Almonds

Almonds are a nutritional powerhouse that fit in the palm of your hand. They contain calcium, vitamin E, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They have a reputation for being high in fat and calories; however, research shows they have properties that may lower cholesterol, lower risk for diabetes, improve heart health and positively affect your waistline.

Lowers Cholesterol and Diabetes Risk

According to MayoClinic.com, almonds make the list of the top five foods to lower cholesterol since they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber and plant sterols — all of which help improve cholesterol levels. The American Diabetes Association reports on findings of a recent study by Loma Linda University, published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition,” that show almonds can increase insulin sensitivity and lower bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a regular diet. The ADA sites these factors as risks for Type 2 diabetes.

Heart Disease Prevention

Almonds contain substances that promote heart health. One substance, L-arginine, works to strengthen the artery walls and reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Another is omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate heart rhythms. Vitamin E, which may promote healthy arteries, is also present in almonds. In September 2008, scientists at Pennsylvania State University published a paper in “The Journal of Nutrition” regarding the multi-mechanisms with which almonds may protect the heart. The authors cite epidemiological and clinical evidence that supports the theory that nuts reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, sudden death and other risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease. The authors recommend further research to identify the “biological mechanisms” affected by nuts, the results of which may produce new standards for “the next generation of diets.”

Weight Loss

Scientists at Purdue University’s Department of Foods and Nutrition published a paper in the September 2008 issue of “The Journal of Nutrition” regarding the effects that nuts can have on weight loss. Although evidence lacks for supporting the theory that nut consumption produces weight loss, the researchers report that nuts eaten daily, in moderation, may boost adherence to a weight loss plan due to the energy, satiety effect and palatability of nuts.

Conclusion

Almonds may not be the panacea for losing weight, but they may help your efforts for preventing heart disease, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and food cravings. Keep portions small; a handful a day is all you need. Add to salads, pasta or vegetables or simply take them with you for a small snack. Try purchasing raw almonds and roasting at home for a sodium-free option.

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