Almond Benefits and Health Effects

The almond, Prunus amygdalus, is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is  also the name of the edible seed of this tree. Almonds are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, potassium magnesium and healthy fat.Also, almonds are a important source of protein and fiber. An ounce of almonds, which equates to approximately 25 almonds, contains 12 % of our needed daily protein.  One serving provides almost 15 % of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E.

Almond Benefits

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin E is an efficacious antioxidant and also reduces the risk of heart diseases, while the presence of magnesium in almonds can help prevent heart attacks. Almonds are one of the most important sources of alpha-tocopherol —the form of vitamin E that’s best absorbed by your body. It was found that the flavonoids in almond skins work in synergy with the vitamin E, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease. Twenty potent antioxidant flavonoids were identified in almond skins in a study. “We have identified a unique combination of flavonoids in almonds,” said Jeffrey Blumberg, scientist and director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University. Further blood tests showed that eating almonds with their skins significantly increases both flavonoids and vitamin E in the body. In a study reported in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition“, almonds can reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of artery-damaging inflammation.

AlmondPotassium, an significant electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart, is another mineral that is necessary for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. A quarter cup of almonds contain 257 mg of potassium, and it beefs up your defense against serious problems like high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. If have heart failure, heart rhythm  or high blood pressure problems, getting enough potassium is particularly important. In a study of people with high blood pressure, taking potassium supplements reduced systolic blood pressure by approximately 8 points. The BMJ research, which specifically looked at the effects of potassium on heart disease and stroke, indicate that a higher intake of potassium could cut the risk of stroke by 24%. In review of 33 studies that included more than 128,000 people, consuming more potassium was linked to lower blood pressure and lower risk of stroke.

Magnesium helps to improve the flow of blood, nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Most cases of heart attacks are associated with a deficiency in this mineral. Increased intakes of magnesium in the diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality by approximately 50%, indicate recent results from Japan. Researchers from the “Karolinska Institutet” reported that, findings pooled from seven prospective studies showed that, for every 100 mg per day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of stroke was reduced by approximately 9%. Higher intakes of magnesium were linked with effects, with a 22% reduction in the risk of ischemic heart disease reported by the Boston-based scientists. Increased circulating levels of magnesium may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, says a meta-analysis from Harvard School of Public Health. The scientists found that every 0.2 mmol/L increment increase in circulating magnesium was related with a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Almonds contain 2 important brain nutrients, L-carnitine and riboflavin (vitamin B2), which have been shown to increase brain activity, resulting in new neural pathways and a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s mice that were fed an almond rich diet demonstrated much better on memory tests than mice fed the standard diet. Neelima Chauhan at the “University of Illinois” gave mice with an Alzheimer’s-like disease an almond-rich diet. The animals had already developed some of the abnormal brain deposits thought to underlie the disease. After 4 months, the team gave the mice a memory test. Animals eating the almond-rich diet did much better than those fed the usual chow. Chauhan says almonds contain substances that act like cholinesterase inhibitors, medications used to treat Alzheimer’s.

A handful of almonds a day can fight cancer, according to the Daily Express. Research indicate that phytochemicals in almonds and other nuts may help prevent certain types of cancer. In a study of rats exposed to a colon cancer-causing agent and fed almonds, it was found that almonds significantly prevented colon cancer. Dr. Paul Davis,  of the University of California, has examined the possible effects of whole almonds on an array of colon cancer variables. Dr. Davis concluded that the monounsaturated fat in almonds may have a favorable effect in the reduction of colon cancer.

Eating almonds could help prevent diabetes, say researchers. A study published in the journal Metabolism, demonstrated that consuming an ounce of almonds straight before eating a high-starch meal brought a 30% diminution in post-meal glucose levels for patients with type 2 diabetes, compared with a 7% reduction for non-diabetics. Also, after overnight fasting, patients with type 2 diabetes whose meal contained almonds had a lowering of blood sugar levels after their meal. The effect of regular almond consumption on blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes was also studied, with the daily consumption of one ounce of almonds over a twelve-week period being linked with a 4% reduction in haemoglobin A1c and the same reduction in body mass index. A study done by scholars from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and reported in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” confirms that the nut can control diabetes if consumed regularly. A diet consisting of 20% of calories as almonds over a 16-week period is effective in improving markers of insulin sensitivity and yields clinically significant improvements in LDL-C in adults with pre-diabetes. Scientist Dr Michelle Wien said: ‘It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.’

New studies have showed that diets featuring almonds and other tree nuts do not cause weight gain and may actually promote weight loss. A study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders demonstrated that a low calorie almond diet helped people lose more weight faster than those on a low calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates. A study reported in the Oct edition of the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that study participants eating 1.5 ounces of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds every day experienced reduced hunger and improved dietary vitamin E and monounsaturated fat intake without increasing body weight. The newly reported four-week clinical trial led by scientists at Purdue University, examined the effects of almond snacking on weight and appetite. Despite consuming about 250 additional calories per day from almonds, volunteers did not increase the total number of calories they ate and drank over the course of the day or gain weight over the course of the four-week study. A study reported in Jan 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who chewed almonds 40 times felt fuller afterward than participants who just chewed their almonds 10 times before swallowing.

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