Nuts have been shown to be good for you, but did you know that the humble almond is one of the most nutritious of all the nuts? Read on to find out more about the amazing health benefits that almonds have.
Almonds are low in saturated fats, with most of the fats being monounsaturated fat – the good fat that is also found in olive oil. Being a plant food, almonds contain absolutely no cholesterol. Almonds have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. The levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant, in almonds, may also contribute towards the food’s ability to lower the risk of heart disease.
As well as lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood, almonds may also help to block the body’s absorption of fat and carbohydrates, which may prove to be significant in the areas of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. This “blocking” effect may be due to the fibre structure of the almond, which reduces the calories available from the actual almond and also slows the absorption of carbohydrates, which creates a lower rise in blood sugar levels.
Almonds also help you to feel fuller faster. This may also be attributed to the fibre content of almonds. Studies have shown that eating one or two servings of almonds a day did not lead to a gain in weight or body fat levels, but rather caused people to decrease the amount of calories that they gained from other food sources. In this way, the amount of calories that people consumed stayed the same.
Almonds also contain a whole host of other nutrients. For example, a small handful (20 nuts or so) of almonds contains twelve percent of your daily allowance of protein, and 35 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol, a vital antioxidant for the body (see The Power of Antioxidants). They also contain more magnesium than is found in oatmeal or spinach. One small handful of almonds contains as much calcium as a quarter of a cup of milk, and they also contain phosphorus which is necessary for bones and teeth.
Almonds also contain 25 percent of your daily allowance of magnesium and contain significant amounts of potassium. Magnesium is important for improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body while potassium is an electrolyte that is involved in nerve transmission and muscle contraction. It is also important for blood pressure and heart function.
Finally, almonds also contain folic acid, zinc, phytochemicals, selenium, copper, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron, making them a true nutritional powerhouse. The best way to eat almonds is in their natural, unblanched state but you can also choose to eat them lightly toasted without any added oils.