The crunchy, creamy taste of almonds is mild enough for both sweet and savoury dishes and the health benefits they bring can help you live your healthiest life!
What are almonds?
Almonds grow on the almond tree, which originated in the Middle East. It now grows all over the world, especially in warmer climates such as Southern Europe, North Africa, and the USA.
The small, brown ovals with one tapered end are familiar to us as the almond nut. These grow within a woody shell inside tough green hulls which grow along the branches of the almond tree.
The almonds most commonly seen in the UK are the shelled version, which have a reddish-brown, matt skin. Blanched almonds are also common, which are smooth and cream in colour. Blanched almonds are simply shelled almonds which have had the skin removed.
What are the health benefits of almonds?
Almonds are packed with nutrients that support a healthy life, from your microbiome to your mind. Here are some of the incredible health benefits of this wonderful nut.
Technically a high-fat food, almonds come with around 50g fat per 100g. Don’t let this put you off, though. The fat in almonds is of the unsaturated type, specifically monounsaturated fat. This is the same type of healthy fat found in olive oil and avocados.
Monounsaturated fat might reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. This is because it helps lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein – also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol – in your body.
A 2015 study at The Pennsylvania State University, USA, found that people who ate 42g almonds each day instead of a muffin over twelve weeks had significant reductions in the three main risk factors for damage to the heart.1
Vitamin E isn’t just great for adding emollient properties to hand cream. In fact, vitamin E has many benefits and almonds are rich in this multi-tasking nutrient.
Vitamin E can help protect the body’s cells against oxidative damage by free radicals.
Vitamin E also helps prevent inflammation, which is a risk factor in many chronic diseases, including osteoporosis.2
Vitamin E has also been shown to enhance the immune system, offering protection against several infectious diseases.3
For something so small, almonds pack a decent punch of protein, with 21g protein per 100g.
Protein helps build and maintain healthy muscles, bones, tissues and skin.
The relatively high protein content in almonds means they’re great for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat animal protein. Scatter a few almonds over a bowl of porridge oats to make a complete protein.
Fibre helps prevent constipation, balances your blood sugar and helps to reduce cholesterol. According to the NHS, 9 in 10 people in the UK aren’t getting enough fibre. Almonds are the perfect way to ramp your fibre intake, with a small handful proving 3g of your recommended 30g fibre per day.
Fibre is also a secret weapon for weight loss. Eating a handful of almonds each day is likely to promote satiety (fullness), preventing you from reaching for snacks high in saturated or trans fats.
Almonds are rich in calcium, with a 30g serving containing 75mg calcium. Most of us need around 700mg calcium a day. Don’t panic if that sounds like a lot – it’s usually simple to get this from a balanced diet.
Calcium is vital to help us maintain the density and structure of our bones and teeth.
This essential mineral has several important functions. It helps you turn food into energy, builds strong bones and is vital for proper muscle function. Remember – your heart is a muscle, so magnesium is important for heart function too.
Your body can’t make magnesium on its own, so you must get it from your diet.
Luckily, almonds are full of it. The NHS recommends 300mg a day for men and 270mg a day for women. 20 almonds contains 60mg magnesium, so include a handful of almonds as a daily snack you’ll be well on your way to meeting this.
This trace mineral, found in almonds, is needed for the smooth running of the body. It’s only needed in tiny amounts, but it helps us break down nutrients from food, among other functions. It’s also been linked to bone health.
Another essential mineral, zinc helps normal DNA synthesis, process the nutrients in the food we eat, and helps wounds heal. It also plays a role in brain health, immune function and fertility.
We don’t need much zinc and should be able to get enough from our daily diets. The NHS recommends we get 10mg zinc each day. A 30g serving almonds has around 2mg zinc.
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Last updated: 30 April 2020