When studying the per capita consumption of almonds in American territory, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found out that the consumption of almonds has been increasing in the country at an average annual rate of 5.5% since 2000.
Although the almond tree is originally native to Iran, currently the U.S. is one of the main producers and suppliers of these edible seeds worldwide.
With milk alternatives being more popular even outside of the vegan community, you might think this is only another food trend. However, the truth is that almonds are not only delicious but also highly nutritive and very good for your health.
Here are the facts.
What Nutrients Do Almonds Contain?
Almonds are rich in fiber, proteins, omega 3, iron, copper, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, niacin, vitamin K, vitamin B2, vitamin E, healthy fats, choline, folates, flavonoids, and phenolics.
As you can see, they’re quite nutritionally complete; this is why they are sometimes considered a “superfood”. Additionally, they’re free from salt, gluten, and cholesterol, and totally safe for diabetics because they’re also low in sugars (barely 1 mg per ounce).
All of these characteristics translate into several health benefits for your bones, your metabolism, your brain, and your cardiovascular system, among others. However, in order to receive them, it’s recommended to eat your almonds soaked and unpeeled (to preserve nutrients and promote their absorption), in quantities not over three ounces or 23 almonds a day.
What Conditions Do Almonds Prevent Or Improve?
The health benefits of almonds are directly linked to the nutrients they contain and their effects on the human body. Let’s take, for instance, flavonoids and phenolics. Along with vitamin E, they all act as antioxidants in your body, preventing inflammation, aging, and even cancer (which is believed to be related to the damage in the cells produced by oxidative stress).
Vitamin E also has the potential of preventing heart disease and the cognitive decline that leads to Alzheimer’s disease in elders, according to some studies. Vitamin B2, on the other hand, is known to support red blood cell production in the bone marrow. The red blood cells have the vital mission of carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body; if their numbers are in decline, you can suffer from iron or vitamin deficiency anemia and its symptoms, which go from shortness of breath and dizziness to extreme fatigue and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats).
Almonds also have magnesium. This is a key mineral to lower your blood sugar levels as it improves your insulin sensitivity, and therefore, your glucose metabolism. This is especially important for people with some degree of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, magnesium can help you control your hypertension as it lowers your blood pressure levels, which prevents heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues.
Potassium has similar effects on blood pressure because it is a natural vasodilator, meaning that it tends to “open” the blood vessels so that blood can flow better through them. Almonds contain 208 mg of potassium per ounce.
Almonds have also proven to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol), and thus, the risk of developing heart disease because of it. They can also boost your brain function and make your hair grow faster, shinier, thicker, and healthier. This is why there are so many hair and beauty products based on almonds. Their linoleic acid prevents skin dryness.
The fiber of the almonds can facilitate your bowel movements and help you fight chronic constipation. Calcium, manganese, copper, vitamin K, zinc, magnesium —all of these nutrients fortify your bones and make them more resistant to fractures.
Even though they’re relatively high in calories (483 in the three ounces recommended daily intake; 161 per ounce), several studies conclude that around 15% of those calories can’t be absorbed by the body. But still, almonds can make you feel really full and reduce your cravings, for which they’re considered an excellent snack to include in weight loss diets.
How Should I Consume Almonds?
First off, you should totally avoid eating almonds if you have a nut allergy. Nut allergies manifest themselves with itchy skin, rash, urticaria, runny nose, watery eyes, sore or inflamed throat (which can block your airways), facial swelling, etc., and require medical assistance if the symptoms become serious.
If you don’t, take into account that almonds can be eaten raw or with different flavorings (although this is not the healthiest version of them). But if you want to take them as something more than just a simple filling snack, there are multiple almond-based products that you can buy or elaborate yourself. Here’s an overview of some of the many ways that you can consume almonds:
- Almond flour. A gluten-free flour that is healthier than white flour. It can be prepared with raw or blanched almonds in a food processor or an adequate blender.
- Almond butter. Adding a spoonful of almond butter to your oatmeal supplies you with more vitamins and minerals than peanut butter.
- Almond milk. One of the best replaces for dairy products, almond milk is easily made in the blender with almonds and water. Unsweetened, almond milk has half the calories of cow milk and 0 sugars versus cow milk’s 12 g.
- Almond oil. Edible almond oil is used as salad dressing and low-heat baking.
- Toasted almonds. Can be used as a salad topping.
- Almond bakeries. Almonds can also be used in cakes and tarts. Marzipan is one of the most famous confectionery products containing almonds.
Now you don’t have any excuse to avoid incorporating almonds into your diet. Choose your recipe and start benefiting from one of the most acclaimed superfoods. And as always, pay a visit to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any doubts.