by Teri Levanthal
Heart-healthy and Cholesterol-Lowering
Eating almonds regularly lowers blood pressure, reduces "bad" cholesterol, and promotes heart health. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is often referred to as "bad cholesterol", where HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is often called "good cholesterol". Almonds regulate cholesterol by reducing the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing the level of HDL (good cholesterol) (Novelli, 2002) (Spiller, 2008). A controlled trial showed that 73g of almonds in the daily diet reduced LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 9.4%, reduced the LDL:HDL ratio by 12.0%, and increased HDL-cholesterol (i.e., the good cholesterol) by 4.6% (Jenkins, 2002). This can be partially attributed to the fact that almonds are an outstanding source of bioavailable alpha-tocopherol, and therefore increasing their intake improves the resistance of LDL against oxidation (Chen, A Nutrition and Health Perspective on Almonds, 2006). The flavonoids from almond skins act synergistically with Vitamins C and E to help keep the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) down.
Consumption of tree nuts such as almonds has been associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (Chen, Flavonoids from Almond Skins Are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation, 2005). Consuming almonds on a regular basis can effectively regulate blood pressure; the potassium present in almonds helps to regulates blood pressure, and almonds are very low in sodium which also helps in lowering blood pressure. Almonds contain several phytochemicals including beta-sisterol stigmasterol and campesterol which are thought to contribute to a healthy heart (Wilkinson, 2008). Almonds are an excellent source of bioavailable alpha-tocopherol, which is a compound that helps regulate cholesterol levels (Chen, Flavonoids from Almond Skins Are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation, 2005). One study proved that eating nuts and nut butters significantly reduced the incidence of death due to cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases (Blomhoff, 2006).
The high levels of healthy mono-saturated fat, protein, and potassium found in almonds promote heart health. Almonds are a great source of folic acid. They therefore act to lower the amount of homocystein, which causes fatty plaque accumulation in the arteries. The existence of magnesium in almonds helps to ward off heart attacks. Eating almonds regularly reduces C-reactive protein which causes artery injuring inflammation. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of heart diseases. Almond’s high monounsaturated fatontent, a key healthy fat found in classic Mediterranean diets, gives them many more benefits than simply heart health; nearly every research study shows that those who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet not only have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, they also live longer (Wilkinson, 2008).
Rich in Antioxidants and Flavonoids
Almonds are rich in Antioxidants and Flavonoids, which have been shown to significantly reduce cancer risk in humans. In a study printed in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, scientists revealed that almonds contain polyphenolics and flavonoids in their skins analogous to those of certain fruits and vegetables (Mandalaria, 2009). For example, a one-ounce serving of almonds contains a similar amount of polyphenol as a one-half cup of broccoli. The polyphenolic constituents of almonds have been and found to possess strong antioxidant abilities (Chen, A Nutrition and Health Perspective on Almonds, 2006). The flavonoids, found predominantly in the skin of almonds, contribute to their many health benefits, including a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (Chen, 2005).
Contribute to Weight Loss
Although almonds contain nearly 50% fat, regularly consuming almonds does not lead to weight gain, and their inclusion in low-calorie diets appears to promote more weight loss than a comparable carbohydrate-based low-calorie diet (Chen, A Nutrition and Health Perspective on Almonds, 2006). In fact, many studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study and the Physicians’ Follow-up Study, show that people who ate the most nuts tended to have lower body mass indexes. It has therefore been scientifically proven that although almonds are high in healthy fat, eating them in moderation can actually significantly aid in weight loss (Wilkinson, 2008). One study, pertaining directly to almonds, compared two groups of dieters eating the same amount of calories and found the group eating 500 of their calories from almonds lost more weight. One theory to explain this phenomenon is that the almond cell walls may limit the amount of calories that can be absorbed from the almond. Unsweetened almond milk has also been proven to help people reduce weight; this is because the healthy mono-saturated fat in almonds prevents over-eating and satisfies the appetite.
Good for Diabetics, People with Gluten Intolerance, and High in Protein
Almonds are high in protein and are good for diabetics because, "almonds have a low glycemic index and do not adversely impact insulin sensitivity" (Chen, A Nutrition and Health Perspective on Almonds, 2006). Almonds are high in protein; they contain around 18 percent protein (for comparison, chicken has 23% protein by weight). Because of their low glycemic index they are ideal for diabetics, pre-diabetics, or anyone with blood sugar issues (Wilkinson, 2008). Almonds also help in reducing the rise in sugar and insulin levels after meals, which is important for diabetics. Almonds are also gluten-free and therefore a healthy food for gluten-sensitive people and people with wheat allergies and coeliac disease (Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2010).
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