Versatile and delicious, almonds are one of the most popular superfoods. While most people mistake almonds as nuts, technically they are the seeds of the almond tree that are contained within the fruits.
Almonds come in two varieties – sweet and bitter. Traditionally, sweet almonds are edible, while bitter almonds are used to make almond oil. Both these varieties are easily available in the market.
You can eat almonds as is or you can soak them in water overnight and eat them the next morning. You can also find almond milk, almond flour and almond butter in the market.
While it is true that almonds taste good, they also provide many health benefits. They are packed with high quality protein, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and many essential amino acids. You can also get copper, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and healthy fats from almonds. However, as almonds are high in monounsaturated fats and calories, you must not eat them in excess.
The health benefits of almonds are extensive. From constipation to cancer and from hair to bone, almonds can keep you healthy in many ways.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of almonds.
1. Lowers Bad Cholesterol
Eating almonds regularly can help regulate your cholesterol level. They help raise HDL (high density lipoproteins or “good” cholesterol) and reduce LDL (low density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol) levels. This is because almonds are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
A study published in 2002 in the American Heart Association Journal found that almonds can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 15 percent. This figure, however, depends on the amount of almonds consumed on a daily basis. For every seven grams of almonds per day, LDL cholesterol may be reduced by 1 percent.
2. Controls Diabetes
Almonds also help control blood sugar levels and prevent complications from diabetes. The healthy fats, vitamins, fiber and several minerals in almonds help regulate the absorption and processing of glucose.
According to a study published by online journal Diabetes Care, nuts like almonds can help control Type 2 diabetes in men and post-menopausal women.
In addition, other studies have shown that almonds can offer protection from the dangerous spikes in blood sugar after large meals. This in turn reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
To maintain a healthy blood sugar level, eat one ounce of almonds immediately before eating a large meal.
3. Supports Heart Health
There are many nutrients in almonds that contribute to heart health. For instance, almonds are rich in magnesium, which improves blood flow and the movement of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. This in turn can help control blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Almonds contain a high level of monounsaturated fats, which are considered healthy for the heart. Plus, they have vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps reduce artery-damaging inflammation. This in turn reduces the risk of many heart diseases.
To improve your heart health, include a handful of almonds in your daily diet. You can have almonds as a snack or sprinkle some in your soup, salad or smoothie.
4. Improves Brainpower
Almonds are also considered one of the best foods for your brain. The vitamin E in almonds helps prevent cognitive decline, boosts alertness and preserves memory functioning.
Plus, they are a good source of zinc, a mineral that can protect brain cells from free radical damage. Also, the vitamin B-6 in almonds aids the metabolism of proteins, which are required for brain cell repair.
They also contain phenylalanine, which helps prevent Parkinson’s disease and also increases the production of brain chemicals like dopamine and adrenaline. These chemicals are vital for attention and memory, and improving your problem solving skills.
To boost memory and stimulate the mind, eat a handful of almonds daily.
5. Aids Weight Loss
Almonds aid in weight loss due to their nutrient density. The fiber, protein and monounsaturated fat content of almonds can make you feel full and nourished, so you’ll have fewer cravings and be less likely to overeat. They are also full of B vitamins and zinc, which help stop sugar cravings.
According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate 1.5 ounces of almonds daily for four weeks did not gain significant weight. Thus, almonds are considered the ultimate snack for any weight loss program.
If you are keeping a close eye on your weight, try not to exceed the recommended serving size of 1 ounce, or 23 almonds. Along with dry roasted almonds, you can also drink unsweetened almond milk to lose weight.
6. Prevents Birth Defects
Pregnant women can enjoy almonds while helping prevent birth defects in their babies. The high amount of folic acid in almonds helps in healthy cell growth and tissue formation, which are important for the healthy growth of the fetus. Folic acid helps reduce neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida and anencephaly, in newborn babies.
If you are pregnant, do not forget to include almonds in your diet to help your baby develop properly and reduce the risk of birth defects that can affect the baby’s life immensely.