Source: Alissa Fleck; SF Gate
Natural, unsalted almonds are a tasty and nutritious snack with plenty of health benefits. Loaded with minerals, they are also among the healthiest of tree nuts. Just a handful of nutrient-rich almonds a day helps promote heart health and prevent weight gain, and it may even help fight diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Eating about 23 almonds a day is an easy way to incorporate many crucial nutrients into your diet. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, almonds are a significant source of protein and fiber, while being naturally low in sugar. One 23-almond serving packs 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol or salt. Of all tree nuts, almonds rank highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin content by weight. There are 160 calories in 23 almonds. While many of these calories come from fat, it is primarily the healthy unsaturated fats and not the unhealthy saturated kind.
According to the FDA, eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the nutrients in almonds help contribute to increased heart health. For one, almonds are rich in magnesium, which is critical in preventing heart attacks and hypertension. Several clinical studies have also shown almonds can be effective in reducing bad cholesterol and preserving healthy cholesterol, which plays a major role in heart health.
Nuts, like almonds, are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber, protein and fat content of almonds means it only takes a handful to keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t have the urge to overeat. According to “Fitness” magazine, the magnesium in almonds helps regulate blood sugar, which is key in reducing food cravings. Almonds may even be able to block the body’s absorption of calories, making them the ultimate weight-loss-friendly snack. Because almonds are naturally high in calories, it’s important to limit your serving size to the recommended 1 ounce, or 23 nuts.
Other Health Benefits
Almonds may also promote gastrointestinal health and even combat diabetes. The high fiber content of almonds gives them prebiotic properties, which contributes to health in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances, which serve as food for the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and help maintain a healthy balance. According to a study by the American Diabetes Association, a Mediterranean diet incorporating nuts, such as almonds, helps fight diabetes even without significant changes to weight, physical activity or caloric intake.
Raw vs. Roasted
Almonds are available in a variety of preparations and it can be tough to know which is healthiest. Raw, unsalted almonds are a safe bet, but some people prefer the roasted taste. Both raw and roasted almonds pack a high dose of nutrients and minerals. Raw almonds have more naturally occurring beneficial fats, as some are lost in the roasting process. Dry roasted almonds have the same amount of calories as raw almonds, while almonds roasted in oil contain slightly more calories.
The Fresno County Department of Agriculture reported that almonds have become the county’s newest billion dollar crop; producing a total gross value of over $1.1 billion.