Whether they are eaten as a mid-morning snack or as part of some desserts in many cuisines, almonds are generally considered a healthy snack. A “superfood“, even?
The following text is based on information by Harvard’s School of Public Medicine, the US National Institutes of Public Health and Food Data Central. However, it does not constitute any form of medical advice and it should not be taken as a substitute for actual guidance by a doctor, dietitian or any other qualified professional. Talk to your healthcare provider before making any major change to your diet.
We should start by debunking the “superfood” term, a generic label for describing foods that are supposedly “superior” to others because of their nutritional profile. A more cautious approach would be to use it to describe foods that are “nutritionally dense”, meaning that the contain an unusually high number of essential nutrients. In actuality, most experts consider the concept lacks scientific value and can be misleading, as the path to a healthy diet will never be based on one single food. Instead, you should get your nutrients from a variety of foods from different groups, combining this balanced intake with physical activity to ensure your wellbeing.
While the superfood claim doesn’t hold up, almonds are a very interesting food that can be considered healthy if consumed in moderation. On the other hand, like pretty much every other food out there, it contains several nutrients that are essential to your health in balanced amounts. Even if we are to consider almonds a somewhat “superior” food compared to unhealthy alternatives, because of the important nutrients that they contain, you should remember that due to their size and normal consumption habits the actual intake will be limited and never match that of other healthy sources. In short, nuts can be a nice complement to a healthy diet when taken daily, but won’t yield any benefits on their own. Having said that, you can keep reading to discover some interesting facts about almonds.
They may protect your heart
Almonds may contribute to preventing heart disease because of some nutrients they contain, mainly monounsaturated fatty acids like some types of omega-3 that could have a cardio-protective effect, at least in people who are overweight, in the context of diets low in calories. The Harvard’s School of Public Medicine site cites some studies that found significantly lower risk of heart disease among people who ate nuts — like almonds — four times a week.
They are high in calories, but…
If you look at the label, you will find that almonds are very dense in calories, with 579 kilocalories per 100g serving, according to FoodData Central. And yet, this somehow doesn’t mean that they will make you gain weight, Harvard notes. Almonds have actually been associated with lower risks of obesity. This is perhaps related to the fact that they are high in fat and fibre, which promote fullness. However, authors warn research at large scale is limited, so moderation is advised.
Rich in vitamin E
Nuts are generally a source of vitamin E, but almonds are particularly rich in this nutrient. A fat-soluble vitamin, it has a number of functions that protect your health, as explained by MedLine Plus. It is, for instance, an antioxidant, which means that it protects your cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals. It is also important for your immune system, so you can ward off infections caused by viruses and bacteria.
Additionally, vitamin E is also required for red blood cells formation, and prevents blood from clotting inside your blood vessels by widening them. Other natural sources include, aside from nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Vegetable oils (sunflower, wheat germ or soybean oil), margarine or fruit juices also contain vitamin E.
Source of calcium
The US National Institutes of Health establish 1000mg of calcium as the daily recommended amount for male adults, and 1200 mg for women. 100g of almonds contain 269, so it’s safe to say that they are packed with this nutrient and a handful of them can help you meet that requirement. Calcium, the most common mineral in your body, is important for bone health and its potential role in cancer prevention is being investigated.