Almonds are a rich source of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and healthy fatty acids.
It does not require much preparation to be included in the daily diet. It has found its prominent place in snacks, cakes, meals, and many other food recipes.
From reducing the wrinkles in the skin to its provisions for a healthy heart, almonds are popular around the world.
1. Almonds as an Antioxidant Defense
The indulgence in a smoking habit is fraught with health risks. So much so that every pack has a statutory warning. It raises the level of oxidative stress. Almonds are a rich source of antioxidants and may help in lowering the levels of biomarkers associated with smoking. Biomarkers are naturally occurring molecules through which a disease can be found out.
An imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants causes oxidative stress. The uneven number of electrons that are present in oxygen-containing molecules (free radicals) react with other molecules causing oxidation. This can be harmful or beneficial.
In 2007, an investigation was taken up to determine if the intake of almonds decreased oxidative stress pathways among young men who smoked. (1)
60 healthy men who were in the age group of 18 to 25 years and who smoked between 5 to 20 cigarettes a day were selected. They were given a diet of 84 grams of almonds or 120 grams of pork every day for 4 weeks with a 4 week period of washout between the test periods.
Another group of 30 healthy non-smoking men was given a daily serving of pork for comparison. Oxidative stress biomarkers were ascertained through samples of blood and urine that were collected.
The values of urinary 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG – the compound is a measurement of oxidative stress within a cell) and malondialdehyde (MDA – oxidative stress maker) and peripheral lymphocyte DNA strand breaks were higher by 185, 64 and 97 percent in smokers than in non-smokers. These suggested severe oxidative stress on the subject (smokers).
The supplementation of almonds, 8-OHdG, MDA and DNA strand breaks reduced significantly by 28, 34 and 23%. It also increased the concentrations of 8-OHdG by 98% compared to non-smokers.
Summary: The supplementation of almonds works as a defense and reduces biomarkers of oxidative stress in smokers.
2. Rich Source of Vitamin E
Almonds are an abundant source of vitamin E. The daily value of almonds is 48% per serving. Therefore in 1 ounce of almonds, 7.3 mg of vitamin E is present, in 100 grams 26 mg (171% DV) is available.
An earlier study demonstrated that vitamin E found in almonds has an impact on the levels of cognition among the aged. The study had a follow-up period for 3 years and 2 months. 2889 participants of a community were involved. (2)
The age ranged from 65 to 102 years. They answered a food frequency questionnaire. 4 tests were used to measure cognitive changes at the beginning and after 3 years. Testing was also conducted after 6 months for 288 randomly selected subjects.
The results showed that there was a 36% reduction in the rate of decline among subjects with the highest quintile (a 20% of the larger value) of total vitamin E consumption as compared with those who had the lowest quintile.
The model used also took into account age, race, sex, smoking and alcohol consumption, level of education, and calorie intake. It was observed that cognitive decline was reduced with a higher intake of vitamin E.
Summary: The consumption of vitamin E through foods or supplements is connected with the reduction in cognitive decline. The trial demonstrated that vitamin E can influence cognition even among the aged group of people.
3. The Effect of Almonds on Cardiovascular Diseases
The objective of a study conducted in 2010, was to evaluate the supposition that an almond diet among adults who had prediabetes (as the word suggests is when the blood sugar level is high but not to the level where it can be diagnosed as diabetes) improved insulin responsiveness and other cardiovascular risk factors, compared to a diet that is almond nut-free.(3)
The diet that was used was an almond-enriched diet from the American Diabetes Association (ADA). 65 adult participants who were in the prediabetic stage took part in this study. They took up 16 weeks of dietary changes that contained an ADA diet that had 20% energy from almonds. It amounted to 2 ounces of almond intake per day.
Fasting glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C), triglycerides and HbA1c were measured at 0, 8 and 16 weeks. Bodyweight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood pressure, and nutrient intake were also measured in those weeks.
The group that had consumed almonds in the 16-week period showed a decline in insulin resistance and beta-cell function when compared to the nut-free control group.
A significant clinical decline in LDL-C was also observed in the almond-diet group as compared to the other. No changes in BMI, systolic blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors were noted.
Summary: A diet that contains 20% calories from almonds taken over a 16-week period, changes the biomarkers of insulin sensitivity and produces clinically significant improvement in prediabetic people. LDL-C also shows a noteworthy decline with the almond diet intake.
4. Appetite Control With Almonds
Snacking forms a major portion of human daily dietary intake. A 2013 study examined the effects of almonds as a common snack food item. (4)
It is nutrient-rich and satiating natural food. Its influence on postprandial (after food) glycemia, appetite, short-term body weight and fasting blood parameters when taken with meals or as a separate snack were investigated.
The study was for 4 weeks. The participants were to consume 43 grams of almonds a day with breakfast or lunch, as a morning or afternoon snack or no almonds. 137 participants who had a high risk of type 2 diabetes took the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and acute-feeding session at baseline and thereafter consumed the almond supplementation for the 4 week period as stipulated.
The OGTT and acute-feeding sessions were repeated. It was noted that serum glucose was low in postprandial tests. It was more noticeable among those who had almond snacks. There was also a reduced level of hunger and a desire to eat in the acute-feeding session.
Post the 4 week test period anthropometric measurements (quantitative measurements of muscle, bone and adipose tissue that are taken to evaluate body composition) were evaluated. It was observed that the energy intake decreased among the almond snack group.
Summary: The study concluded that almonds serve post-ingestive metabolic appetite benefits. The almond snacking did not raise the risk of weight gain. The study indicates that almond snacking is a healthy dietary option.
5. Weight Loss Benefit of Almonds
An experiment was taken up to assess the effects of a high almond (high monounsaturated fat, MUFA) or complex carbs (high carbohydrate) low-calorie diet on anthropometric body compositions and metabolic paraments in a weight reduction initiative. (5)
The experiment lasted for 24 weeks. 65 adults between the ages of 27 to 79 years with a body mass index (BMI) of 27-55 kg/m2 were involved in the experiment. The supplementation was of 84 grams to be taken every day (almond-low calorie diet that had 39% total fat, 25% MUFA and 32% carbs as a percent of dietary energy) or self-selected carbs that had equal calories and protein.
Various anthropometric measurements, body composition and metabolic parameters before, during and after 24 weeks of the dietary supplementation were taken.
There was a significant reduction in weight and BMI (62%), waist circumference (50%), fat mass (56%), total body water and systolic blood pressure in the almond low-calorie diet (LCD) group.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased in the high carb LCD group and decreased in the almond-LCD group. Glucose, insulin, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol and the ratio of LDL-C to HDL-C reduced appreciably in both dietary trials.
It was also noted that the ketone (energy that is produced by the liver when the body has insufficient insulin to convert sugar/glucose from food to energy) levels increased in the almond group.
Over time it was noticed that the homeostasis model analysis of insulin resistance reduced in both the study groups. Those who had type 2 diabetes, medication for the condition was constant or reduced in higher proportion in the almond group compared to the carb group participants.
Both the tests demonstrated that dietary interventions were effective in reducing body weight much further to the weight loss achieved through medical treatment.
Summary: The almond group had a consistent weight-reducing effect in the 24-week trial. The supplementation of almonds with a formula based low-calorie diet is an unconventional potential method to decrease the health implications of obesity.
6. Almond Influences Gut Health
Almonds have been found to benefit the health of the gut. A 2019 published article in ‘Current Development in Nutrition’ published the details of a trial held with the participation of college students who were assigned to snacks of almonds or graham crackers. (6)
The 8 weeks trail had 73 college freshmen. 41 women and 32 men in the age group of 18 to 19 years with a BMI of 18-41kg/m2 with no cardiometabolic disorders were selected. 38 of them were given 56.7 grams of almonds to be consumed every day that had 364-kilo calories while 35 volunteers consumed 77.5 grams per day of graham crackers that had 338 kilocalories.
Stool samples collected before and after 8 weeks of supplementation to evaluate the main microbiome outcomes. It was observed that the almond group had a decline in the amounts of a pathogenic bacterium. There was a 3% higher quantitative microbial diversity in the almond group.
Summary: The study indicated that there was an improved microbial diversity due to the almond snacking. A pathogenic bacterium significantly reduced. The composition and diversity of gut microbiome were enhanced by the morning snacking of college freshmen who were known to skip breakfast.
7. Nuts May Prevent Gallstone Formation
Medical leaders in gallstone research at Harvard Medical School brought into focus the effects of eating habits in the formation of gallstones. They came up with studies having searched the large scale Health Professional Follow-up and the Nurses Health Study.
The extra bile made by the liver is held in the gallbladder. If it has high cholesterol it would crystallize and create gallstones. A study was published in late 2004 that showed that the consumption of nuts (approximately 5 ounces a week) lowered the risk of gallstones by 30% when compared to low consumption (less than one ounce per month). (7)
This information was picked up for the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. It had 51, 529 male American dentists, optometrists, osteopathic physicians, podiatrists, and veterinarians.
The unsaturated fats in nuts keep the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in check and reduce the total cholesterol amounts in the bile. Nuts have lots of fiber just like plants. It may prevent gallstone formation by decreasing the re-circulation of acids in the bile in the intestine. Magnesium may also have a contributory role.
Summary: Almonds showed that it not only reduced cholesterol in the bile but also prevented the formation of gallstones. Almonds contain magnesium that supports this benefit.
8. Almonds Are Good For The Skin
Good fats as contained in almonds are beneficial for skin health. They are rich in antioxidants too. A randomized study in 2019 was done with the objective to examine the effects of almond intake on facial sebum (light yellow oily secretion of the sebaceous gland in the skin, protecting it from external factors) production and wrinkles. (8)
The participants were healthy postmenopausal women who undertook the 16-week study during which they had to consume 20% of their daily energy requirements from almonds or a calorie-matching snack. Facial photographs and image analysis systems were used to acquire standardized snaps and information on the width of wrinkles and their severity.
These measurements were noted at 0, 8 and 16 weeks. Measurements of transepidermal loss of water and sebum production were also noted in those weeks.
31 participants had taken up the trial and 28 completed it. It was observed that the almond group of women had reduced wrinkle severity and width compared to the control group. There was no adverse effect on the intake of the supplements.
Summary: The study showed a positive outcome for the daily intake of almonds. The measurements of wrinkles had reduced and it can be safely said that almonds deliver anti-aging benefits.
9. Almonds May Reduce The Risk Of Pancreatic Cancer
A study that involved 75, 680 women in the Nurses’ Health Study investigated the association of nut consumption and pancreatic cancer in women. None of the women who participated had a history of cancer. The consumption was measured before and recorded every 2 to 4 years. (9)
There were 466 pancreatic cases. After the adjustment of age, smoking status, height, physical activity, and total energy intake it was observed that women who took one ounce or 28 grams of nuts more than 2 or equal to 2 times a week had a significantly lower risk of pancreatic cancer as compared to those who did not take nuts during the same period.
This association of a nut diet continued with strata defined by body mass index, physical activity, red meat consumption, vegetables and fruits, and smoking status.
Summary: Repeated nut consumption is inversely related to the risk of pancreatic cancer. This study did not take into consideration other factors that cause the disease. More research and study are required to standardize and optimize this health benefit.
10. Daily Intake Of Almonds And Dietary Health
A study evaluated the long-term supplementation of almonds in 43 healthy men and healthy women for a period of 6 months. This study was noted in the British Journal of Nutrition. They were between the ages of 25 to 70 years. (10)
All the participants were followed-up for a period of one year. In the first six months, they followed their own diets and in the second 6 months, the subjects added almonds to their diets. Seven random 24-hour telephone diet recalls were undertaken for each diet period. On average, the almond supplementation was 52 grams each day.
They were not given any other instructions. By the end of the study period, many beneficial changes were noted to have naturally occurred due to the intake of almonds.
The healthy fats which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats increased by 42 and 24 percent. Fiber, vegetable protein, and vitamin increased by 12, 19 and 66% while copper and magnesium significantly increased by 15 and 23%.
It was further observed that trans fat intake, animal protein had notably reduced by 14 and 9 percent. Sodium, cholesterol, and sugars decreased by 21, 17 and 13%. These sets of changes were similar to dietary recommendations known to prevent cardiovascular and other long-term diseases.
Summary: The intake of almonds proved to have increased all the beneficial compounds in the body and reduced the amounts of those compounds that do not have good health provisions.
The Side Effects Of Almonds
Small quantities of almonds do not pose any side effects. However, overeating this nutritious nut can have mild to severe side effects and allergies. If you eat too many almonds you are overdosing yourself with excessive minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids. Gastrointestinal problems are bound to occur.
Nausea, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain are some of the side effects associated with almond overeating. You could begin to gain weight and become obese if you do not restrict your intake. If you consume 10 to 15 almonds a day you will not experience these side effects.
There are two types of allergies to almonds. One type is called anaphylaxis that can lead to breathing difficulty. The first signs of this condition are hives, skin reactions, low blood pressure, constriction of the airways, swollen tongue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting. It should be treated immediately as this is a life-threatening condition. The other allergy is less common and is known as a secondary food allergy.
3 Quick And Easy Home-Made Almond Recipes
1. Almond Cracker
The almond cracker recipe has only a few ingredients, which are whole almonds, one egg, cashews, and salt. No flour is required. Chia seeds can be added if preferred. The cracker is packed with proteins and no gluten is present. A nutritious alternative to flour crackers.
All you need to do is blend the almonds, cashew, add the egg and salt. Roll out the dough and keep it paper-thin. Cut out squares and bake it only for 10 minutes. You and your family and friends will be crackling up on crisp and flavorful crackers in no time.
2. Almond Chocolate Cake
For the almond chocolate cake, you would use ground almonds and maple syrup in place of sugar. In the absence of a food processor, you can use almond flour or almond meal. The steps involved are:-
- Melt the butter, chocolate and maple syrup together
- Add the egg, almond meal, and cinnamon and give a mix
- Grease 5-inch ramekins, pour it in and bake it for 35 minutes
- Allow cooling and sugar-dust the sumptuous cake
You can serve it with ice cream.
3. Almond Butter
It is very easy to make. The almond butter can be stored up to a month by keeping it in a cool and dry place. It can be used for more than 3 months if refrigerated. Refrigeration can make it thick.
You would have to first roast the almond nuts in the oven and blend them in a food processor. It would take some time as it would first get crumbled, turn gooey and then creamy which is the right texture as a butter.
You can use it on a toast with berries and drizzled honey. It can be spread on banana bread muffins. Swirl it with yogurt and roasted strawberries for a filling snack.
The Final Note
There is no doubt that almond is a densely packed nutrient that can be consumed anytime during the day.
The health benefits are varied and this tree nut can be consumed by the old and young alike. The side effects are restricted to too much consumption or allergic reactions, which are easily avoidable.
Packed with antioxidants, healthy fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins, this nut can be considered as a perfect food.