Health Benefits of Almonds
Almonds are a nutrient-rich food that provide many health benefits. Adding almonds to your diet adds more than great taste and crunch. They are an excellent source of vitamin E, fiber, and magnesium. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that protects your cells from damaging compounds within your body and from environmental dangers such as ultraviolet light from the sun and pollutants in the air. This protection may decrease your risk of cancer.
Go Nuts for Almonds
Including just a small handful of almonds as a daily snack is not only delicious, these nuts are high in monounsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. A daily handful of almonds together with other foods containing phytosterols may offer the health benefit of lowering your risk for heart disease by decreasing LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with increased plaque buildup in arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
Almond Nutrition Facts
Almonds also contain soluble fiber, magnesium and phytosterols. Studies show that consuming at least 800mg a day of phytosterols may lower LDL cholesterol. One ounce of almonds (or about 24 nuts) contains 33 milligrams of phytosterols.
Fiber is a compound found in many plant foods, including almonds. Humans do not have the ability to digest fiber so it moves through the digestive tract without being absorbed and helps control how quickly other nutrients from other foods enter the blood stream, as well as how quickly food moves through our body. Increasing fiber in your diet may help regulate your blood sugar, improve bowel regularity, and help “speed-up” your digestive tract as food moves through your intestines.
Finally, eating almonds will increase your intake of magnesium. Magnesium is a very important mineral that plays a role in producing energy, controlling muscle contractions and building stronger bones.
History of Almonds
The almond tree was introduced to California in the mid-1700s by Spanish missionaries, but the trees did not grow well in the moist weather of the coast. In the 1800s, the almond trees were successfully planted inland in California’s central valley, and by the turn of the 20th century the almond industry was flourishing. In fact, California is the only place in North America where almonds are commercially grown.
The United States produces 68% of the world’s almond crop. Almonds are the top agricultural export of the state of California. Nearly 80 countries around the world import the almonds produced in California!
Ways to Enjoy Almonds
Not only are they a fabulous snack on their own, but almonds make a great addition to both savory dishes and sweet desserts. One serving of almonds is one ounce, or about 24 nuts. An ounce of almonds contains about 164 calories, so be careful of the portion size.
- Mix sliced almonds in your morning cereal or oatmeal
- Grab a small handful of almonds for a hearty on-the-go snack
- Add slivered almonds to salads and stir-fries
- Add some roasted, slivered almonds to your ice cream sundae for a delicious crunch
- Add coarsely ground almonds as a “nut crumb” topping to casseroles and pasta dishes
As almonds age, they go rancid. A fresh almond will look white in the middle after slicing through it. To check for a rancid almond, simply slice the almond open. If it is yellow in color or has the appearance of a honeycomb, it has gone bad.
Enjoy the health benefits of almonds by trying delicious almond recipes.