds and almond skins could lead to an improvement in the “intestinal microbiota profile.” Levy(2019) has this to say:
“This means the intestine’s bacterial activities improve and promote numerous health benefits due to the presence of prebiotic properties, the precursors for probiotics”. The 2016 study further demonstrates, “Both raw and roasted almonds exhibit potential prebiotic effects, including regulation of intestinal bacteria and improved metabolic activities.”
Another study by Liu et al..,(2014) demonstrates that when women ate a daily dose of 56 grams of almonds over an eight-week period, significant increases in the populations of healthy gut bacteria called Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus were observed.
8. Averts Cancer
Ros (2010) study demonstrates that almonds are also loaded with gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E that acts as a powerful antioxidant. Thus, almonds fight free radical damage and oxidative stress that are linked to cancer. The study further found a link between nut consumption and cancer prevention, including a reduced risk for colon, prostate and breast cancers.
9. Dental and Bone Health
This is supported by one study by Palacios(2006) which found that almonds are a good source of trace minerals, including magnesium and phosphorus, which play a role in building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. The study further agrees that the mineral content in almonds may include the ability to help avert tooth decay, fight cavities, lower the risk for bone fractures and fight osteoporosis.
Raw almonds: According to Levy (2019), are those that have not been cooked, blanched or pasteurized and still have their brown skins intact. “Technically, there is no legal definition of “raw” when it comes to almonds, so it’s still possible that raw almonds sold in stores have been heated to some extent. However, most authorities claim that studies show that pasteurization doesn’t change the nutritional value of almonds”.
Blanched almonds: According to Levy (2019), are raw almonds that have been boiled in water quickly, for about one to two minutes, in order to help shed their outer skins.
Levy explains that one disadvantage of consuming almonds produced in the U.S. is that “United States law demands that all raw almonds be pasteurized, steamed or irradiated before being sold to consumers”. According to the USDA, there are several mandatory pasteurization treatment processes to reduce the level of potential contamination in almonds “without diminishing the product’s quality, nutritional value or sensory qualities (taste and crunch).” These include: oil roasting, dry roasting and blanching, and steam processing. Many go through steam pasteurization so the almonds don’t carry bacteria from the fields to consumers. The whole process from start to finish can take about nine hours according to Levy.
Levy(2019) further opined that, almonds contain natural fatty acids and oils that are sensitive to high heat, so when they’re highly processed it’s possible to turn these oils “rancid.” “For example, when almonds are roasted, they’re usually soaked in hydrogenated or GMO oils, fat that’s harmful and promotes heart disease. As a rule of thumb, the less processing done to almonds the better. Pre-shelled and roasted almonds are likely less beneficial than lightly blanched or raw almonds still found in their natural casing”.
However, levy provided some alternative for consumers. Levy suggested soaking and sprouting them to increase the nutritional contents. Listen: “Soaking and sprouting almonds removes some of their naturally occurring antinutrients that block the body from absorbing some minerals. Soak them overnight for 12–24 hours in a big bowl, covering them with water and rinsing them the next morning”. Another alternative is purchasing the almond butter or flour. The milk is also recommended but unsweetened brand is the deal.
Too many can trigger weight gain. Allergic reaction is also reported in some people. Levy notes: “One final note is that raw almonds have the potential to carry bacteria, which is why the USDA requires them to be processed. In rare cases, salmonella and E. coli have been carried by raw almonds, so as of 2007, raw, untreated California almonds aren’t technically available in the U.S. — although most people experience no problems eating raw almonds.When it comes to bitter almonds, according to the Food and Drug Administration, bitter almonds are considered “poisonous” since they contain certain acids that can cause problems in rare cases, so they aren’t recommended for consumption – although some alternative health practitioners disagree with this”. In conclusion, almonds are great addition to be added to our daily diet.
By Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, ND, PhD.