What are the health benefits of almonds?
What are the health benefits of almonds?
Or read the post below in 5 minutes
Today, we’re going to look at a superfood that is commonly misunderstood, but has the potential of dramatically lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes with a portion small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
Almonds are the second highest consumed nut in North America, just behind peanuts. Actually, an almond is really a seed… and peanuts are really legumes, but we’ll talk about peanuts another day.
The almond tree, like the closely related cherry and peach tree, bares a small, lime like fruit containing the seed that we eat. While the fruit isn’t very appetizing, the seed is delicious and incredibly nutritious. In fact, almonds hold the title of having the highest concentration of nutrients overall compared to other nuts and seeds.
Almonds are packed with vitamins E, B2, and B7, the minerals manganese, copper, magnesium, molybdenum, iron, and phosphorus, contain heart healthy fats and polyphenols, and cholesterol lowering fiber.
Most people know that nuts are healthy, as long as they’re consumed in moderation. However, just how why almonds are so healthy are often not well understood.
So, let's answer the question, "What are the health benefits of almonds?"
In two similar studies  consuming almonds shortly after a meal was shown to dramatically reduce blood glucose levels in a dose dependant manner. In both studies, participants were fed high glycemic, high carbohydrate meals then given blood tests to determine blood glucose levels at various points following the meal.
When 3 ounces of almonds were consumed following the meals the participants blood glucose levels were reduced by over half compared to those who only ate the high glycemic meal.
Regular, long lasting spikes in blood glucose from eating refined carbohydrates has been linked to inflammation and increased cholesterol, both risk factors for developing heart disease. By adding a handful or so of almonds after a high glycemic, high carbohydrate meal could help blunt the effects on blood sugar.
As you probably know, controlling blood sugar levels is important for reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and is especially important for those already dealing with diabetes.
Almonds are packed with heart protective nutrients, including Vitamin E, magnesium, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and plant sterols. Two separate, large epidemiological studies have drawn similar conclusions when it comes to eating nuts like almonds and a reduction in a person's risk of developing coronary heart disease.
In the first study, people who ate nuts like almonds more than four times a week reduced their risk of heart disease of 37%. For each serving of nuts a person consumed during the week there was an 8.3% reduction in risk for developing coronary heart disease. 
The second, larger study showed that replacing saturated fats like those found in animal products with fats from nuts and seeds reduces a person's risk of developing heart disease by 45%!
A study one on thirty four people with high cholesterol were randomly assigned one of three diets. A very low saturated fat diet, the same low saturated fat diet plus statin drugs to reduce cholesterol, and a third group followed a diet high in plant sterols from almonds, soy, and high fiber foods.
While participants following a low saturated fat diet experienced only moderate drops in cholesterol, those following a diet high in phytonutrients from nuts and plants saw equal reductions in their cholesterol levels as those taking statins and following a low saturated fat diet.
Furthermore, the participants eating nuts and plants saw a 30 percent reduction in dangerous LDL cholesterol in only two weeks of following the diet!
Almonds are a tasty, healthy way to bring more vital nutrients into your life and promote optimal health. However, there are some considerations you’ll want to take before eating an entire container of them for a between meal snack.
As mentioned, almonds are the most nutrient dense of all other nuts and seeds, meaning you don’t need many to get the benefits. That’s a good thing, because almonds are also very calorie dense, as they contain a high amount of fat. While the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in almonds are healthy, fat itself contains the highest calories of the macronutrients.
For example, a cup of cooked rice contains 200 calories, while a cup of raw almonds contains 823 calories! Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you keep your daily consumption to around a quarter cup per day.
Almonds are seeds and are the reproductive part of the plant. They are generally designed to be consumed along with the fruit surrounding it, but not be digested. Instead, it’s the seed is meant to pass through the digestive system of the animal, come out the other end, and grow to be a tree bearing fruits of its own. As such, unless special preparation is given to nuts and seeds, your digestion of them will be compromised.
Almonds contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that act as protective agents against digestion. You can deactivate these protective enzyme inhibitors and remove the phytic acid simply by soaking the almonds for 8 to 12 hours. By soaking them, you will be able to fully digest the almonds you eat and get their fully nutrient potential.
Lastly, eating almonds that have their skin intact can improve the LDL cholesterol lowering and heart health properties by several times! The skin of the almond, although potentially anti nutritious if not prepared by soaking, contains antioxidant flavonoids and a high amount of Vitamin E.
So, as long as you’re soaking them, remember to leave the skin on. Oh, and the health promoting effects of almonds will, of course, be reduced if they’re covered in chocolate, caramel, yogurt, salt, or seasoning, so try to eat them whole and organic whenever possible.
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