With nuts often touted as one of the healthiest on-the-go snacks, the benefits of almonds are universally lauded. Fans claim that the Vitamin E-rich nuts are the secret to everything from luminous skin to glossy hair and boosted brain power.
But are these claims legitimate?
In short: yes. Though not actually considered nuts but seeds, almonds are hugely high in nutrients, hence the myriad ways they are now consumed; in alternative 'milks,' butters, oils and flours, raw or in recipes.
"I include almonds in a lot of my recipes; in breakfasts as well as salads and sauces," says nutritionist Angelique Panagos. "They’re a great source of omega 3, a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid, as well as protein, fibre, nutrients and vitamins."
Big name devotees abound. The Duchess of Sussex was vocal about the seed in her pre House of Windsor days, attributing her flawless complexion to eating almonds and almond butter.
So, let's dig into what these oval shaped bites can do for you.
13 Almond Benefits
HIGH IN PROTEIN
Just a handful contains an eighth of our RDA of protein, which is remarkably high for a vegan source.
Studies have shown for people of normal weight that almonds can help lower levels of bad cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
INCREASES VITAMIN E
They’re also a good source of vitamin E, providing 37% of our RDA in just a handful. This helps defend the cells against the oxidation of cholesterol which can lead to heart disease.
Early studies have also pointed towards protection from Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E has also been shown to protect cells from oxidative damage, which can lead to signs of ageing.
AIDS WEIGHT LOSS
Through satiety, consuming almonds can help with weight loss, despite being high in calories and good fats.
LOWERS SOME CANCER RISKS
While many health foods claim cancer-reducing properties, almonds have been proven to impact some types.
A study in Mexico found a high consumption of almonds to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by two or three times.
They’ve also shown to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer for both men and women.
REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE
Studies have shown 50g of almonds a day help to keep blood vessels functioning well, increasing antioxidants in the blood stream, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow.
Though more research is needed for conclusive evidence, as almonds are a good source of magnesium, calcium and melatonin, early studies suggest they may be good for promoting muscle relaxation and sleep.
BALANCES BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
Their high levels of magnesium — almost half the RDA in just 45 almonds — could also have an impact on blood sugar levels, which are a key player in diabetes.
One study found consuming 55-60g of almonds lead to lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting glucose, as well as lower insulin resistance.
A study found the risk of early death, from conditions such as neurodegenerate diseases or diabetes, decreased by 23% for individuals consuming half a handful of almonds daily — and others have since backed it up. It's generally held that people who eat nuts tend to lead longer, healthier lives.
BOOSTS GUT HEALTH
A trending topic currently, almonds seem to good for our microbiome according to a study that found almonds — in seed or butter form — improved the gut biome, potentially due to prebiotic affects on intestinal bacteria.
IMPROVES COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Are almonds good for the brain? The high levels of vitamin E and more specifically alpha-tocopherol, which is the form that’s best absorbed by the body, explain why almonds are thought of as a ‘brain food’.
They’re also thought to improve memory, though more studies are needed for conclusive evidence.
IMPROVES SKIN AND HAIR
Are almonds good for the skin and hair? Again, anecdotally, almond benefits on the skin and hair are widely assumed. Though research is lacking, almonds are high in B-complex, riboflavin, zinc, niacin, iron and vitamin E which all benefit a healthy complexion — as can be seen on Meghan Markle.
Some almond FAQs…
WHAT’S THE NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF ALMONDS?
One serving (which is about 23 almonds or a handful) contains 3.5g fibre, 6g protein, 14g fat (of which 9g are monosaturated).
HOW MANY ALMONDS CAN BE EATEN IN A DAY?
One serving is thought to be about 23 almonds, which is about a handful, though 8-10 a day have been shown to have notable health benefits.
CAN TOO MANY ALMONDS BE BAD FOR YOU?
An excess of almonds can cause an upset stomach, including bloating and constipation due to the high fibre levels. Though there’s talk of cyanide in almonds, one would have to eat more than 1,150 in a day to get a sufficient amount for poisoning.
IS IT GOOD TO EAT ALMONDS IN EMPTY STOMACH?
It’s perfectly safe and it’s thought to be better for absorbing nutrients to eat them on an empty stomach.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING SOAKED ALMONDS?
Soaking the seeds in water has thought to make digestion easier and aid the absorption of nutrients but — good news for the time-short — there’s limited evidence to back this up. They do however become softer and creamier, which may appeal if one doesn’t like the bitter tannin taste of unsoaked almonds.
HOW TO SOAK ALMONDS? Just leave in a bowl of water for 8-12 hours.
WHAT ARE ALMOND SIDE EFFECTS?
Unless you’re allergic to almonds, the side effects shouldn’t be negative and you’ll benefit from the nutrients. But speak to a nutritionist if you’re in any doubt or for more information.
From Harper's Bazaar U.K.