Almonds: A Heart-Healthy Nut

Almonds have a long history; first referenced in the Bible, they were also used to make bread for Egyptian pharaohs. Now, the pharaohs weren’t exactly known for their healthy lifestyles, but almonds were one of their better dietary choices. In fact, regularly incorporating almonds into your diet (unsalted are best) can lower your risk for heart disease and improve cholesterol levels, making almonds a great snack for older adults.


Almond Nutrition and Health Benefits

1. Almonds are a good source of dietary calcium.

Getting your calcium from dietary sources like almonds (as opposed to calcium supplements) has several advantages. Your body absorbs calcium better when it gets it in smaller doses throughout the day, rather than all at once. It’s also recommended that people over age 50 take in as much as 1,000 milligram of calcium every day — a 1/4 cup of almonds provides 94 milligrams of calcium, or just under 10% of the recommended daily intake.

2. Almonds are heart smart.

The recently released 2016 Canadian Cardiovascular Society Guidelines recommend regular nut consumption as a way of improving cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Almonds are high in the same kind of heart-healthy fat that olive oil is famous for, plus they’re are loaded with fiber, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

3. Almonds help reduce your risk of diabetes.

One study has shown that people who regularly eat nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are less likely to develop diabetes. For those who already have diabetes, nuts may help regulate blood sugar levels due to their fiber, protein and healthy fat content.

4. Almonds are high in fiber, protein and healthy fat.

Studies show that people who regularly consume nuts do not see an increase in weight gain despite the high calories found in nuts, like almonds, pistachios and walnuts. One theory is that because almonds are high in fiber, protein and healthy fat, they keep you feeling full and satisfied.

(Remember this doesn’t give you free rein to eat a container of nuts in one sitting: a portion size of nuts is still only a small handful, or about 1/4 cup.)

How to Incorporate Almonds Into Your Diet

Unsalted, raw almonds, accompanied by a piece of fruit, are the perfect, portable snack. Slivered or sliced almonds are great sprinkled on top of a breakfast bowl, and a wonderful addition to salads or stir fries. Try lightly toasting them first to bring out their natural nutty flavor. Almond butter is also higher in nutrients than peanut butter; try it on whole grain crackers or a slice of ancient grain bread for a complete protein snack.

Or add almond milk or almond meal to your favorite smoothie. If you’re on a low-carb eating plan or avoiding gluten, take a tip from the Egyptian pharaohs and choose breads made with almond flour.

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About the Writer

Jessica Lane

Jessica, BSc, RD has been a Registered Dietitian since 2009, with experience in a wide variety of areas. Her current practice focuses on chronic disease management, weight management, and nutrition for older adults.

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