What Are Almonds? A Detailed Guide to the Benefits of This Nutritious Tree Nut
You know almonds: They’re the perennial nutritious food. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s down on this tree nut.
The obsession with almonds can be traced way back to 1400 B.C., when the nuts were mentioned in the Bible. Later, almond trees took root in modern-day Spain, Morocco, Greece, and Israel, and eventually, almond trees found a home in California. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that the California almond industry blossomed. Today, almonds grow on over half a million acres and are the state’s top agricultural export. (1)
If you were to look at an almond on the tree, it’d appear nothing like you’re used to seeing in your salads and trail mix. Almonds have a hard, green shell, which cracks open right before harvest. After harvest, they’re dried, and the shell and hull are removed. That’s when they look like the little brown almonds you know and love. (2)
Today, you can buy almonds in various forms: whole, sliced, slivered, or chopped, or as almond flour, milk, paste, or oil. Each is uniquely delicious in its own right, and all are good for you. (3)
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Almond Nutrition: Calories, Carbs, Protein, and More
Per a 1-ounce (oz) serving (23 nuts), almonds contain the following nutritional components. ()
Protein: 6 grams (g)
Fat: 14 g
Saturated fat:1 g
Monounsaturated fat: 9 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 3 g
Fiber: 3.5 g
Almonds vs. Other Nuts: How Do They Compare?
Here’s how 1 oz of other nuts stack up against almonds. (,,,)
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 18 g
Monounsaturated fat: 3 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 13 g
Carbohydrates: 4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 1 g
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 18 g
Monounsaturated fat: 17 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 1 g
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Protein: 5 g
Fat: 12 g
Monounsaturated fat: 7 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2 g
Carbohydrates: 9 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sugars: 2 g
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 13 g
Monounsaturated fat: 7 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 2 g
Almonds are the clear winner when it comes to fiber and protein. They’re also naturally low in sugars and are one of the lowest calorie nuts.
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Benefits of Almonds: What Does the Research Suggest?
Let us count the ways almonds are a boon to your body.
They May Help Boost Your Heart Health
Almonds can help keep your ticker in shape. In a small study that looked at 48 healthy adults with high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease, eating 1.5 oz of almonds per day for six weeks decreased LDL cholesterol as well as belly fat compared with people who ate the same number of calories in a muffin. (Both groups’ diets contained the same amount of cholesterol and saturated fat.) The authors conclude that replacing a higher carbohydrate snack with almonds may be a heart-healthy swap. (9)
They Could Help Improve Your Overall Diet
If you do one thing for your health today, let it be eating a handful of almonds. Indeed, research suggests that improving your diet can be as easy as adding almonds to your day. A small study of 29 parents and their children who ate 1.5 and 0.5 oz of almonds or almond butter, respectively, for three weeks saw their diets improve compared with a control group. The nuts also influenced participants’ microbiota (particularly in children); this collection of bacteria in the gut plays a role in immunity and health. What’s more, adding almonds to their diet didn’t increase the total amount of calories that participants consumed, as they likely ate fewer snacks. (10)
They May Help Prevent the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes
When you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it can be a struggle to change your diet and figure out what you can and can’t eat to best manage your blood sugar. Almonds are on the “eat” list. In a study, 65 adults with prediabetes were put on a 16-week American Diabetes Association–compliant diet in which 20 percent of calories came from 2 oz of almonds per day. Compared with a control group that stayed nut-free, those who ate almonds improved their insulin sensitivity and lowered their LDL cholesterol. (11)
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Snacking for Weight Loss: Are Almonds Good for You?
At one point, people were suspicious of almonds — they’re high in fat, and there was a belief that eating fat would make someone gain weight. We now know better, recognizing that almonds (and other tree nuts) — which are rich in the satiating trifecta of fiber, fat, and protein — can play an important role in slimming down. A trial put 86 adults on one of two weight loss diets: In one, 15 percent of calories came from almonds, and the other was nut-free. (Both groups cut 500 calories with the idea of losing weight.) People in the almond group lost more total body fat as well as body fat in their trunk (the middle part of your body), and they saw their diastolic blood pressure decrease. (12)
And if you’re not adding almonds to your diet because you’re worried about gaining weight, you can let go of that fear. Research shows that when people start eating almonds, they don’t start packing on the pounds. One such study asked people at risk for type 2 diabetes to eat 1.5 oz of almonds with breakfast or lunch, or as a morning or snack for four weeks. (The control group ate no almonds.) Not only did the almond group demonstrate lowered blood sugar, the almonds also squelched hunger when eaten as a snack. And the participants naturally adjusted the food they ate during the rest of the day, so they didn’t gain weight. Snacks — often full of added sugars or simple carbs — can be a sticking point in a diet, so if you get hungry between meals, eating almonds can make for a satisfying bite that keeps you full until your next meal. (13)
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How to Select and Store Almonds and Related Almond Products for the Best Quality
Here’s how to pick the best almonds or almond products and store them for freshness.
Snacking AlmondsChoose the almonds that suit your needs or recipe, like blanched, whole, roasted, or slivered. You’ll find these either in the baking section of the grocer or in bulk bins (which can often be less expensive). Almonds do go bad, but their antioxidants (like vitamin E) help keep them fresh. In fact, if you keep almonds in the refrigerator (under 41 degrees), they’ll stay good for two years. That said, remember to cover foods like pungent leftovers in the fridge, since almonds can absorb other odors over time. If you have roasted almonds, keep them in air-tight containers. (14)
Almond FlourOne benefit of this flour is that it’s naturally gluten-free. Buy either natural almond flour (made from whole almonds, including skin, this is typically a coarse grind; natural almond flour is also called almond meal) or almond flour that’s made from blanched almonds (the skins have been removed, so the flour's color is light yellow; this variety is usually finely ground). You’ll find almond flour near other flours in the baking section at large grocers or in natural-food stores. Almond flour can be kept in your pantry if it’s cool in there and you plan to eat it quickly. Otherwise, for longer storage, stash it in your fridge or freezer. (15)
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Almond MilkYou’ll have two choices: a shelf-stable almond milk, located in the nondairy beverage aisle at your grocery store, or one that’s refrigerated, which is located near the dairy milk. If you go for the shelf-stable variety, refrigerate the carton after opening it.
Note that the nutrition facts for almond milk are vastly different from whole almonds. Almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water, blending them, and then straining to get the liquid.
Because there are very few actual almonds in almond milk, 1 cup of the beverage is low in calories (39), protein (1 g), fat (2.5 g), and fiber (0.5 g). () It makes for a good low-calorie base for smoothies but won’t deliver the satiating power of eating regular almonds. One plus: Almond milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and calcium, so you won’t miss out on those nutrients. But if you prefer nondairy milks, some brands have come out with almond milk with added pea protein, which boosts the protein level to that closer to cow’s milk.
Almond ButterYou’ll find this near the peanut butter at your grocer. Be prepared: The price is much higher than peanut butter, but if your budget allows it, almond butter is a nice addition to your nut butter rotation. Your best bet is to read the ingredients label and choose one that contains only almonds. In some natural-foods stores, you can even grind your own almond butter on-site.
Should You Use Almond Skin-Care Products in Your Beauty Routine?
Slather almond oil on your skin as a silky — and delectably fragrant — moisturizer. Research has shown that massaging skin with bitter or sweet almond oil may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, reduce their itching, and prevent new ones from forming. (17) Applying almond oil can also help stop UV damage. (Though it’s certainly not a substitute for a good sunscreen.) If you get a massage, the therapist may very well use almond oil to moisturize your skin: It’s been found to be nonirritating and doesn’t clog pores and cause breakouts. (18)
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What Are the Possible Side Effects and Health Risks of Almonds?
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If you are allergic to tree nuts, one of the most common food allergies, you can have an allergic reaction — including anaphylaxis — in response to eating almonds. (19) Beyond that, there are few concerns for incorporating almonds into a healthful diet. Certainly, overeating almonds may cause weight gain (just like anything else), which can be easy to do if you’re not watching portions.
Video: How-To Make Almond Milk | Clean & Delicious
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