Almonds: What Is Their Effect on the Heart, Skin or Brain and How Much Should You Eat Every Day?

Almonds: What Is Their Effect on the Heart, Skin or Brain and How Much Should You Eat Every Day?

Almonds are undoubtedly one of the most popular of all the nuts. Not only are they full of flavour that enriches both sweet and savoury recipes, but they are also packed with a host of beneficial nutrients. Almonds can thus diversify and improve your diet at lightning speed. Do you know what their health benefits are?

In this article you will read about the effect of almonds on these specific areas:

What are almonds?

Have you ever wondered what almonds look like before you get your hands on them? Almonds are actually the seeds of the almond tree. This is a fruit tree that has more than 30 species and is one of the oldest of the domesticated trees. It has beautiful pink flowers and yellow fruits that contain hard seeds – almonds. Originally native to Central and South-West Asia, it is now also cultivated in areas around the Mediterranean and in countries with similar climatic conditions. The largest producer of almonds today is the USA, with sunny California accounting for the major share. [3,11]

Almonds, which are commonly available in shops, are so-called sweet almonds. However, there are also species of almond trees on which bitter almonds grow. These are not suitable for consumption because they contain amygdalin, from which toxic hydrogen cyanide is formed. [3,10]

where do almonds come from

What health benefits do almonds have?

Almonds have a very good reputation and are generally known to be beneficial to health. So when someone tells you that almonds are good for your heart, it’s not a fabrication. But did you know that these nuts also have many other health benefits?

1. Have an effect on blood sugar levels

Almonds are high in healthy fats, fibre and protein. These nutrients are useful, among other things, by helping to slow the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestine into the blood. Thus, when almonds are eaten along with carbohydrate foods, they can help moderate the rise in blood sugar (‘glycaemia’). [2,12]

In other words, it can be said that almonds help to lower the glycaemic index of foods. This value shows just how quickly glycaemia rises after eating a given food. [1,12]

Everyone should try to keep their blood sugar levels stable and fluctuations to a minimum. When glycaemia fluctuates too much, it can manifest itself in energy fluctuations or, for example, in hunger and regular cravings for sweets. Including almonds regularly in your diet can help keep this under control.

These nuts are also a good choice for diabetics. With diabetes, the body cannot maintain glycaemia in an optimal range on its own and needs a helping hand. Almonds can thus help to achieve lower blood sugar levels. In addition, thanks to the effects described above, they are also suitable as part of a diet for weight loss.

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2. Have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health

Almonds are rich in healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fatty acids. These are well known for their positive effect on maintaining optimal blood cholesterol levels. Thus, almonds can also help to keep cholesterol under control. This is also shown in studies that show a link between regular inclusion of almonds in the diet and lower levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. [2]

Since high cholesterol is a risk factor for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), almonds could play a useful role in preventing this cardiovascular problem. This in turn is also associated with a lower risk of stroke or myocardial infarction.

To learn more about the properties of fats and individual fatty acids, read our article Healthy and Unhealthy Fats: Which Foods to Eat and Which to Avoid?  

the effect of almonds on the heart

3. They can help with weight loss

No herbs, tablets, tea or slimming foods will lead to successful weight loss. The key remains a calorie deficit, where the body burns more energy than it takes in. And what role do almonds play here? Thanks to their properties, they can help achieve a calorie deficit the easy way.

Thanks to their high proportion of fat, fibre and protein, they help to induce satiety and fight hunger more effectively. As fat is digested more slowly, it also slows down the digestion of other foods. Thanks to almonds, food stays in the stomach for a longer period and can thus delay the feeling of hunger. [1]

The fact that almonds are hard and need to be chewed properly before swallowing also plays in their favour. Chewing promotes the secretion of hormones that induce satiety. [1]

Almonds are especially helpful for weight loss because they help to satiate, prevent hunger and thus reduce calorie intake from other foods.

On the other hand, it cannot be forgotten that almonds are very calorie dense. Therefore, it is important to control their consumption. Treat yourself to a handful of almonds every day as part of a well-developed reduction diet.

How many calories and fat are hidden in almonds?

30 g*
100 g**
Fat (g)15 g50 g
Energy value (kcal/kJ)174 kcal / 726 kJ579 kcal / 2420 kJ
*cca hrsť mandlí, **typický malý balíček mandlí [13]

As you can see in the table, 100 g of almonds is similar in calories to a hearty lunch. If you regularly indulge in such a large serving, it can very easily be the source of the very energy that leads you to a caloric surplus. It is therefore important to consume almonds in moderation.

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4. Have antioxidative effects

Research shows that almonds have antioxidant properties thanks to the substances they contain. Thus, they can help fight free radicals produced by oxidative stress. For example, the antioxidant effect of almonds has been shown in a meta-analysis in which regular consumption of almonds led to a reduction in malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of increased oxidative stress in the body. [6]

The antioxidant properties of almonds are most likely due to the antioxidants they contain. These include vitamin E (tocopherol), phytosterols and polyphenols. [6,8]

Almonds can thus be a great addition to a healthy diet, which is how one tries to stay healthy. In fact, increased oxidative stress is associated with a higher risk of various chronic problems, such as metabolic diseases and cancer.

antioxidant effect of almonds

5. Have anti-inflammatory effects

Studies that have looked at the action of almonds also describe their anti-inflammatory effects. These are mainly attributed to the healthy fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids. However, other substances contained in almonds, such as magnesium, arginine and phytochemicals, could also have a similar effect. [1,2]

In studies, the effect of almond consumption on the levels of inflammatory markers in the body has been observed. For example, lower levels of interleukin-6 or CRP (C-reactive protein), high levels of which are indicative of inflammatory processes in the body, have been shown. These are typical of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular problems. Thus, studies suggest that almonds may be beneficial in the prevention of these health problems. [1]

6. Have a positive effect on the brain

Almonds contain substances known to have positive effects on the health of the nervous system and brain. These include polyunsaturated fatty acids, folic acid, magnesium and vitamin E, for example. These substances may play a role in protecting the brain and nervous system from oxidative stress, or in enhancing cognitive functions such as memory or concentration. [7]

Wondering what other substances can benefit your brain? In that case, don’t overlook our article Nootropics: Substances To Enhance Concentration and Memory. Which Are the Best?

effect of almonds on the brain

7. They have an effect on the skin and complexion

You already know that nutrition plays an important role in the health of our skin. Your skin needs to receive sufficient vitaminsminerals, proteins including collagen and other important bioactive substances from your diet.

Almonds contain several of them. For example, studies show the effect of vitamin E and niacin (vitamin B3) on reducing wrinkles and skin pigmentation. [9]

In addition to the almonds themselves, almond oil also has a positive effect on the skin and your complexion. It seems that it can be effective to rub it on the skin, for example for eczema problems. In addition, it can also help with skin suppleness. [7]

Thus, almonds and almond oil can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, even when you are trying to reduce the signs of ageing.

Not only almond oil alone can be part of healthy ageing. If you want to learn more about this topic, read our article Anti-Ageing and Healthy Ageing: How to Take Care of Your Body and Maintain a Healthy and Youthful Appearance? 

Other potential health benefits of almonds

  • Studies also show a positive effect on fertility and sperm activity. [7]
  • Some research also describes their protective effects against the development of certain tumours, such as breast or colon tumours. [7]
  • They also seem to have an effect on mental health. For example, it has been shown they have a positive effect on anxiety, depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). [7]
  • Thanks to their calcium content, almonds can also have a positive effect on bone health. Some studies have shown a link to a lower risk of osteoporosis, also known as bone thinning. [5]

As you can see, almonds are a functional food with many beneficial effects. Including a handful of almonds a day in your diet can have great benefits for your health.

In what form can almonds be indulged in?

Classic unroasted almonds with the skin on are probably the first thing that comes to mind when talking about almonds. But do you know their other alternatives?

  • Blanched almonds are stripped of the skin and so have a slightly sweeter taste. You can even prepare them yourself at home. Just boil them for 2-3 minutes and then let them sit in hot water for about 1 minute. The skin will easily separate on its own.
  • Almond slices are suitable for sprinkling on cakes or for making an almond crust for meat, for example.
  • Ground almonds are ideal for baking, for example in strudels or cakes.
  • Smoked almonds will treat you to an interesting, distinctive taste.
  • Almonds in chocolate or almonds in other coatings will be appreciated by sweet lovers.

You can’t forget about delicious almond butter either. This is made by grinding whole almonds and so has the same nutrient content as the almonds themselves. There is even almond flour on the market that can be used as a gluten-free alternative to classic wheat flour.

How about almond milk?

You’ve probably tried an almond drink, also known as almond milk. It’s a plant-based alternative to cow’s milk that you can make yourself at home by blending almonds and water. However, some may think that you will get a similar amount of nutrients from it as you would from almonds, but unfortunately that is far from the truth.

An almond drink contains largely water and only a fraction of the nutrients that are in the almonds themselves. On the market you will find drinks that normally have, for example, 0.4 g protein/100 ml and 0.3 g fibre/100 ml. In comparison, almonds have about 20 g / 100 g protein and 12 g fibre / 100 g. Meanwhile, an almond drink is not a complete substitute for cow’s milk either. It has roughly 3 g protein / 100 g.

almond milk

How much energy and nutrients do almonds contain?

Almonds may differ slightly in their nutrient content, for example due to different growing, processing or storage conditions. However, the variations in nutrient content are small and, in general, their average nutrient content can be said to be as follows.

100 g
Energy values579 kcal / 2420 kJ
Protein21 g
Fat50 g
– of which monounsaturated FAs31.6 g
– of which polyunsaturated FAs12.3 g
Carbohydrates22 g
– of which sugars 4.4 g
Fibre12.5 g
[13]

What macronutrients do almonds contain?

  • Almonds are particularly valued for their high proportion of healthy fats in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • At the same time, they also have a significant proportion of protein.
  • They do not lack in their quantity of fibre, either. They contain both insoluble and soluble fibre, with a ratio of 4:1. Thus, they can also be beneficial for digestion and your gut microbiome.

What micronutrients do almonds contain?

  • These nuts are also rich in vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, polyphenols and other biologically active substances. They contain important vitamins such as vitamin B3 or B2, folic acid and vitamin E. Of the minerals, magnesiumcalcium, phosphorus and potassium are the most abundant. [2]
  • Almonds are naturally gluten-free, so even coeliac or people with gluten allergy or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity can include them in their diet.
what nutrients do almonds contain

Are almonds safe?

Sweet almonds, those that can be bought in the supermarket, are safe and suitable for regular consumption. Bitter almonds, however, are toxic. For an adult, a serving of 50 g of bitter almonds can be toxic, while for children, 5-10 almonds are reported to be toxic. This is due to the content of the aforementioned amygdalin, from which the poisonous hydrogen cyanide is formed. Sweet almonds, however, need not be feared, as they contain very little amygdalin to produce a dangerous dose of hydrogen cyanide. [4,7]

Almonds, like all nuts, are also susceptible to microbial contamination. They can mould easily, but they are also risky in that any overgrown bacteria on them may not be visible at all. This makes it all the more important to ensure that they are stored properly.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to store food properly, read our article How to Store Food Properly to Make It Last as Long as Possible. 

Are almonds allergens?

Almonds, like other nuts, belong among allergens. They are number 8 on the list of allergens. You can be allergic directly to almonds themselves, but it is very often the case that an allergic reaction after eating almonds also occurs when you are allergic to other types of nuts.

In these cases, it is a so-called cross-reaction allergy. In such cases, the immune system of a person who is allergic to pistachios, for example, may also react to almonds, because both of these nuts contain substances to which the person is sensitive. A cross-allergic reaction can also occur with other allergens; in the case of almonds, this can typically be tree pollen (e.g. birch).

are almonds safe?

How many almonds can you eat per day?

It is recommended to eat about 30-50 g of almonds per day, which is equivalent to about a handful of nuts. This amount gives the body a sufficient nutrient load, but it is not a calorie bomb. However, the ideal quantity is individual and also depends on your total daily energy intake.

Almonds should ideally serve as a complement to a varied, balanced diet. They are ideal to complement porridges, yoghurt, salads and other dishes with.

When can you use almonds?

Almonds are a very versatile food and will certainly not be lost in your kitchen. You can use them in many fitness recipes.

  • You can add them to porridge, yoghurt or cottage cheese.
  • Ground or whole, they are suitable for desserts, cakes, biscuitsmuffins, or banana bread, for example.
  • They are also suitable for homemade granola or muesli bars.
  • They are also commonly used to make cake dough or fillings for raw cakes.
  • Salted, they are suitable for sprinkling on salads or as part of your home baking.

What should you remember?

Almonds are not only crunchy and tasty, but also contain a large number of beneficial nutrients. These are responsible for the numerous health benefits derived from these nuts. For example, you now know that almonds are great for your cardiovascular health, your brain, your skin and are even useful for weight loss. Everyone can find something in almonds, so all you have to do is reach for some classic almonds, butter or almond flour and conjure up a tasty dessert.

Did today’s article interest you and teach you something new? Don’t keep it all for yourself, and be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

[1] A, K. - CY, C. Health benefits of almonds beyond cholesterol reduction. – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22296169/

[2] BARRECA, D. et al. Almonds (Prunus Dulcis Mill. D. A. Webb): A Source of Nutrients and Health-Promoting Compounds. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146189/

[3] DELPLANCKE, M. et al. Evolutionary history of almond tree domestication in the Mediterranean basin. – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23189975/

[4] CHAOUALI, N. et al. Potential Toxic Levels of Cyanide in Almonds (Prunus amygdalus), Apricot Kernels (Prunus armeniaca), and Almond Syrup. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793392/

[5] ID, P. et al. Postprandial effects of almond consumption on human osteoclast precursors--an ex vivo study. – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20947104/

[6] LUO, B. et al. Effects of almond intake on oxidative stress parameters: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229923000225

[7] OUZIR, M. et al. Almond oil: A comprehensive review of chemical composition, extraction methods, preservation conditions, potential health benefits, and safety. – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34056853/

[8] ROS, E. et al. Nuts: Natural Pleiotropic Nutraceuticals. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8468443/

[9] RYBAK, I. et al. Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial on the Effects of Almonds on Facial Wrinkles and Pigmentation. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7997170/

[10] XY, H. et al. Amygdalin - A pharmacological and toxicological review.– https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32114166/

[11] Almonds | Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. – https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/nuts/almonds

[12] Almonds Decrease Postprandial Glycemia, Insulinemia, and Oxidative Damage in Healthy Individuals - ScienceDirect. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022316622085601?via%3Dihub

[13] FoodData Central. – https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173757/nutrients

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