Almonds are all the craze! Everyone is talking about snacking on almonds, but besides the delicious crunch you get from eating almonds, do you know that they are a nutrition powerhouse?

The health benefits of almonds have been documented for centuries and modern research continues to back up these claims. Almonds are nutrient dense nuts which provide a good source of fiber, plant protein, arginine, alpha-tocophenol, and manganese.

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Additionally, they are a source of copper, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. They are energy dense due to their high fat content, but don’t worry, they are low in saturated fat (the bad fat) and high in unsaturated fats (the good fats).

A 1 ounce serving of almonds contains approximately 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, only 1.1 of which are saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 6.3 grams protein, and 5.5 grams of carbohydrate, 3.3 of which are fiber.

The nutrient profile of almonds provides an array of health benefits. Here are 3 great reasons why you should include these nuts in your menus each day.

1) Reduces Cholesterol

Almonds have been linked with reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Diets which include daily consumption of almonds show significant correlation with decreased LDL levels.

Research has shown that replacing 20% of total calories with calories from almonds for a 4 week period can decrease both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in healthy and hypercholesterolemic adults (5). This has been related to the content of about 118mg of phytosterols in a 3.5oz serving of almonds.

Phytosterols are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. Their structure is similar to the body’s cholesterol and so when they are consumed they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked and decreased while increasing excretion.

These mechanisms have been documented in research, including a study which compared phytosterol intake levels with total cholesterol excretion and LDL levels (4). Researchers established three controlled diets which included a deficiency of phytosterols, intake of phytosterols from a healthy diet, and the recommended dose established by the National Cholesterol Education Program.

It was revealed that diets containing moderate to high amounts of phytosterols correlated with increased total fecal excretion of cholesterol and significantly less absorption of cholesterol. Overall it was found that high doses of phytosterols can be associated with significantly reduced LDL cholesterol levels.

In addition to the phytosterols, arginine (an amino acid) has been studied for its role in reducing cholesterol (2). Protein comprises 15% of the calories found in almonds. It has been found that replacing part of total carbohydrates in a diet with protein can provide cholesterol lowering benefits in both healthy adults and adults with high cholesterol.

Arginine specifically has been related to cholesterol. Research has shown that supplementation of arginine significantally correlates with a reduction in total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (2). All of this research can lead to the conclusion that regularly consumption of almonds can help decrease cholesterol when part of a balanced diet.

Almonds health benefits2

2) Helps with Weight Control

Although almonds are considered to be energy dense foods, they are considered to play a part in weight management. Almonds have not been observed to cause a significant increase in body weight.

In fact, they are considered to be beneficial in a balanced diet to reduce or manage weight. To start, most people do not comply with a low fat diet for long. Instead, balanced diets which include more unsaturated fats are more successful in weight management.

One study observed a reduced BMI, waist circumference, and fat mass in overweight and obese women who were given a meal plan which included 84 grams of almonds (approximately 3 ounces) each day (6).

Almonds are also a good source of fiber, which is known to increase satiety. Consuming adequate fiber provides a variety of benefits including a role in weight

management.

Increased fiber in foods creates the feeling of being full, thus decreasing overall food intake. Increased satiety leads to decreased overeating at other meals or nibbling on snacks mindlessly throughout the day. Despite the high fat content, diets which include daily almond consumption can be linked with increased energy, increased satiety, and overall weight control.

3) Regulates Blood Glucose

Blood glucose and insulin response greatly influence the lives of those living with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Modifiable lifestyle factors such as increased consumption and decreased physically activity have greatly increased risk for such metabolic disorders.

Lifestyle modifications also can improve glucose control. Consumption of almonds have been researched for their role in improving blood glucose control and decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes (1).

In one study, a slight improvement of insulin response and glucose concentrations were observed in overweight and obese women who consumed 84 grams of almonds daily (6). Increasing intake of almonds has been shown to decrease fasting blood glucose as they have a low glycemic index.

One study concluded that consuming almonds at breakfast can help control blood glucose levels after both breakfast and the next meal (3). Along with a low glycemic index, almonds are high in fiber and unsaturated fats which have been related to their ability to control blood glucose levels and improve insulin response in those with glucose intolerances.

Almonds have proven to be full of nutrients and wonderful health benefits. The antioxidants they contain help fight disease, the vitamins and minerals help to nourish the body, and the overall powerful nutrient composition is favorable to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Almonds can be eaten raw, roasted or as an ingredient in several dishes. They can be purchased sliced, whole, slivered, as flour, butter, oil or even as almond milk. Almonds are recommended as a part of your daily intake to maintain a balanced diet and improved health.

References:

Kamil, A., Chen, O. Health Benefits of Almonds beyond Cholesterol Reduction. Journal of Agricultrual and Food Chemistry. 2012.
Kohls, K.; Kies, C.; Fox, H. Blood serum lipid levels of humans given arginine, lysine and tryptophan supplements without food. Nutr. Rep. Int. 1987, 35 (1), 5−13
Mori, A.M., Considine, R.V., Mattes, R.D. Acute and second-meal effects of almond form in impaired glucose tolerant adults: a randomized crossover trial. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2011, 8(6).
Racette SB, Lin X, Lefevre M, et al. Dose effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:32–38.
Sabaté, J.; Haddad, E.; Tanzman, J. S.; Jambazian, P.; Rajaram, S. Serum lipid response to the graduated enrichment of a Step I diet with almonds: a randomized feeding trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2003, 77 (6), 1379−1384.
Wien, M.; Sabate, J.; Ikle, D.; Cole, S.; Kandeel, F. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int. J. Obes. 2003, 27 (11), 1365−1372.

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