Almonds are thought to be one of the healthy nuts and come in variety of raw, and roasted.
There are bitter almonds and sweet almonds. Sweet almonds are the edible type and are often consumed as snacks or incorporated as part of the meals while the bitter type can be used as food additives or flavouring agent.
Nuts and seeds are popular in the vegetarian and mediterreanan diets. They form part of a healthy diet along with other plant based foods and lean protein sources.
Nuts in general are touted as nutrient dense and having the contributing factor on a healthy heart, thus contributing to longevity.
According to research studies eating nuts regularly can reduce the risk of a bad cholesterol.
Let’s find out in more details what makes almonds so popular and the effects that they have on the overall health.
What are almonds, are they underground nuts or tree nuts
Almonds come from tree nuts, unlike peanuts that are grown underground. Sweet almonds are scientifically termed prunus delcis due to their sweet taste.
Almond is a fruit tree and come from the same family as peaches, apricot and cherries. Almond is in reality a “drupe” than it is considered a nut, it is a seed inside a shell.
They are said to originate from North Africa and Western Asia and are grown in different countries such as California, South Africa, Mediterranean and Australia.
They are ideal for snacks and are eaten as raw or roasted. Although they are available throughout the year, they are harvested in mid summer and are stored in hard shells over a period of time.
They are packaged without shells in tightly sealed containers to keep them longer in the shelves and can be found in food stores all around the world.
They can be used for multiple purposes, including snacks, butter, milk, flour. They are mostly used in the confectionery bakeries, and are added in salads, smoothies, ice creams or as thickening agent.
You can be as creative as you can get with your almonds in your kitchen and prepare nice meals with almonds incoporated as part of a balanced diet.
Make sure you keep them fresh in a cool and dry place away from the heat as they will lose their fresheness too quickly, and to get the most out of them as they are very nutritious.
The non edible form of almonds, the bitter almonds are scientifically called prunus delcis var-amara.
They are bitter in taste and poisonous due to a chemical compound called prussic or hydrocyanic acid, they contain.
They are said to have a deadly effect when consumed in their raw state due to cyanide acid.
Bitter almonds are relatively smaller in size as compared to the sweet almonds and differ in taste as well.
They are refined to remove the toxic compound and are used in the manufacturing sector to produce soaps and perfumes due to the strong scent they elicit.
What is the nutritional value of almond nuts
Almonds are technically seeds as opposed to nuts and are highly nutritious.‘
They are packed with minerals, vitamins and are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and are low in saturated fat content.
A serving of 23 whole almonds (28g)
- Calories 164
- Carbohydrates 6.1 g ( 2% of daily value)
- protein 6g
- fat (22% of daily value)
- Vitamin E (37% of daily value)
- Potassium 208 mg (6% of daily value)
- Calcium ( 7.6% of daily value)
- Cholesterol 0mg
- Sodium 0.3g
- Iron (5.8%)
Including, other minerals and vitamins. Amonds are high in calories but when consumed in moderation, say a handful of 23 nuts per day, can form part of a low calorie diet and generally a healthy diet as they are associated with reducing the risk of bad cholesterol due to their fat composition as they are rich in unsaturated fat.
Due to phytic acid, the anti-nutrient compound found in plant based foods, including legumes and seeds. It is important to soak your nuts over night before consumption.
It’s important to take a precaution in terms of oxalate content in the almond nuts, as too much oxalate in the urinary tract can lead to kidney stones formation.
Alternative nuts if for some reason you cannot tolerate Almonds
All edible nuts are generally healthy according to research studies. They contain healthy fats and are rich in nutrients and have the beneficial effects on the health of the heart
The other nuts include:
- Hazel nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pistachios nuts
- Cashew nuts
It’s worth noting that we can get the health benefits out of these nuts when consumed whole, unsalted and roasted dry without oil.
Health benefits of eating almond nuts
Almond nuts contain healthy fats, commonly known as unsaturated fatty acids, and low in saturated fats, these include :
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
Nuts at also rich in omega 3 fatty acids but vary in quantity for each nut type and are found in large quantity in walnuts. These fats are thought to play a role in lowering bad cholesterol and improve the health of the heart.
Almonds are rich in fibre. Fibre plays an important role in a healthy diet. Among others, it prevents the saturated fats from building up in the blood vessels, thereby reducing the risk of a bad cholesterol, LDL. This way it prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries
Almonds contain phytosterols. Plant sterols are also found in nuts, seeds, and other plant based foods. It lowers cholesterol levels and help prevents heart disease, according research studies.
Almonds contain vitamin e. Vitamin e is an antioxidant, and a fat soluble mineral. It aids immunity and help widen blood vessels and prevents the blood from clotting inside.
Whether vitamin e can prevent heart disease, cancer and other diseases requires further research according to Medline plus (US national liabrary of medicine)
Almonds and blood sugar : almonds are associated with keeping blood ugar levels under control
Almond nuts and body weight : It is expected that due to the fact that nuts are rich in fats and therefore high in calories, this could cause a weight gain
Well, studies show the opposite results. Nuts can be consumed on a regular basis without affecting the body weight but when incorporated in a low calories diet they can contribute to weight loss. It is recommended to limit nut intake to one ounce daily.
The risk factors associated with almond consumption
Almonds may have benefial health effects but some people may have allergic reactions towards them.
Almonds along with other tree nuts, are considered to be among the eight food types with major food allergens.
The allergic reactions can be mild or severe and may be life threatening in some cases depending on a person’s immune system.
The symptoms may appear immediately after eating or they may appear within 48 hours. Allergies affect both adults and children. The allergies can also be inherited
The human immune system was designed in a way that it protects the body from potential threats, such as bacteria and the like.
The immune system of individuals with food alllergies reacts to certain protein found in foods.
The physical reactions include:
- Skin rash
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of consciousness
It helps to avoid nuts intake if you are allergic to tree nuts including peanuts.
Check out the food labels on all products for nuts ingredients. It helps to consult a doctor should to have a reaction of any form, however small the symptom is.
The bottom line
Studies indicate that almonds, among other nuts, have some health benefits including decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 dibetes and other diseases but further studies are still required.
Almond nuts are packed with nutrients and healthy fats such as the unsaturated fatty acids and can form part of a healthy balanced diet.
However, Individuals with nuts allergies are required to take some precautions and consult their health care provider so that a suitable diet may be suggested.