Going Nutty For The Benefits Of Almonds

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The Benefits Of Almonds

Almonds are nutrient-dense food recommended for heart health, pregnancy, and even your brain. Enjoy a few to get antioxidants and healthy fats into your system along with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that they can help with blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol problems, and even digestive health.

The nutty almond has quite a fan following. But did you know they could help power up your brain, protect you from cardiovascular disease, and even possibly help with weight loss? These nuts, loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, have plenty of reason to be part of your daily diet.1 Here’s exactly why!

Health Benefits Of Almonds

1. Power Up Your Brain

Almonds are considered brain food with good reason. For the elderly, almond intake could help slow cognitive decline thanks to the high levels of vitamin E in them. Some research also suggests that that the antioxidant vitamin offers the brain protection from neurodegenerative diseases.2 Separate studies have also shown that consuming alpha-tocopherol (a type of vitamin E) – equivalent to about 2000 IU of Vitamin E – daily could help slow Alzheimer’s disease from progressing even in those with moderately severe impairment.3

2. Offer An Antioxidant Boost

Almonds contain antioxidants that can help fight oxidative stress in your body. In one study, consuming the tree nut with meals was found to cause less oxidative protein damage in the body.4 In the case of smokers whose bodies showed oxidative stress-linked damage, consuming 84 gm of almonds (approximately 3 oz) daily helped lower biomarkers of oxidative stress by as much as 23 to 24 percent over the course of a 4-week test. Almond intake also helped boost the body’s antioxidant defenses.5

3. Fight Inflammation

The antioxidants in almonds can also help fight inflammation in the body. As researchers explain, oxidative stress often triggers inflammation in our bodies. And because nuts like almonds give the body antioxidant protection against oxidative stress, they can help reduce inflammation too.6

The fatty acids in almonds may also help fight inflammation. One study found that taking 68 gm of the nuts helped reduce some inflammatory markers, indicating a potential role against inflammatory conditions.7

4. Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Simply swapping your regular carb-laden snack for a handful of almonds could do wonders for your cardiovascular health. It could also help ward off cardiometabolic diseases. As one piece of research found, almond consumption helped reduce LDL cholesterol as well as abdominal obesity – both considered risk factors for cardiometabolic dysfunction. HDL cholesterol, often referred to as “good” cholesterol, remained steady. Just 1.5 oz of almonds a day can make a difference if you have them in lieu of a carbohydrate-heavy snack.8

Almonds skin also contain antioxidants or polyphenolic compounds that can help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.9 This is something that is critical when it comes to heart disease.

5. Can Be Good For Diabetics

If you have type 2 diabetes, having almonds can help improve lipid profile and bring about better glycemic control. In one study, 20 percent of the daily intake of calories was swapped for almonds (about 60 gm) for 4 weeks. The patients saw a drop in their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels dropped and the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol became more favorable.10

Almonds are, among other things, a good source of magnesium. A study found that for diabetics with low magnesium levels, restoring the levels of the mineral through oral supplements could help improve insulin sensitivity as well as metabolic control.11 It also helped non-diabetics with hypomagnesemia see improved insulin sensitivity.12

6. Help With Weight Loss

Almonds could even help with weight loss and belly fat loss. The study that required test subjects to consume almonds instead of high-carb snacks found that, besides helping drop levels of total non-HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, they reduced fat accumulation around the midriff or belly.13

Almonds help weight loss by offering satiety too. After having some almonds as a snack, you are likely to feel full for longer. That’s because these nuts contain a high quantity of both fiber and protein – two dietary components known for higher levels of satiety. And with less of those hunger pangs, you are likely to be able to avoid sudden binge eating and stick with your meal plan for the day.14 In fact, one study actually found that those who consumed 43 gm of almonds a day experienced less hunger and had a lower desire to eat than those who did not.15 Another study found that those on an almond-enriched low-calorie diet lost 62 percent more weight than those on a complex-carbohydrates low-calorie diet during a 24-week trial.16

7. Lower Blood Pressure

Insufficient dietary intake of magnesium can bring on blood pressure problems. And as research now tells us, the average American certainly isn’t getting enough of it. This low intake of magnesium if corrected could also help set blood pressure levels right.17 One study found that taking oral magnesium could help significantly bring down both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in diabetic patients who had hypertension and were deficient in magnesium.18 With about 270 mg of magnesium in every 100 gm, almonds are definitely a source of magnesium you can bank on.19

8. Fortify Bone And Teeth Health

Your bones as well as teeth need phosphorus and calcium to stay strong, healthy, and durable.20 21 Not getting enough can cause osteoporosis and bone loss. Almonds contain 481 mg of phosphorus and 269 mg of calcium in a 100 gm serving, making them a great source of these nutrients.22

9. Boost Digestive Health

The fiber in almonds makes them a good addition to your diet if you have trouble with bowel movements. However, be sure to balance this increased fiber intake with adequate water intake to ease constipation. Almonds may also have more far-reaching benefits for your gut health. They may have prebiotic properties that can help favorably alter the balance of gut flora. In one study, it was found that consuming almonds helped stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut.23

10. Ward Off Cancer

Almonds may also be a formidable ally when it comes to cancer prevention and immune system strengthening. Antioxidants found in almonds can help reduce the risk of cancer by protecting you against free radical damage. They also defend you against damage from reactive oxygen molecules. Research has found that taking vitamin E, especially if you are under 65 years old, could reduce your risk of colon cancer.24 Another study found that taking alpha-tocopherol could significantly cut the risk of prostate cancer incidence as well mortality among male smokers.25

11. Moisturize Skin And Protect From Sun Exposure-Linked Skin Damage

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has been implicated in photoaging of the skin. Researchers have tried to see if pre-treatment or application of certain natural products has a protective effect against this radiation. One study on animal test subjects found that the topical application of almond oil to the skin was able to slow down the photoaging process and even prevent some of the structural damage that UV radiation causes to the skin.26 Separate studies have found that the alpha-tocopherol and polyphenols in almonds have photoprotective effects. They could help you combat the inflammation, oxidative stress, and superficial reddening of the skin known as erythema caused by exposure to UV radiation.27

Almond oil itself has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 5.28 This isn’t that high so it cannot be a substitute for your standard sunscreens. But almond oil can help moisturize dry, sun-damaged skin and add a layer of additional protection for it before sun exposure.To use almond oil as an emollient, simply apply to your skin to keep it moisturized and hydrated. Finish up with a good sunscreen for protection.

Using Almond Oil To Fight Stretch Marks: Pros And Cons

Stretch marks are a common problem afflicting anyone who’s gained and lost a lot of weight – including women after pregnancy and childbirth. Keeping your skin well-hydrated and moisturized is a popular alternative approach to battling the problem. Almond oil is one such oil that’s been tried as a remedy thanks to its emollient properties. However, while some swear by it, other researchers say that there are not enough scientific tests to prove its effectiveness.29 Also, there are some concerns that using almond oil regularly during pregnancy may be linked to preterm births – another claim that needs to be proven definitively. However, given the nature of the side effect, play it safe and avoid using it unless your doctor clears it first.30

12. Ward Off Acne, Blackheads, Whiteheads

An almond face scrub made from crushed soaked almonds and cream or honey can be a wonderful all-natural way to cleanse your skin and scrub away dead skin and impurities. A natural exfoliant, they can help absorb excess sebum and clear buildup associated with acne and reduce the problem of both blackheads and whiteheads.31 Since it is gentle and soothing, it shouldn’t leave your skin feeling raw or irritated unlike with a harsher scrub.32

To make your own scrub, just blend together half a cup of almonds with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a tablespoon of honey, diluting with water as needed. Alternatively, blend up the almonds with milk or cream and apply. Apply and massage your skin in small, circular motion. Wash once dry.

13. Nourish Hair, Inside And Out

Almonds can be great for the hair inside and out. Rich in vitamin E, the nut can help protect your hair against oxidative stress, free radical damage, graying, and sun damage.33 Taking the nutrient as a supplement has even helped improve hair growth in people experiencing hair loss due to alopecia.34 A 100 gm of almonds contain about 25.6 mg of vitamin E.35

Besides having a handful of the nuts as part of your diet, you can also use almonds for nourishing hair treatments. Soaked almonds, mashed up with a generous amount of olive oil and applied to the hair, is a great natural conditioner. Simply leave in a for a few minutes before washing away with a shampoo.

14. Boost The Nervous System

The vitamin B12 in almonds is a great way to get in your daily recommended level of the nutrient. Cobalamin or B12 is required by the body to maintain a healthy network of nerve cells.36 A deficiency of B12 can actually cause white matter in your central nervous system to degenerate. Getting adequate levels of this vitamin as well as folate, another vitamin found in almonds, can help prevent a number of disorders of the central nervous system. It can also lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementias, and vascular dementia in the elderly.37

15. Build Muscles

Your body needs adequate protein levels to build muscle. Getting in that little extra can go a long way in helping enhance your muscle strength.38Almonds are a great source of protein and an easy way to consume good amounts of the macronutrient without too much fuss. Each 100 gm serving contains a generous 21 gm of protein.39 Simply toss a few into your smoothie or post-workout drink and you’re good to go.

16. Keep Your Muscles Working Well Too

The best part about almonds?They don’t just help you build muscles, but also help keep them in good working order thanks to their magnesium content. About 100 gm of almonds contain 270 mg of the mineral.40 Your muscles require electrolytes including magnesium to be present in the right amounts – when your body doesn’t get enough you may experience tremors or muscle weakness or feel confused or lethargic.41 And as it turns out, almonds contain nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and calcium in the right nutritional density or ratios.42

17. Boost Energy

Almonds are an energy-dense food that can help provide you with healthy calories for your body to burn and to fuel it. Just one almond gives you 7 kcal to work with, making it a quick and easy way to pack in calories without feeling like you’ve eaten a lot.43 Just a handful can power you up or even help with post-workout recovery.

18. Strengthen Immune System Strength And Drive Out Fever

Historically, almonds have been used in some cultures to fight fevers. It is believed they help purge a fever as opposed to just cooling it down.44 More recently, researchers have said that almond skin has immune-boosting effects on the body. In one study, immune markers all improved after exposure to digested natural almond skins. They concluded that almond skin may have strong antiviral properties, helping stimulate your body’s immune defense system.45

19. Overcome Constipation

Studies have found that increasing fiber intake can ease constipation by helping increase stool frequency for most people.46 With 12.5 gm of fiber in each 100 gm serving, almonds can make a world of difference to someone with constipation.47 The combination of soluble and insoluble fiber helps bulk up your stools and, when combined with adequate water intake, can fight constipation.

20. Additional Benefits For Men: Boost Your Sex Life

Almonds contain monounsaturated fats that your body needs to produce testosterone, the male sex hormone needed to keep the reproductive system and sex drive working well. In one study where animal test subjects were given a herbal medication containing almonds, researchers found that improvement in testosterone levels as well as sperm count.48

Arginine, an amino acid found in almonds, is known to act as a vasodilator, relaxing your blood vessels, easing pressure, and helping improve blood circulation.49 This is important for anyone who has erectile dysfunction linked to impaired blood flow to the penis or high blood pressure problems.50

21. Additional Benefits For Women: Treat PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that causes periods to go awry and brings imbalance in levels of male and female sex hormones in the body. Consuming almonds could help bring a favorable change to androgens in women and, thereby, ease the problem.51

It doesn’t stop there! Myo-inositol (MI) is a component of vitamin B complex and your body produces it using glucose. MI helps regulate hormones, insulin levels, and ovarian function. Almonds are a rich natural dietary source of a free form of MI (phytic acid) and can help with PCOS-related issues like metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.52

Get Some Folate Power During Pregnancy

Almonds have about 44 µg of folate per 100 gm of the nuts.53Folate is a vital nutrient during pregnancy and is needed to prevent birth defects, including neural tube defects that can manifest shortly after conception. Research suggests that taking a folic acid supplement even before you conceive as well as through the first trimester can help significantly cut the risk of neural tube defects. It could also reduce the risk of miscarriage and even of autism.54 Some almond power could be just what the doctor ordered if you are pregnant!

Should You Have Almonds Every Day?

Almonds should be fine for you to consume daily unless you have a cholesterol problem. In this case, however, you should first consult your doctor to check how much is okay for you to have. Having a few of these nutrient-dense nuts daily seems to have more beneficial effects, so you can have them in controlled amounts. Just be wary of binging on them. They are high in calories, with 100 gm packing a whopping 579 calories! They also contain a lot of fat even if it is the good kind – every 100 gm contain 50 gm. Remember to keep the balance and not overdo how many you have.55 Restrict your serving to just one a day. That’s just about a handful – an ounce, a quarter cup, or about 23 nuts.

Does It Matter How You Have Them?

Raw versus roasted, skin on or off? Everyone has their own way of eating almonds. But the nutrients you get from the nut differ depending on what form you have them in. Ayurveda suggests soaking almonds and removing the skin before eating to make them easier to digest and to enable easier access to the nutrients it contains.

However, other research has found that much of the antioxidant power of almonds lies in its skin. So when you blanch them or remove the brown skin, you are also stripping it of a considerable amount of its goodness. If you’re buying almonds that have been processed, it is best to stick to roasted ones. As one study found, roasted almonds had the best antioxidant profile compared to those blanched and dried and those freeze-dried.56 Also if you’re aiming for gut health or lipid lowering effects from almond intake, it is better eaten with the skin on because that’s where the beneficial flavonoids are.57

Ideas For How To Eat Almonds

Here are some easy ways to include almonds in your diet, if you don’t fancy eating them plain.

  • Grind them up into a powder (almond meal) to use as a flour substitute to bake delicious cakes and puddings.
  • Shred or sliver them to add crunch to a salad.
  • Whizz a few into a smoothie with milk or yogurt and dates or a banana and honey.
  • Make almond milk using almonds soaked overnight whizzed up with water, instead of dairy.
  • Toss almonds into your next savory stew or casserole.
  • Add some to a batch of brownies or liven up fudge with almond bits.
  • Make homemade granola with almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and oats.

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