Almonds: A source of nutrients and health-promoting compounds
By: Mohammad Hanief
Almonds are a healthful food. They provide a range of essential nutrients and can be good source of protein for people who follow a plant-based diet. They are also versatile, and people can incorporate them into the diet in many ways and those with a nut allergy should not eat almonds or almond products.
Although almonds are commonly referred to as a nut, they are actually teardrop-shaped edible seeds that are the fruit of the almond tree. You can buy them shelled or blanched, which is when shelled almonds have been treated with hot water to remove the brown outer coating, leaving behind a smooth white interior.
An almond is a seed from a fruit that grows from an almond tree. The fruit holds a hard shell, like a pit, with the almond seed inside. Although technically seeds, almonds are considered nuts.
There are over 30 varieties of almonds. The most common variety is Nonpareil which is widely grown in California, accounting for 40% of all almond production. This variety is over 120 years old and is characterized by a soft shell and a medium-sized kernel. Other varieties include Sonora, Aldrich, Winters, and Carmel. You can find almonds in foods and even as added flavor in drinks around the world.
Eating almonds helps to lower levels of the bad kind of cholesterol, called low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and increase levels of the good kind, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Almonds also have anti-inflammatory properties to help protect you from heart disease.
Although they’re high in calories, almonds could help to reduce your risk of weight gain and obesity — as long as you pay attention to portion size. The protein and fiber in the nuts helps you feel full faster, so you can better control your calorie intake while still satisfying your hunger.
Almond oil’s moisturizing properties can help soothe your skin and relieve itching. Research suggests that applying almond oil to your skin in the form of a cream can ease symptoms of eczema and dermatitis. Almond oil might also improve the skin’s complexion and tone.
It’s also high in vitamin A, which is thought to help with acne, and vitamin E, which may benefit sun-damaged skin.
Research by the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming nuts as part of a healthy diet, around 55g a day, is not only beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease but also has limited risk of weight gain. A study from 2013 also concluded that almonds, when consumed as a snack, help to reduce hunger and don’t increase the risk of weight gain. This is, in part, because nuts contain a number of nutrients that we find difficult to access – this means we are unable to digest as much as 10-15% of their calories.
Almonds are rich in nutrients that help protect the heart, including unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, magnesium, vitamin E, copper and manganese. Two research studies in 2012 and 2014 found that including almonds in your diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, specifically in overweight individuals. Further research has shown that almond consumption helps to reduce LDL cholesterol which may, in turn, help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
A 2017 study on patients with type 2 diabetes found that including almonds as part of a balanced diet had multiple benefits on both blood sugar levels and cardiovascular risk factors. A further study in China also demonstrated that regular almond consumption resulted in lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting glucose, so it would appear that including almonds as part of a healthy diet may be beneficial for those with diabetes. That said, always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, especially if you are on prescribed medication.
If dry winter air has left you with brittle hair, reach hair products with almond oil. Its healthy fatty acids help strengthen hair and add texture. When you use hair products with almond oil, the fats absorb into your hair, keeping each strand strong and shiny.
Having a handful of almonds or 22-23 ‘Badaam’ on a daily basis can offer amazing health benefits for health several studies have confirmed. Almonds are rich in protein, fiber, calcium, copper, magnesium, Vitamin E and riboflavin. They also have iron, potassium, zinc and B vitamins, niacin, thiamine and foliate. They are also a storehouse of healthy unsaturated fat which is good for heart and cholesterol.
A recent study has found those who ate a handful of nuts daily were associated with a 20% lower risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other major causes of death compared to those who did not have them.
As winter approaches and your appetite goes up, almonds can be an excellent mid-meal snack as well as morning superfood. Packed with wonderful nutrients, almonds can be eaten soaked or roasted, added to smoothies and cereals, halwa, yoghurt etc. If you are a vegan, almond milk can fulfill your dairy need as it’s low-calorie as well as rich source of protein, Vitamin D and other nutrients.
Nut oils also are a good source of healthy nutrients, but they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is the highest in omega-3s.
Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than do vegetable oils. Nut oils can become bitter if overheated. Use nut oils in moderation, as they are high in fat and calories.
Maintaining your health often requires several habits and actions. Staying active, keeping up with regular wellness checkups, and taking care of your mental and physical needs all contribute to a healthy body and mind. However, your diet is also a significant aspect of how you feel every day. Incorporating certain foods into your diet can contribute to your health, particularly when they’re part of a balanced diet.
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Kashmir Images is an English language daily newspaper published from Srinagar (J&K), India. The newspaper is one of the largest circulated English dailies of Kashmir and its hard copies reach every nook and corner of Kashmir Valley besides Jammu and Ladakh region.