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Almond Board :: Almonds 101

Almonds 101

Almonds are one of the few foods that taste just as good as they are good for you. Almonds are incredibly delicious and nutritious. In fact, every year scientists uncover more about the tremendous health benefits that almonds offer, including helping to prevent heart disease. Emerging research shows that eating almonds may play a role in maintaining and even losing weight. All it takes is a daily handful of almonds!

A Rich History

People have been eating almonds for centuries. They are thought to be one of the oldest cultivated foods. Almonds likely originated in Asia and were an important foodstuff for travelers on the famed Silk Road trade route. In this way, almonds spread westward to the Mediterranean. (Learn more about the history of almonds from popular chef Joyce Goldstein in Cooking with Almonds.)

Today, more than 80 percent of the world's almonds are grown in California, where they arrived with Spanish missionaries in the 18th century. Though we may think of them as a nut, almonds are technically a fruit and grow on trees that look a lot like a peach tree.

Nutritional Powerhouse

Ounce per ounce, almonds are more nourishing than any other nut. They are one of the very best food sources of vitamin E and provide numerous minerals that are important to bone and heart health.

A one-ounce serving of almonds, which is about a handful, has 160 calories. It is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, a good source of fiber and also offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, protein, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron.

One of the key recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - healthy eating advice from the federal government that is updated every five years - is that Americans consume nutrient-rich foods like almonds in order to have a wholesome diet and keep calories under control.

Disease Fighter

The beneficial substances in almonds such as monounsaturated fat, vitamin E and a host of powerful antioxidants, can offer protection against chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

"A lot of sound scientific studies tell us that the heart-healthy fats in almonds can help reduce "bad cholesterol" (the LDL type) just by eating an ounce of almonds a day," says Dr. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, registered dietitian and associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"They're loaded with powerful antioxidants and they even help with weight control because they contribute to a feeling of fullness. Plus, people actually like almonds, so you can feel full but also satisfied - very important to dieters especially," he adds.

Visit the Healthy Weight Center for the latest research on almonds and weight.

Early studies have found eating almonds may slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the body, which may help with managing diabetes.

Still other research shows that the vitamin E in almonds and the antioxidants in almond skins work in concert to protect cells from damage, prevent artery-clogging oxidation of cholesterol, and protect the body from the effects of aging. Almonds are rich in a kind of antioxidant called flavonoids, which are also found in tea, wine, fruits and vegetables.

"The synergy between the flavonoids and vitamin E in almonds demonstrates how the nutrients in whole foods such as almonds can impact health," explained Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition and director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston. "Given that almonds are among the richest sources of vitamin E in the diet and also provide an array of flavonoids, more research should be done to understand the healthful interaction of these plant nutrients in the human body and the role of almonds in aging."

A Handful A Day

Nutrition experts agree that people should eat a handful of almonds every day because of the fantastic nutrition and health benefits they offer.

"Absolutely. They are a part of my own diet," says Dr. Ayoob. He has a handy way to tote almonds around: "I keep an empty breath mint tin (Altoids or Velamints) that will hold about an ounce of almonds and will count on my almonds for an afternoon snack to keep me until dinner."

Dr. Ayoob recently published a diet book based on the 2005 dietary guidelines called The Uncle Sam Diet (St. Martin's Paperbacks, June 2005.) "In my book, I pair almonds with a fat-free latte for that late afternoon protein/energy boost that's a great way to pack some calcium, protein and heart-healthy fat and really great taste into your lifestyle," he finishes.

Get more helpful information on Snacking and Almonds.

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