As word of the health benefits associated with almond consumption spreads, demand has increased dramatically. Over 2 billion pounds of almonds are grown annually around the world, but a rather astonishing 80% of those come from California, the sale of which nets an estimated $4.3 billion annually.
Here’s what you should know about the nutrients these wonderful nuts contain, the health benefits associated with the consumption of almonds, and the different types of almonds and almond products available for sale. Plus, tips on how to incorporate almonds into your diet.
Almond Nutrition Facts: The Basics
Almonds (Prunus dulcis) belong to the drupe nut family along with pecans, walnuts, and macadamias. Like all nuts, almonds are an energy-dense food, containing a high number of calories per ounce. They’re worthwhile calories, though. Almonds earn high praise from health and nutrition professionals thanks to the treasure trove of nutrients they contain:
- Monounsaturated fat
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin E
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, these are the nutrition facts for one ounce of almonds:
- Calories: 161
- Carbohydrates: 6.1 grams
- Fat: 13.8 grams
- Fiber: 3.4 grams
- Protein: 5.9 grams
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 0.3 milligrams
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 0.9 milligrams
- Vitamin E: 7.3 milligrams
- Calcium: 73.9 milligrams
- Copper: 0.3 milligrams
- Iron: 1 milligram
- Manganese: 0.6 milligram
- Magnesium: 57 milligrams
- Phosphorus: 136 milligrams
- Potassium: 197 milligrams
- Zinc: 0.9 milligrams
Almonds also contain trace amounts of choline, folate, pantothenic acid, thiamine, selenium, and vitamin B6.
As you can see, despite being tiny, almonds pack a powerful nutritional punch. And their many health benefits can be attributed to all the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals they offer.
Fiber, for instance, aids in digestive health and provides a feeling of fullness, which helps with appetite control and weight management. Your body uses the protein in almonds to build, repair, and maintain muscle tissue, among other important functions. And while fat content can be a cause for concern with some foods, the healthy fats found in almonds actually help to lower cholesterol levels and improve the health of your heart.
Vitamin B2, also called niacin, helps the body maintain energy by breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Meanwhile, vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, rids the body of dangerous cells before they can cause damage that results in unwanted signs of aging and paves the way for the development of cancer.
Copper helps your body fully absorb the iron you ingest and boosts the health of your immune system. Manganese is important for hormone regulation, brain function, and the formation of bones and tissue, while magnesium regulates blood sugar and blood pressure and supports healthy nerve and muscle function. Meanwhile, phosphorus works alongside calcium to build healthy bones and teeth.
8 Top Health Benefits of Almonds
When it comes to the benefits of almond consumption, their heart-healthy qualities like lowering cholesterol levels tend to grab the most attention. However, there are a multitude of other health benefits linked to these nuts.
Almonds have been studied for years to determine just what health benefits these powerful tree nuts may offer. So far, the list of almond health benefits includes:
Here’s some more information about eight science-backed health benefits of almonds.
1. Decrease Risk of Heart Disease
Almonds contain monounsaturated fatty acids (sometimes abbreviated as MUFAs) as well as potent antioxidants like flavonoids that improve heart health by combating factors linked to the development of heart disease. Those antioxidants, combined with vitamin E, improve the health of your arteries and lower systemic inflammation.
Research reveals eating almonds can lower LDL cholesterol levels (that’s the bad kind) and total cholesterol levels without impacting levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Almonds also contain nutrients that can help to prevent plaque from building up on arterial walls, which ensures well-regulated blood pressure levels. They can also help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. That means that all in all, they address three of the most significant risk factors for the development of heart disease.
2. Improve Brain Function
The riboflavin in almonds has been shown to positively impact the health of your brain. They also combat oxidative stress, which can keep your memory sharp and protect against the development of neurological diseases like dementia.
3. Fortify Skin Health
The vitamin E and other antioxidants found in almonds offer serious nourishment for your skin.
Studies have shown they can benefit your skin by:
- Improving circulation
- Counteracting the effects of pollution and UV light exposure
- Enhancing wound-healing ability
- Preventing changes linked to skin cancer
4. Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Research indicates that consuming almonds can increase the body’s glucose tolerance.
Because almonds contain such a wealth of MUFAs, they can decrease the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. This helps keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
They can also help to prevent insulin resistance.
5. Support Weight Loss
Though almonds are a calorically dense food, they can actually support weight loss. The combination of healthy fats and dietary fiber keeps you satiated, so you’re less likely to overeat or engage in mindless snacking.
Plus, data from the Nurses’ Health Study indicates that almond consumption can bolster your metabolism. Eating almonds, and eating nuts in general, appears to be connected to better long-term maintenance and lower rates of weight gain and obesity.
6. Enhance Digestive Health
Scientific evidence indicates that consuming almonds and almond skins regularly results in marked increases to populations of healthy probiotics including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
8. Combat Oxidative Stress
Almonds provide a specific type of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol that has particularly potent antioxidant properties.
Experts believe this compound is responsible, at least in part, for the demonstrated ability of almonds to fight free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress in the body. This has numerous benefits, including lowered risk for colon, prostate, and breast cancers.
Understanding the Different Types of Almonds
Almonds come in a variety of forms including raw, organic, and roasted. But are all almonds created equal? Is any of the nutritional value lost as almonds are processed? Below is the breakdown of different types of almonds and their nutritional value.
Raw almonds may sound like all-natural almonds or organic almonds, straight from the tree to the grocery store. But the truth is that by the time almost all almonds in the U.S. have made it to the store for purchasing, they have undergone pasteurization.
Pasteurization of almonds happens in one of two forms: either heat is used to steam and sanitize the nuts or the nuts are fumigated. Pasteurization via steam leaves the key almond nutrients intact, so these almonds can still be labeled as raw.
Organic almonds, or organic raw almonds, are almonds that have not been through the pasteurization process. They are difficult to find in stores because of the strict regulations surrounding almonds and pasteurization and can usually only be found through private growers and farmers markets.
The most noticeable difference between raw almonds and roasted almonds is the taste. Roasted almonds have a salty taste that is preferred by some over the plain taste of raw almonds.
While the nutritional benefits of raw almonds and roasted almonds remain the same, the digestion is a bit different. Roasted almonds tend to be digested more easily due to their crunchier, less rigid texture. Raw almonds, on the other hand, are more difficult for the digestive system to break down. So it is possible that roasted almonds offer the body more nutrients for absorption than raw almonds do.
One thing to watch out for if opting for roasted almonds is the use of oil as well as the addition of salt, both of which can detract from their nutritional value.
4 Popular Almond Products
Almonds are so popular and widely available in the U.S. that they have been used to make multiple products, such as almond oil, almond butter, almond flour, and almond milk.
1. Almond Oil
Almond oil is oil that has been extracted from almonds. There are two types of almond oil: refined and unrefined.
Refined Almond Oil vs. Unrefined Almond Oil
Think of refined almond oil as processed almond oil. Chemicals and processing are used during the extraction of refined almond oil, so some of the nutritional value is lost. This process makes unrefined almond oil the better option when it comes to nutrient-rich oil.
Unrefined almond oil is also extracted from almonds, but it is done so without the use of chemicals. Unrefined almond oil contains much of the same nutritional value as whole almonds, including vitamins and healthy fats.
Unrefined almond oil is also high in antioxidants and, according to a study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, offers several health benefits including:
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Digestive health, including relief for IBS sufferers
- Immune health
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased good cholesterol
- Relief for dry skin
- Improved complexion and skin tone
Almond oil is widely available and may be purchased at most pharmacies and health stores. It can be added to your diet through shakes and smoothies or can be applied topically to the skin and hair.
2. Almond Butter
Almond butter, made by grinding or blending almonds until they form the butter, is a popular alternative to peanut butter, especially for those with a peanut allergy.
Like peanut butter, almond butter is rich in protein. It also includes the healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that almonds are known for.
Almond butter can be made at home or can be purchased at the store. If purchasing, check the label for any added ingredients such as sodium, sugar, and oils to make sure the nutritional value of the almond butter hasn’t been compromised.
If a peanut allergy is a concern, then it’s also important to check the label to make sure the almond butter was not produced using any machines that also manufacture peanut butter or come in contact with peanuts.
Almond butter can be used to make sandwiches, spread on crackers, or added to a smoothie or shake for extra nutrition.
3. Almond Flour
Almond flour, also known as almond meal, is quite simply almonds that have been ground to the consistency of wheat flour.
It’s a popular option for those interested in making gluten-free or low-carb baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, and so on.
4. Almond Milk
Almond milk is often used as a substitute for regular milk, especially by vegans and those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. Almond milk is made by crushing or grinding up almonds and mixing them with water. The almond skin, or pulp, is then strained out. The nutritional content of almond milk varies depending on how many almonds were used to make the almond milk. The higher the almond count, the more nutritional the milk.
Because the almonds are mixed with water during processing, almond milk does not carry the same nutrient-rich health benefits as whole almonds and unrefined almond oil do. Producers of almond milk often add ingredients such as vitamin D and calcium to make it a more comparable substitute for regular dairy milk.
How to Add Almonds to Your Diet
Almonds make great snacks and play well with savory and sweet accompaniments. Try pairing them with dark chocolate and coconut for a healthy twist on an Almond Joy bar!
Almonds, almond butter, and almond milk can also easily be incorporated into a shake or smoothie to give it an extra dose of valuable nutrients. Here are a few of our favorite recipes: