Almonds are considered healthy and can be eaten raw, or roasted.
They come in different versions, that is, the bitter 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 popul the vegetarian and mediterreanan diets. They form part of a healthy diet along witfood sourcesff
Nuts in general are touted as nutrient dense and there are claims that they benefit the heart health.
According to research eating nuts regularly can reduce the risk of a bad cholesterol and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Let’s find out what makes almonds so popular and what research say about their effects on health generally.
Are Almonds Underground Nuts or Tree Nuts?
Almonds unlike peanuts come from tree nuts, peanuts are grown underground. Sweet almonds are scientifically termed prunus delcis.
They belong to the same family as peaches, apricot and cherries (Rosaceae). Almond is in reality a “drupe”, a seed inside a shell, than it’s considered a nut.
USA is said to be the largest producer of almonds followed by Spain, and Germany the biggest importer of almonds followed by Japan and Netherlands.
According to research this superfood is highly nutritious. 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 can be used for multiple purposes, including snacks, butter, milk, flour. They are mostly used in the confectionery bakeries, and are added to salads. They are also ideal for smoothies, among other things.
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 or you can just eat them as a snack.
The non edible form of almonds, the bitter almonds are scientifically called prunus delcis var-amara.
According to study the bitter version of almonds are 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, according to research.
What is the nutritional value of almonds?
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 low in saturated fat content.
According to Carlifornia Almonds, one serving of 23 whole almonds (28g) supplies our bodies with the following nutrients:
- protein 6g
- Fiber 4g
- Calcium 75mg
- Iron 1mg
- Vitamin E 7.3mg
- Riboflavin 0.3mg
- Potassium 210mg
- Niacin 1mg
- Monounsaturated fats 9g
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 thiught to be associated with reducing the risk of bad cholesterol due to their fat composition as they are rich in unsaturated fat.
Due to phytic acid, an anti-nutrient compound found in plant based foods, such as legumes, nuts, seeds and the like it is important to soak your nuts over night before you eat them as you may not benefit from some of the nutrients present in this superfood.
Almonds contain oxalate too, as most plant food sources do. Too much oxalate in the urinary tract is thought to be harmful and can cause the formation of kidney stones.
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
It is reported that almonds are rich in healthy fats, and low in saturated fats,
Nuts are found to be rich in omega 3 fatty acids, walnuts contain the large amount compared to other nuts. 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 plant chemicals with antioxidant effects. “Research found that they significantly increase the amount of antioxidants in the blood stream, reduce blood oressure and improve blood flow”.
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. “Scientists have found that eating almonds in your diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy”
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 sugar levels under control if consumed on a regular basis and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease on patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus
Almond nuts and body weight : Nuts have high fat content and therefore high in calories, due to this they can be expected to 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.
Allergic Reactions Associated With Eating Almonds by Some People.
Almonds may have benefial health effects but according to Emarald Coast Urgent Care some people may have allergic reactions after eating 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”
“One reason for an allergic reaction is because the body may identify almond protein as foreign. This can happen when tiny particles leak into the bloodstream during digestion. This triggers an immune response which can cause inflammation”
According to Emarald Coast Urgent Care, the physical reactions include:
- Skin rash
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of consciousness
It’s recommended to avoid eating nuts 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 you react to 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 diabetes, and other diseases but further studies are still required.
Almond nuts are packed with nutrients and healthy fats such as 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.