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Why almonds are so good for you

almonds
What makes almonds so good for you? Find out more about their great nutritional values and how they can help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Rich in lots of good stuff like healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, it’s no wonder that almonds are among the world’s most commonly-eaten tree nuts.1

What are almonds?

Almonds grow on the almond tree, which originated in the Middle East.

It now grows all over the world, especially in warmer climates such as Southern Europe, North Africa, and the USA.

The small, brown ovals with one tapered end are familiar to us as the almond nut.

These grow within a woody shell inside tough green hulls which grow along the branches of the almond tree.

The almonds most commonly seen in the UK are the shelled version, which have a reddish-brown, matt skin.

Blanched almonds are also common, which are smooth and cream in colour.

Blanched almonds are simply shelled almonds which have had the skin removed.

Here, we explore the health benefits of eating almonds, plus how to incorporate them into your diet. But first, what’s actually in almonds? Let’s look at their nutritional value.

Almonds' nutritional profile

Almonds contain a variety of nutrients which are good for the body, including:2

  • Fibre

Essential for promoting good digestive health, a high-fibre diet helps to normalise bowl movements.

It’s also linked to lower cholesterol levels and aids in achieving a healthy weight.

  • Magnesium

Good for cell health, magnesium is found mostly in bone, but can also be found in muscles, soft tissues, and fluid (including blood).3

This essential mineral has several important functions.

It helps you turn food into energy, builds strong bones and is vital for proper muscle function.

Remember – your heart is a muscle, so magnesium is important for heart function too.

Your body can’t make magnesium on its own, so you must get it from your diet.

Luckily, almonds are full of it.

The NHS recommends 300mg a day for men and 270mg a day for women.

20 almonds contains 60mg magnesium, so include a handful of almonds as a daily snack you’ll be well on your way to meeting this.

Handpicked content: Why we need magnesium

  • Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes.4

It’s also known to strengthen the immune system Vitamin E isn’t just great for adding emollient properties to hand cream.

In fact, vitamin E has many benefits and almonds are rich in this multi-tasking nutrient.

Vitamin E can help protect the body’s cells against oxidative damage by free radicals.

Vitamin E also helps prevent inflammation, which is a risk factor in many chronic diseases, including osteoporosis.5

Vitamin E has also been shown to enhance the immune system, offering protection against several infectious diseases.6

  • Zinc

Another essential mineral, zinc helps normal DNA synthesis, process the nutrients in the food we eat, and helps wounds heal.

It also plays a role in brain health, immune function and fertility.

We don’t need much zinc and should be able to get enough from our daily diets.

The NHS recommends we get 10mg zinc each day. A 30g serving almonds has around 2mg zinc.

Handpicked content: A guide to zinc & your immune system

  • Manganese

This trace mineral, found in almonds, is needed for the smooth running of the body.

It’s only needed in tiny amounts, but it helps us break down nutrients from food, among other functions. It’s also been linked to bone health.

  • Calcium

Almonds are rich in calcium, with a 30g serving containing 75mg calcium.

Most of us need around 700mg calcium a day.

Don’t panic if that sounds like a lot – it’s usually simple to get this from a balanced diet.

Calcium is vital to help us maintain the density and structure of our bones and teeth.

  • Protein

For something so small, almonds pack a decent punch of protein, with 21g protein per 100g.

Protein helps build and maintain healthy muscles, bones, tissues and skin.

The relatively high protein content in almonds means they’re great for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat animal protein.

Scatter a few almonds over a bowl of porridge oats to make a complete protein.

  • Healthy fats

Technically a high-fat food, almonds come with around 50g fat per 100g.

Don’t let this put you off, though.

The fat in almonds is of the unsaturated type, specifically monounsaturated fat.

This is the same type of healthy fat found in olive oil and avocados.

Monounsaturated fat might reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

This is because it helps lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein – also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol – in your body.

A 2015 study at The Pennsylvania State University, USA, found that people who ate 42g almonds each day instead of a muffin over twelve weeks had significant reductions in the three main risk factors for damage to the heart.7

Handpicked content: The difference between healthy fats & bad fats

Key health benefits of almonds

Here are just some of the many health benefits of eating an almond-rich diet:

  • They’re jam-packed full of antioxidants

Almonds are full of antioxidants, which help protect against oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress can damage cell molecules and cause things like inflammation, premature ageing, and nasty diseases like cancer.8,9

However, it’s important to note that these powerful antioxidants are mostly found in the brown layer of skin around almonds.10,11,12

So almonds with the skin removed (blanched almonds) aren’t as good for you.

  • They can help control blood sugar

High in healthy fats, protein, and fibre, almonds are a great snack choice for people with diabetes.

They also contain high amounts of magnesium, which studies have shown that 25-38% of people with type 2 diabetes are deficient in.13,14,15

  • They can lower cholesterol

It’s a well-known fact that people with higher cholesterol run a much higher risk of developing heart disease.

A recent study found that people with high cholesterol who ate a diet providing 20% of calories from almonds, saw their cholesterol levels lowered over time.16

  • They can reduce hunger pangs

Almonds are high in protein and fibre, which are both known to make you feel fuller for longer.

This means that people with a diet high in protein and fibre tend to consume less calories than those who eat more carbs and fats.17,18

What counts as a portion of almonds?

While there are no set medical guidelines detailing how many almonds are in a regular portion, it’s generally accepted that between 20g-50g per day of almonds for adults is beneficial as part of a balanced diet.19

How to include more almonds in your diet

There are lots of ways to cook and eat almonds, here are just a few:20

Dry roasting

1

Heat your oven to 175C.

2

Spread the almonds on an ungreased cooking sheet on a baking tray and bake for ten minutes.

3

When they are golden brown and fragrant, take them out and let cool. 

Oil roasting

1

Heat your oven to 175C.

2

Cover a baking tray with tin foil and place your almonds on top.

3

Spread canola oil over the almonds and bake for 8-10 minutes.

4

Remove and sprinkle the almonds with kosher salt.

Honey roasting

1

Heat your oven to 175C.

2

Spread your almonds on an ungreased cooking sheet on a baking tray and heat for 12-15 minutes.

3

Meanwhile, stir honey, sugar, water, and almond oil together in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

4

Take your almonds out from the oven and mix them into your honey mixture.

5

Leave until the almonds have absorbed all the liquid (about five minutes). 

6

Sprinkle a bit of sugar over them and let the almonds cool before serving.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 2 September 2021

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