How Almonds Can Benefit Our Health

By Doc Willie Ong

Almonds were once found only in North Africa, India, and the Middle East.  At present, 80% of the world’s almonds come from California.  They are actually the seeds found within the fruit of almond trees.  Some are sweet while others taste bitter.  They are a great source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.  Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend the ideal portion to be 23 almond nuts per day.

Almonds can lessen cholesterol

A heart disease called atherosclerosis is the number one cause of death in the United States.  It claims more American lives than all the cancers combined.  The disease occurs when huge amounts of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol are damaged by the oxidation process and accumulate with other substances to form plaque deposits in the medium and large arteries of the heart.  This arterial obstruction blocks the blood flow to the heart which can result in a heart attack.    Almonds may be high in fat, but they have unsaturated fat which does not raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. 

Moreover, almonds have zero cholesterol.  In 2005, a research study showed that almonds increased vitamin E in red blood cells and plasma.  It also lowered overall cholesterol levels.  Those who authored the research found that the powerful antioxidant properties of vitamin E prevent the damaging oxidation process of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which ends up as plaque along the artery walls.  In 2018, another study revealed that nutrient-rich almonds raise and maintain levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol.  This good cholesterol carries bad LDL cholesterol back to the liver to be disposed of.  The authors advised taking 45 grams of almonds per day for a healthy heart.

Almonds can reduce high blood pressure

The heart alternates between pumping and relaxing to move blood along the circulatory system.  As blood flows, it brings oxygen to vital organs and tissues.  Blood pressure is the degree of force blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels.  Systolic blood pressure measures the force when the heart is pumping. Diastolic blood pressure measures the force when the heart is relaxing. Consistent high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and internal organs.  Several studies show that almonds are effective in lowering systolic blood pressure by improving the dilation or widening of blood vessels.  In 2014, a study was conducted with healthy men aged 20-70 years who were made to take 50 grams of almonds every day for 2 weeks.  Results showed that blood pressure was reduced, participants developed better blood flow, and levels of antioxidants in the blood increased.  In another research, taking 50 grams of almonds every day for a month was able to decrease systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg. 

Almonds defend against diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It sends a message for the cells to absorb and use glucose or blood sugar.  In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-making cells of the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the immune system.  In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin is not working right.  In people with prediabetes, early-stage type 2 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance may occur.  This is when the cells don’t respond to insulin correctly and fail to absorb blood sugar properly. In these cases, the fasting insulin and fasting blood sugar are high.  A 2011 study involved 20 participants with type 2 diabetes who were given 60 grams or 45 pcs. of almonds daily.  Tests showed that these diabetic individuals developed reduced numbers for fasting insulin and fasting blood sugar.  Another study in 2010 involved prediabetic participants.  They were made to take a special diet where almonds made up 20% of their total daily calories.  Results showed that these prediabetic individuals developed improved insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels.  Furthermore, almonds are rich in magnesium which plays a role in the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin and also helps cells use insulin more efficiently.  An ounce of almonds gives 76.5 mg of magnesium.  This is 18%-24% of an adult’s daily required intake.  Magnesium in almonds helps manage blood sugar and reduces the chance a person may develop type 2 diabetes.  Another study with 1,168 participants showed that those people with the highest magnesium intake had 22% less risk of having type 2 diabetes compared to participants with the least magnesium consumption.

Almonds bolster the bones

Almonds provide all the necessary ingredients for healthy bones, including calcium, copper, manganese, magnesium, protein, vitamin k, and zinc.  This makes bones stronger and protects against fractures.

Almonds make our hair healthy

The hair absorbs the almond oil in hair products that have it.  The oil adds texture to the hair and strengthens each strand.  It can prevent hair fall and greying hair.   Moreover, the magnesium and folic acid in almonds promote the growth of hair.  

Almonds support the skin

A study in 2019 was conducted with postmenopausal women.  For one group, almonds made up 20% of their daily calorie intake.  After 16 weeks of this diet, analysis of before and after photographs showed that the women who were given almonds had less severe and smaller wrinkles.  Almond oil can be heated and applied to stretch marks twice a day.  The oil nourishes the skin and stops the skin from tearing apart.  Almond milk is also sometimes added to soaps to treat dermatitis in the hands, rashes, and other diseases of the skin.

Almonds are brilliant for the brain

Almonds contain the nutrients riboflavin and L-carnitine which are important for the brain and nervous system.  These promote the development of new neural pathways and are linked to lessening the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Additionally, the potassium in almond milk increases electrolytes in the body.  This provides the body with more energy and sharpens memory.   

Almonds are wonderful for weight loss

The protein and fiber in almonds cause a feeling of being full.  In addition, almonds are low in carbohydrates.  In one study, 137 participants were made to take almonds daily at a portion of 43 grams.  Results showed that it delayed their hunger and need to eat.  In terms of fiber content per gram, there are other alternatives.  160-200 calories of almonds are needed to get 3-4 grams of fiber. But only 50 calories of broccoli are required to provide the same 4 grams of fiber.

Almonds are superb for the stomach

Roasted and raw almonds are prebiotics or food for good bacteria living inside the stomach.  More good bacteria in the gut promote a better immune system, fight inflammation, and improve mental health.  In one study, patients had higher amounts of good bifidobacteria and lactobacillus after adding almonds and almond skin to their diet for 6 weeks. 

Almonds may fight cancer

A 2015 study done by the University of Colima in Colima, Mexico revealed that several nuts including almonds, peanuts, and walnuts can reduce the development of breast cancer by 2-3 times.

Who should not eat almonds

  1. Old people, very young children, and anyone else having difficulties swallowing may have to avoid almonds and other nuts in general as they can be a choking hazard.
  2. People with nut allergies should avoid almonds as they can cause swelling and breathing difficulty.  Severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis may possibly result in death.
  3. People with kidney or gallbladder issues may have to avoid almonds. Almond nuts are high in oxalates which can cause the formation of calcium oxalate stones when oxalates combine with calcium in the kidneys.
  4. People with diarrhea should avoid raw almonds as these could worsen symptoms.  Raw almonds can sometimes be contaminated with salmonella.  This can cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps in the abdomen.  The risk is lower in the United States, as almonds grown there are pasteurized to eliminate bacteria.
  5. People with diverticulitis and those with gastrointestinal issues may have to pass on almonds.  People with diverticulitis have small pockets called diverticula in the lining of their colon.  Nuts, seeds, and popcorn can get stuck in these pockets and cause inflammation.
  6. Obese individuals or those on a low-fat diet need to be careful not to eat too many almonds.  80% of an almond nut is made up of fat.  Thus, almonds should be consumed moderately. 

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