There are many different nut varieties, but almonds are one of the most nutritious of all.
Interestingly, almonds are also one of our earliest domesticated foods, with records going back to the bronze age.
This article examines the benefits these nuts offer alongside a look at their full nutrition profile.
What Are Almonds?
Most people think of almonds as nuts, and that is how popular culture views them.
However, botanically at least, almonds are seeds.
We can find almonds locked inside the almond fruit that grows on almond trees (Prunus dulcis).
Technically, the almond fruit is a kind of drupe rather than a true nut (such as chestnuts) (1).
As previously mentioned, almonds were one of the first foods for humans to domesticate, and records exist from biblical times back to the Bronze age (2).
These nuts are one of the most popular foods in the world, and more than 80% of the world’s almond production takes place in California (3).
Nutritionally, almonds have an excellent reputation due to their provision of protein, healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Almond Health Benefits
Here are some benefits of eating almonds.
1) Almonds Are a Good Source of Vitamin E
Almonds are among the best dietary sources of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient which acts as an antioxidant inside the body. Among its various functions, vitamin E plays a role in decreasing inflammation and reducing oxidative damage (4).
A recent randomized trial looked at the effect of almonds on vitamin E status in eighty-four overweight participants.
In this trial, a 4-week intervention of 56 grams of daily almonds raised vitamin E status by 102.7% (and also decreased energy intake from carbohydrate) (5).
Per ounce (28 g) serving, almonds offer 7.27 mg of vitamin E, which is equivalent to 48% of the daily value (6).
2) May Help To Control Blood Sugar Levels
Research suggests that almonds may contribute to better glycemic control.
In a 24-week free-living intervention study, participants replaced 20% of total energy intake with almonds. After 24 weeks, study participants had lower levels of fasting blood glucose (7).
Furthermore, another randomized controlled trial examined the effects of almonds and peanuts in patients with type 2 diabetes.
In this particular study, substituting staple carbohydrate foods for a 45-55 gram daily portion of almonds significantly reduced fasting blood glucose during the first three weeks.
After 12 weeks, this significant drop in fasting blood glucose was still present (8).
Would foods other than almonds have had the same effect in this study?
Perhaps, but the results still show that replacing carbohydrates with almonds reliably reduced fasting blood sugar.
3) Rich In Magnesium
Almonds are rich in the essential mineral magnesium.
Per ounce (28-gram) serving, almonds provide 75.7 mg (or 19% of the daily value) for magnesium (6).
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, and it plays a role in most biological functions (7).
For example, magnesium is an important cofactor for hundreds of enzymatic systems in the body.
As a result, the mineral contributes to blood pressure regulation, blood glucose control, muscular function, and many other systems (8).
Research also suggests that optimal magnesium levels may play a role in the prevention of various chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (9).
4) High In Protein
Almonds are one of the highest plant sources of protein, and they contain 21.2 grams of protein per 100 grams (6).
However, a study investigating the protein digestibility of almonds found almond proteins “to be of poor nutritional quality” (10).
Limiting amino acids in almonds included;
For this reason, these nuts are not a like-for-like protein replacement for foods like eggs, seafood, and meat.
That said, almonds still offer a good variety of amino acids, and they offer a high amount of protein per gram.
5) Almonds Are High In Fiber
Carbohydrate quality is important, and there are big differences between foods like sugar and wheat flour compared to nuts and vegetables.
The difference is the type of carbohydrate they contain.
Simple, refined carbohydrates convert to glucose near instantaneously (and lead to excessively large blood glucose spikes) (11).
However, fibrous carbohydrates like those found in almonds do not digest down into glucose. Further, they slow the digestion of accompanying digestible carbohydrates (12).
Per ounce serving, almonds contain 6.1 grams of carbohydrate and more than half of this—3.4 grams—is fiber (6).
There is also research that suggests fiber may be beneficial for the gut microbiota (otherwise known as “good bacteria”) (14).
6) Almonds May Decrease Feelings of Hunger
Some studies suggest that almond consumption may lower feelings of hunger and reduce appetite.
For instance, one trial found that a mid-morning snack of either 28 grams or 42 grams of almonds reduced ab libitum food intake at lunch and dinner (15).
Furthermore, a randomized controlled trial featuring 137 participants made similar findings.
In this study, a 43-gram serving of almonds alongside a meal had a suppressive effect on hunger, reduced cravings throughout the day, and did not negatively affect body weight (16).
This potential satiating effect might be because almonds contain more protein and fiber than any other nut.
On this note, studies consistently show that protein, and to a lesser extent, fiber, help to increase satiety and lower food cravings (17, 18).
7) Almond Intake Improves the Cholesterol Profile
Almond consumption reduces levels of LDL cholesterol while maintaining or possibly increasing HDL levels.
Firstly, several studies show that almond consumption lowers LDL, and this is likely in a dose-response manner (19).
Several randomized clinical trials also demonstrate that almond intake may significantly increase HDL levels (20, 21).
As a result, almonds lower the ratio of non-HDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (22).
There are numerous and complex markers of cardiovascular health.
However, the non-HDL to HDL cholesterol ratio is thought by many researchers to be a more accurate marker of risk than traditional ideas of “LDL vs HDL” (23).
8) Almonds Are Very Versatile
While this one is not specifically a health benefit, the versatility of almonds can be useful.
For instance, we can eat almonds on their own as a snack, but there are many other ways to eat them too;
- Grind them into flour/almond meal and use it as a replacement for wheat flour for healthier baking.
- Blend them in a food processor to make ‘almond butter’ and use it as a condiment.
- Mix them into yogurt with some berries for a healthy (and tasty) small meal or snack.
These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg, and there are various almond recipes available online.
9) Almond Skin Is Rich In Polyphenols
Almond skins contain a wide range of polyphenols, including (24);
- Phenolic acids
Polyphenols are thought to have various potential benefits for human health. However, their relative bioavailability has been in question, and research remains ongoing (25, 26).
While in vitro (test tube or otherwise outside of the body) studies show potential anti-inflammatory effects, more research in human participants is necessary (27).
That being said, polyphenols also have advantages for the specific foods that contain them.
For instance, almond polyphenols help to protect the fatty acids inside the nut, and they also help to prolong the shelf-life (28).
10) Almonds Are Very Nutritious
Another benefit of almonds is that they are among the most nutrient-dense of tree nuts.
In other words; almonds contain more nutrients per calorie/gram than most different nut varieties.
We will now take a look at the nutrition profile of almonds in full.
The following nutritional values are sourced from the USDA Food Composition Databases, and they show the nutrition data for almonds per 100 grams (6).
Calories and Macronutrients
|– Fiber||12.2 g|
|– Sugars||3.9 g|
|– Saturated Fat||3.7 g|
|– Monounsaturated Fat||30.9 g|
|– Polyunsaturated Fat||12.1 g|
|— Omega-3||6.0 mg|
|— Omega-6||12065 mg|
Almonds are primarily a source of (monounsaturated) fat, and they contain moderate amounts of carbohydrate and protein.
|Vitamin E||36.2 mg||241 %|
|Vitamin B2||1.0 mg||60 %|
|Vitamin B3||3.4 mg||17 %|
|Vitamin B1||0.2 mg||14 %|
|Folate||50.0 mcg||12 %|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||7 %|
|Vitamin B5||0.5 mg||5 %|
|Vitamin A||1.0 IU||0 %|
As shown, almonds are a good source of B vitamins and vitamin E.
|Manganese||2.3 mg||100 %|
|Magnesium||268 mg||67 %|
|Copper||1.0 mg||50 %|
|Phosphorus||484 mg||48 %|
|Calcium||264 mg||26 %|
|Iron||3.7 mg||21 %|
|Zinc||3.7 mg||21 %|
|Potassium||705 mg||20 %|
|Selenium||2.5 mcg||4 %|
|Sodium||1.0 mg||0 %|
Almonds are a good source of minerals, and they are particularly high in manganese, magnesium, and copper.
Almonds are not a “superfood,” but they are a fairly nutritious one.
These nuts offer a good source of fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Research also shows that almonds may have several health benefits, and they’re delicious too.
For a healthy snack, almonds are an excellent choice.
To read more about different nuts, see the benefits of hazelnuts here.