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Almonds for Health and Nutrition

Health Benefits and Nutrition Information of Almonds

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Close up of jars of nuts
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Almonds are a great friend to low-carb eaters. They are packed with a lot of nutrients for a small amount of carbohydrate. Some of those nutrients are similar to the ones in whole grains, but without all the starch. Like grains, almonds can be ground into a meal or flour. Since their mild flavor goes with many foods, baked goods and other foods made with almonds aren't usually overpowered by the almond flavor. An ounce of almonds has about 3 grams of usable carbohydrate, plus 3 grams of fiber.

Almonds are not true tree nuts, but are the seeds of a fruit related to peaches, apricots, and plums. Have you ever seen the center of a peach or apricot pit? You may have noticed that the seed looks like a small almond. In the case of almonds, the fruit is not very fleshy and is allowed to dry on the tree.

Almonds grow well in areas with a Mediterranean climate, so are commonly eaten in southern European, North African, and some Middle Eastern countries. However, 80% of the world's almonds are grown in California.

The Almond is a "Superfood"

Almonds are packed with great nutrients. The fats in almonds are mostly monounsaturated (the type associated with olive oil). They are an excellent source of vitamin E and manganese, and a good or very good source of many other vitamins and minerals including magnesium. In addition, almonds contain large amounts of phytonutrients, especially plant sterols and flavanoids, which are heart-healthy as well as conferring antioxidant benefits. To maximize these nutrients, enjoy your almonds with the skins (rather than blanched), as flavanoids are concentrated there.

Health Benefits of Almonds

Quite a few studies have been done with almonds as a part of the diet. Although most of them did not compare the almonds to other nuts, or to other foods high in similar nutrients, almonds did come out well in many of these health-related studies, suggesting that they may be able to play a role in weight reduction, cholesterol reduction, and lowering the glycemic response of a high-carbohydrate meal. A few years ago, the FDA came out with a statement saying that eating 1.5 ounces per day of many types of nuts, including almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Adding Almonds to Your Diet

  • Almonds are a great snack, all by themselves. If I'm going to be out and about, I often put a few raw almonds in my pocket or carry a small bag of them for when hunger strikes.
  • Almond butter can be used instead of peanut butter - for example, with celery, or on low-carb bread or toast.
  • Add almonds to salads, yogurt, cottage cheese -- use your imagination! Nuts can be added to a lot of different foods.
  • Avoid almonds which are coated in a sugary or honey glaze.
  • Use unsweetened almond milk in shakes, sauces, egg nog, and similar uses.
  • Almond flour (same thing as almond meal) can be used in many low-carb recipes. Try pancakes, muffins, cakes, and even "grits"!
For more information about where to find almond flour, and a list of recipes on this site, check out this information about almond meal.

Sources:
  • Food and Drug Administration. Qualified health claims: Letter of enforcement discretion—Nuts and coronary heart disease (Docket No 02P-0505). 2003.
  • Jambazian P, et al. Almonds in the diet simultaneously improve plasma alpha- tocopherol concentrations and reduce plasma lipids. J Am Dietetic Assoc. 2005 March;105(3), 449-454. 2005.
  • Jenkins DJ, et al. Almonds decrease postprandial glycemia, insulinemia, and oxidative damage in healthy individuals. J Nutr. 2006 Dec;136(12):2987-92. 2006.
  • Josse AR, et al. Almonds and postprandial glycemia--a dose-response study. Metabolism. 2007 Mar;56(3):400-4. 2007.
  • Spiller GA, et al. "Nuts and plasma lipids: an almond-based diet lowers LDL-C while preserving HDL-C". J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 17 (3): 285–90.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods - 2007. November 2007
  • USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20.
  • Wien MA, et al. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72. 2003.
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