Telling you that almonds are good for your health is like notifying you that the sky is blue — you already knew that. But chances are, you didn’t know just how healthy almonds are. Research has proven they’re the ultimate power snack. “There are a lot of nutrients packed into one little nut!” says culinary dietitian Regina Ragone, MS, RD. “A one-ounce serving of almonds offers six grams of protein, four grams of fiber, nine grams of healthy monounsaturated fats, 50% of your daily value for vitamin E, and 20% of your daily value for magnesium, to name a few. Ounce for ounce, they are the tree nut highest in fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin. They’re one of the highest sources among all foods of magnesium and among the nuts highest in protein.”
However, while it’s hard to go wrong with almonds, they’re not all created equal. “The healthiest way to consume almonds is with limited processing (raw or roasted) and with skin on, where a good amount of the nutrients are contained,” says dietitian nutritionist Johane M. Filemon, MS, RDN. “Almonds do come in different flavors, which can be very tasty, but be careful so as not to consume a large amount of almonds with high sodium content or high added sugar content.”
Need a reason to go nuts for almonds? Here are six.
They’re loaded with antioxidants
Specifically, they’re packed with the antioxidant vitamin E. “This is important because antioxidants help prevent your body from the stress of free radicals, which can lead to disease,” Filemon says. “Out of all the tree nuts, almonds contain the most vitamin E per serving.” Vitamin E also promotes healthy skin and hair. Additionally, vitamin E has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease in some studies.
Almonds can help lower LDL
“Over 20 years of research shows the benefits in the ability of almonds in lowering LD cholesterol,” Ragone says. “It may be the combo of nutrients — fiber, protein, monounsaturated fats — that work together to provide this benefit, plus other key components like flavonoids and sterols in almonds. Almonds in the diet do more than help lower LDL when substituted for other snacks, though. In general, cholesterol-lowering diets reduce HDL cholesterol, as well as LDL cholesterol. However, studies show that when almonds are included in cholesterol lowering diets, protective HDL cholesterol is preserved.” Another perk is that when part of a cholesterol-lowering diet, almonds may boost the most beneficial type of HDL cholesterol and improve its ability to remove harmful LDL cholesterol from the body.
Almonds keep you full longer
Protein and fiber both play important roles in keeping you feeling satisfied longer, and almonds are packed with both. “Although fiber, which provides no calories, is not absorbed by the body, when consumed, soluble fiber especially absorbs a lot of water and swells up, taking up a lot of space in your stomach, keeping you feeling full for a longer period of time,” Filemon says. “With protein, on the other hand, which does have caloric value, it has recently been suggested that it keeps you fuller longer by helping in the activation of the hormone leptin, which lets your body know that you are full.” In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a mid-morning snack of one ounce of almonds helped control appetite and resulted in a lower calorie intake not only at their next meal, but over the rest of the day.
They help regulate blood sugar
Several studies found that moderate intake of almonds improved both short- and long-term markers of glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. “There are also some studies that suggest almonds may have benefits for those with prediabetes,” Ragone says. “Although it’s not been determined what in almonds may be responsible for this effect, it could be the combination of some specific nutrients found in almonds, including fiber, magnesium and protein.”
Almonds are full of magnesium
Among all foods, almonds are one of the top sources of magnesium. “One ounce of almonds contains about 76mg of magnesium, a nutrient that most Americans are deficient in,” Filemon says. “Magnesium plays an important role in the body and is involved in many body functions, including helping support a healthy immune system, bone health, maintaining a healthy heartbeat, and some studies have shown that it may help in lowering blood pressure.”
They’re a great substitute for meat
Whether you’re a committed vegetarian or just striving for Meatless Mondays, almonds are an easy way to swap out meat. “If you are trying to limit your intake of animal protein, almonds are a good choice,” Filemon says. “Nuts in general contain unsaturated fats, which are the ‘good’ fats. Substituting with a plant-based protein periodically will help decrease intake of saturated fats.”
Just like everything else we eat, moderation is key. “It’s easy to remember a portion size for almonds: Think 1-2-3,” Ragone says. “One ounce of almonds is a serving, which is 23 almonds (1-2-3).” As a rule of thumb, always stick to a serving size. “A small handful of almonds a day is perfect for snacking,” Filemon says. “Remember that although almonds are a good source of protein, most almond milk at your local grocery store is not.”