Almonds Can Reduce Belly Fat, Study Finds

Snacking on almonds may possibly be one of the best choices you can make.

According to the results of a new study, choosing almonds as opposed to carbs like white bread or muffins, may reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing belly fat, the dangerous type of fat that can encircle our organs. Central abdominal fat is a component of the metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for developing premature coronary artery disease.

As cardiovascular disease represents a major ongoing health problem with significant morbidity and mortality, diets that are heart healthy which include specific nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts) play a major role in treating and preventing the progression of heart disease, even in individuals on cholesterol lowering medications.

Findings of the study were published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association .

According to the study, consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds daily–as opposed to a high carbohydrate muffin–along with a heart-healthy diet, helped to improve cholesterol and lipid profiles among the research participants.

A key finding of the study was that eating almonds helped to reduce both LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol. Perhaps a more striking finding was that along with an improved lipid profile, central adiposity (belly fat) was also reduced. An excess of belly fat has been established as a risk factor for premature heart disease.

In a 12 week randomized, controlled trial, researchers from Penn State University evaluated 52 middle-aged, obese adults with elevated LDL as well as total cholesterol, who were otherwise in good condition. All research subjects consumed the same heart-healthy diet for 6 weeks. They were then divided into 2 groups: one group consumed 1.5 ounces or 42 grams of whole natural almonds, while the other group consumed a banana muffin which constituted the same number of calories.

At the end of 6 weeks, those participants who ate a diet containing almonds–as opposed to a muffin as a snack—had lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and VLDL- C (remnant lipoproteins). The diet containing the muffin snack also had a negative effect: it reduced the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) to a greater degree than the diet containing almonds.

Compared to those on the diet containing the muffin snack, those participants on the diet with the almond snack also had a significantly reduced central abdominal fat mass, leg fat mass and waist circumference. Of note, there were no differences between subjects with regard to total fat mass and body weight for controls.

Results from this study demonstrate that choosing almonds, a healthy low carbohydrate snack loaded with protein and fiber–as opposed to a high carbohydrate snack with sugar–can help to improve cardiovascular health by reducing risk factors for heart disease. The novel finding is that this snack also helped to reduce belly fat.

Selecting almonds is an easy way to reduce risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a prime risk factor for developing early coronary artery disease. Nuts such as almonds also are helpful for those with diabetes, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

This study provides ongoing evidence for almonds as a heart-healthy food, already known to reduce cholesterol levels to maintain cardiovascular health.

It also adds new evidence that consistently eating a heart healthy snack such as almonds- compared to a high carbohydrate muffin snack—may also lead to loss of central abdominal fat, reflecting a change in body composition.

A typical serving size of almonds is generally one ounce, or 20-24 whole almonds. This serving size contains about 163 calories and 14 grams of fat, primarily healthy monounsaturated fat along with omega-3 fatty acids. Along with this, there are 3.5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of fat. Those on low-carb diets may find the 6 grams of carbohydrates helpful.

The snack serving size described in the study was slightly greater, approximately 30-35 almonds.

Almonds are like, really good for you, right? So it’s totally cool that you just ate that whole bag of nuts while watching Grey’s?

Well…it’s not terrible, but those lil’ suckers still add up. A serving of almonds is just one to one and a half ounces, says Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Yeah, that’s just 23 nuts to 40 nuts. Uh, how many were in that bag again?

Yep. That’s what a serving of almonds really looks like. Getty Images

Still: Don’t feel guilty because almond nutrition is legit.

You’re getting a hell of a lot of nutrients and health benefits when you scarf down a bag of nuts. Here’s the nutritional breakdown per ounce:

  • Calories: 164
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Fat: 14 g (1 g sat fat)
  • Carbohydrate: 6 g
  • Fiber: 3.5 g
  • Sugars: 1 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg

Notice that each serving packs in a pretty decent serving of protein, along with 14 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber. (While def tasting better than a creepy fiber bar…)

Almonds also have a lot of benefits for your bod.

“Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, a heart-healthy type of fat,” says Derocha. TL;DR monounsaturated fatty acids help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind that clogs arteries) while also raising your HDL cholesterol—a serious win for your heart.

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Almonds can even help you lose weight—or just keep it in check—thanks to their healthy fats and filling protein and fiber. Studies show that eating about one and a half ounces of almonds in lieu of a carb-rich muffin snack can help reduce belly fat and improve cholesterol. Research also shows that because almonds are so filling, eating them helps limit calorie consumption later in the day, per the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other major almond benefits include lower inflammation in the body and healthier weight during pregnancy. Not too shabby.

What if I want more nuts than that?

If an ounce of almonds is too small a serving (I was thinking it, too), consider pistachios. They have a lot of the same health benefits, but you get 49 kernels in a one-ounce serving for 159 calories. Buy them with the shell on and you’ll have a small mountain-sized pile on your desk. The visual cue of discarded pistachio shells can tune you into how much you just ate, according to a study in the journal Appetite.

If you’re firmly devoted to eating almonds, it may help keep portions in check if you use almonds as a garnish to enhance your overnight oats or add crunch to a salad, rather than getting sad over the measured out ounce in your hand.

And seriously, it’s not wise to go ham on your almonds. Remember how they’re a good source of fiber? Overeat almonds and your GI system may have a tough time processing a sudden spike in roughage, says Derocha. (Hello, gas.)

The bottom line: Almonds (and other nuts) are really good for you—as long as you watch that portion size.

Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more.

Calories In Almonds – All You Need To Know About Almonds And Their Benefits

Calories in almonds: Full of health promoting nutrients, almonds are a treasure trove for all ages.

Almonds are tear-shaped seeds of trees native to the Mediterranean region but are today cultivated across the world. It consists of an outer shell with the seed within. Almonds have been a part of the Indian diet for centuries. They are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Almonds with milk before sleeping, almonds with khus as thandai and, of course, almond thandai with bhang for Holi – almonds play an essential part of our lives. Almonds are popular because of the health benefits that they have to offer. Full of health promoting nutrients, these tiny crunchy wonders are a treasure trove for all ages.

(Also Read: Why Soaked Almonds are Better Than Raw Almonds)

Nutrition In Almonds: One Ounce (28.34 Grams Approx.) Of Almonds Contain The Following:

Almonds – 28 grams
Energy 170.5Kcal
Carbs 0.84g
Protein 5.15g
Fat 16.35g
Fibre 3.8g
Folates 10.2mcg
Vitamin E 7.24mg
Calcium 63.84mg
Magnesium 89.04mg
Phosphorus 124.88mg
Potassium 195.72mg
MUFA 10,724mg
PUFA 3700mg
SAT FATS 1220mg

Nutritionally, almonds are calorie dense but they bring so much health benefits with them. Intake of these nutty delights has a massive positive effect on our health beyond just cholesterol control. They are a rich source of vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, fibre, riboflavin, monounsaturated fatty acids and protein.

(Also Read: Here’s How You Can Chop Almonds Like A Pro)

Calories in almonds: Almonds have been a part of the Indian diet for centuries.​

Health Benefits Of Almonds:

Energy Refill

Just one ounce of almonds provides 170 calories with very low carbs and lots of protein. The fat content also adds to the energy quotient. Energy from almonds is a slow release process, keeping the satiety for a longer period and also helping in preventing sugar and insulin spikes in the blood.

Good Fats

Fats in almonds constitute almost 50% but the quality of fat is excellent. Primarily composed of Monounsaturated fats (MUFA), they are a source of healthy fats, which contributes to its favourable hypocholesterolaemic effect. They have a positive effect in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol in individuals with high cholesterol levels and in diabetics.

Calories in almonds: Fats in almonds constitute almost 50% but the quality of fat is excellent.

Regulates Cholesterol

Minerals like magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium are key elements for health. Magnesium is linked to maintaining the electrical properties of the heart in addition to relaxing muscles and helping nerves send signals. Copper is an important part of the antioxidants and helps prevent oxidation of LDL and HDL.

Manages Diabetes, Lowers Blood Pressure And More

It also plays an important role in diabetes management and prevents mitochondrial damage, which helps slow the ageing process. Calcium is essential for bone health while potassium reduces the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, protects against loss of muscle mass, preserves bone mineral density, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

Prevents Cognitive Decline

Vitamins found in almonds include riboflavin, which along with amino acid L-carnitine, also present in almonds, make it a brain food that prevents cognitive decline and improve neurological activity.

(Also Read: Almonds For Weight Loss: Load Up On These Nuts To Lose Weight)

Calories in almonds: Almonds are brimming with good amount of vitamin E.

Good For Skin And Hair

Almonds are brimming with good amount of vitamin E. It is an important vitamin for our vision and reproductive health and for our blood, brain and skin as well. Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that damage our body at cellular level. By helping reduce inflammatory processes, vitamin E also helps prevent ageing, improving the skin and hair. It also has an important role in balancing hormones in our body.

Facilitates Weight Loss:

Almonds are packed with insoluble fibre. Fibre, as we know, is beneficial for digestive health; it prevents constipation and the insoluble fibres act as probiotics in improving the gut flora. Fibre is also associated with managing diabetes and reducing risk of heart-related diseases. Fibre also adds early satiety to our food preventing overeating, thereby, aiding weight loss. Dietary fibre also protects against cancers of the colon, breast, oral, and small intestine.

If consumed as a snack, almonds may benefit diabetics too. Almonds are known to lower the glucose response after ingestion. This also helps reduce unwanted hunger pangs and you eat reasonably during meals too.

Almonds are truly the star of all nuts; but too much of a good thing can also be bad. Therefore, control your portion sizes, stick to an ounce a day (which is 28g approx.) – 25 almonds. Ideally, they make a great snack time treat; you can also take them post workout, at bedtime or early in the morning – the choice is yours! So, without further ado, let’s involve in this nutty affair.

Disclaimer:
The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Almonds are the most popular nuts in the United States. A favorite of dieters, in recent years almonds have become famous for their versatility and health benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans’ demand for almonds has increased over 400 percent since 1980. In 2016, Americans ate an average of 1.8 lbs. (816 grams) of almonds each.

There’s good reason for the love affair. “Almonds have been studied extensively for their benefits on heart health, diabetes, and weight management,” said Jenny Heap, a registered dietitian with the Almond Board of California. “The unique nutrient combination of almonds — plant-based protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, plus key nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium — help make them a heart-healthy snack.”

A 2017 study published in Nutrition Journal found that Americans, especially children, who replaced snack foods with almonds or other tree nuts saw a major increase in consumption of nutrients. In the study of more than 17,000 children and adults, participants swapped all their snacks with almonds and. Researchers found that participants consumed fewer empty calories, solid fats, sodium, saturated fats, carbohydrates and added sugars. Good oils and fats increased significantly, as did magnesium, fiber and protein by a small margin.

Technically speaking, almonds are not true nuts at all. The edible part that we call a nut is actually a seed, and almonds themselves are drupes, according to the University of California Riverside’s botany department. Sometimes called “stone fruits,” drupes are characterized by a tough rind surrounding a shell that holds a seed. Peaches and apricots, close cousins to the almond, are common examples of drupes. Like these relatives, almonds grow on beautiful, flowering trees and thrive in warm, dry climates.

The almond tree (Prunus dulcis), also related to cherries and plums, is native to Western Asia and Southern Europe. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Spanish missionaries brought almonds to the New World, but the nut’s popularity did not rise until the 1900s. Today, the United States is the largest supplier of almonds in the world. California is the only state that produces almonds commercially. This may change, though, as the water supply in California declines.

Nutritional profile

“Ounce for ounce, almonds are higher in fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin than any other tree nut,” Heap told Live Science. “Every one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) provides 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus vitamin E (35 percent DV ), magnesium (20 percent DV), riboflavin (20 percent DV), calcium (8 percent DV) and potassium (6 percent DV). In addition, almonds are a low-glycemic index food.”

Like other nuts, almonds contain a fairly high amount of fat, with about 14 grams per one-ounce serving. Fortunately, about two-thirds of it is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, according to The George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods website.

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that almonds pack the biggest nutritional punch if eaten whole, with their brown skins on (unblanched), rather than with their skins steamed off (blanched). The study identified 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skin. Combined with the high vitamin E content in the meat of the almond, these flavonoids endow almonds with a unique nutritional package that may have implications for cholesterol levels, inflammation and more.

Nutrition facts

Here are the nutrition facts for almonds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food labeling through the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act:

Almonds, blanched Serving size: 1 ounce (28 g)

Calories 163; Calories from Fat 119

Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 2g 3% Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Cholesterol 10mg 4% Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sodium 125mg 5% Sugars 12g
Protein 11g
Vitamin A 10% Calcium 30%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 0%

*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Health benefits

Heart

Probably almonds’ best-known quality is that they are good for your heart. “Nearly two decades of research shows that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels,” said Heap. A 2009 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) looked at the evidence on nut consumption and a variety of health issues. It noted that in four large-scale studies considered major in the field — the Iowa Women’s Health Study (1996), the Adventist Health Study (1992), the Nurses’ Health Study (1998) and the Physicians’ Health Study(2002) — nut consumption was linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Together, the studies showed an average reduction in the risk of death from heart disease by 37 percent, or “8.3 percent … for each weekly serving of nuts.”

“A growing body of evidence suggests that regularly choosing almonds in place of snacks high in refined carbohydrates is a simple dietary strategy to help support heart health,” said Heap. In another evidence review, published in 1999 in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, researchers looked at the Nurses’ Health Study and estimated that eating nuts instead of an equivalent amount of carbohydrates reduced heart disease risk by 30 percent. Substituting nuts for saturated fats, such as those found in meat and dairy products, resulted in a 45 percent estimated reduced risk.

Replacing almonds with saturated fats may also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A 1994 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at men with normal cholesterol levels and found that those who supplemented their diets with almonds for three weeks saw a 10 percent reduction in LDL levels.

A 2017 study published in Journal of Nutrition looked at 82 people with high LDL cholesterol. For six weeks, they ate a low-cholesterol diet that included one-third of a cup of almonds or a muffin with the same number of calories. Then, participants switched diets for another six weeks. Researchers found that the almond diet led to better distribution of HDL cholesterol subtypes and more effective cholesterol removal. These effects, however, were only seen in participants at a normal weight.

A serving of almonds provides 5 percent of the recommended daily value of potassium, which is necessary for heart health, according to the American Heart Association. Many studies have linked potassium with lower blood pressure because it promotes vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), according to Today’s Dietitian. The magazine article cited a study of 12,000 adults, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, which showed that those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease by 37 percent and 49 percent, respectively, compared to those who took 1,793 mg per day.

Magnesium is also essential for heart health. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some doctors have seen positive results from giving patients who have suffered from heart failure doses of magnesium. There also may be a link between lower heart disease risk in men and intake of magnesium.

Heap noted that in 2003, the FDA approved “a qualified health claim recognizing that California almonds may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” The official statement said:

“Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat.”

Almonds may even be good for those suffering from hyperlipidemia (excess lipids or lipoproteins in the blood). These patients used to be instructed to stay away from nuts because of their fat content, but a study published in 2002 in the journal Circulation showed that hyperlipidemic patients who ate almonds as snacks actually saw significant reductions in heart disease risk factors.

Weight loss and preventing weight gain

“With their combination of protein, fiber, good fats and satisfying crunch, almonds are a smart snack option to help keep hunger at bay while satisfying cravings,” said Heap. While she noted that “numerous studies have shown that choosing almonds as a daily snack does not lead to changes in body weight,” substituting them for other snacks may help dieters. A 2003 study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders suggested that combining almonds with a low-calorie, high-monounsaturated fat diet led to more weight loss than did a low-calorie diet with lots of complex carbohydrates. Another recent study, published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at substituting almonds for a muffin of the same caloric value and found that though participants did not lose weight in either group, the almond-eating group saw a reduction in abdominal fat, waist circumference and fat on the legs, as well as improved LDL cholesterol levels.

Almonds can also be a more satisfying snack than high-carb counterparts. “Their combination of protein, fiber, and good fats makes them a satisfying snack choice that can help keep you from reaching for empty calorie choices between meals,” said Heap. “In fact, a recent study showed that women who ate a mid-morning snack of 1-1.5 ounces of almonds felt more satisfied and ate fewer calories at subsequent meals.”

As if that weren’t good enough news, almonds may also help prevent weight gain. A five-year study conducted by Loma Linda University researchers and published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2017 found that people who ate nuts, including almonds, regularly were more likely to stop gaining wait and at a 5 percent lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. The study evaluated more than 73,000 Europeans between the ages of 25 and 70 and found that, while most participants gained an average of 2.1 kilograms over five years, those who regularly ate nuts gained less weight. The lead researcher, Dr. Joan Sabate, suggested that people replace the animal protein on the center of their plates with nuts.

Additionally, a Spanish study published in 2007 in the journal Obesity found that over the course of 28 months, participants who ate nuts twice a week were 31 percent less likely to gain wait than were participants who never or rarely ate nuts.

Almond trees bloom between late February and early March. (Image credit: Jerocflores )

Good for gluten-free dieters

“Almonds are naturally gluten-free, and are a versatile, nutrient-rich addition to gluten-free diets,” said Heap. “Because gluten-free diets can be low in iron, fiber, B vitamins and protein, and high in saturated fat and sugar, it is important to help fill these gaps and optimize nutrition. All forms of almonds, including almond flour, almond milk and almond butter, are excellent additions for those choosing a gluten-free lifestyle.”

Diabetes

According to the AJCN review of nuts and health outcomes, the links between nut consumption and diabetes risk and symptoms are less clear than with heart disease. Nevertheless, the Nurses’ Health Study showed an inverse relationship between regular consumption of nuts and diabetes, as did the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (2008).

Additionally, there is some evidence that almonds can be helpful in regulating blood sugar levels. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at giving participants controlled meals based either around almonds, rice, potatoes or bread. Researchers found that participants’ blood sugar and insulin decreased after eating the almond meal but not the others. Also, antioxidants in the blood increased after the almond meal, while they decreased after the other meals.

Almonds may also help lower the glycemic index of a high-glycemic meal. A 2007 study, published in the journal Metabolism, looked at combining almonds and bread-based meals. The more almonds participants ate, the lower the meal’s glycemic index became and the less the participants’ blood sugar levels rose. Eating three ounces of almonds with the bread-based meal lowered the meal’s glycemic index to less than half of that of the bread-only meal.

Energy

These tasty tree nuts can help you get moving. They are a very good source of energy-encouragers riboflavin, manganese and copper. Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2, and it helps produce red blood cells and release energy from the carbohydrates you eat, according to the National Institutes of Health. Manganese and copper are components in an enzyme that stops free radicals in mitochondria, where our cells produce energy, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. In this way, these trace minerals help maintain your body’s energy flow.

Prevent gallstones

The fat and fiber content in almonds may help prevent gallstones by keeping your gallbladder and liver running smoothly. An analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study showed that frequent nut consumers were 25 percent less likely to need a cholecystectomy, a procedure to remove the gallbladder that is often done to treat gallstones. Another study, published in 2004 in the American Journal of Epidemiolgy found similar results in men, with frequent nut consumers seeing a 30 percent decreased risk in gallstone disease.

Cancer

According to the AJCN nuts and health review, some studies suggest that there might be a relationship between nut consumption and reduced cancer risk in women, especially for colorectal and endometrial cancers, but these studies do not focus on almonds specifically. One animal study published in 2001 in Cancer Letters looked at whole-almond consumption in rats and found that those who ate almonds had fewer cancer cells in their colons.

A 2017 observational study of 826 patients with colon cancer found that those who ate two or more ounces of tree nuts, including almonds, a week “had a 42 percent lower chance of cancer recurrence and 57 percent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts,” according to the study, which was published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The researchers do not suggest replacing chemotherapy with tree nuts. “Rather, patients with colon cancer should be optimistic, and they should eat a healthy diet, including tree nuts, which may not only keep them healthier, but may also further decrease the chances of the cancer coming back.”

Additionally, the antioxidants and vitamin E in almonds may have cancer-fighting benefits, though the National Cancer Institute warns that results from studies examining antioxidants, vitamins and cancer are inconclusive.

In July and early August, almond hulls begin to split open to expose the almond shell. (Image credit: Dolores Giraldez Alonso )

Risks of eating almonds

It is possible to be allergic to almonds. An almond allergy is typically grouped with a tree nut allergy (including cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts and others), and is usually severe.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tree nut allergies are among the allergies most likely to cause anaphylaxis. Symptoms of an almond allergy include abdominal pain, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nasal congestion or a runny nose, nausea, shortness of breath, and itching. Both whole nuts and nut products, including oils and butters, can trigger an almond allergy attack.

Almonds are susceptible to aflatoxins, chemicals produced by molds that potentially can cause cancer. It is unsafe to eat almonds that are infected with mold, which appears as gray or black filaments. According to the Almond Board, the almond industry has programs and procedures to minimize aflatoxins.

In 2007, after cases of salmonella were traced to almonds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandated that California growers pasteurize their almonds. Since then, raw, untreated almonds grown in California have not been available. Almonds that are labeled as “raw” are actually pasteurized with steam or with propylene oxide. The practice is considered controversial, and organic farmers have sued the USDA, according to the Cornucopia Institute.

A 2017 study by the University of Surrey found that people who regularly consume alternative milks, such as almond milk, instead of cow’s milk could be at risk for iodine deficiency. While almond milk is often supplemented with calcium to make it more closely match what cow’s milk provides, it is not supplemented with iodine. Iodine is essential for making thyroid hormones and for fetal brain development. The World health Organization considers iodine deficiency to be the world’s leading, and most preventable cause, of brain damage. Lack of iron during pregnancy can result in the baby having a lower IQ and trouble reading, according to the University of Surrey study.

Almonds and dogs

Animals can apparently eat almonds safely, with some caveats. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there is no evidence that almonds or Brazil nuts are toxic to animals. However, the ASPCA cautions that eating large amounts can cause upset stomachs. Foods with high fat content, such as nuts, may produce pancreatitis. Also, many nuts are sold salted, and could pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

Fun facts about almonds

  • The Romans considered almonds a fertility charm and gave them to newlyweds.
  • There are more than 30 varieties of almonds.
  • Many almond trees are not self-pollinating and depend on bees to carry pollen to one another.
  • The United States — primarily California — produces 83 percent of the world’s almonds, followed by Australia (7 percent), European Union (5 percent), and Iran, Turkey and Tunisia (all 1 percent).
  • Almonds should be stored in cool, dry conditions, away from direct sunlight and away from other foods with strong odors, which almonds can absorb.

Almonds are such a healthy, clean, natural snack — and so easy to mindlessly snack on by the dozen. They’re delicious, filling, and loaded in MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) — that have been said to burn belly fat — as well as heart-healthy omega-3s and energizing B vitamins.

But as with all foods, there definitely can be too much of a good thing. Firstly, not many people realize what the serving size of almonds actually is (and surprisingly, it’s not “this entire mugful.”). The recommended serving size of almonds is actually very precise: 23. This also equates to about 1/4 cup, or a shot glass full of almonds.

So how do you know how much is too much for your diet? Check with your caloric and macronutrient needs. In each serving, there are 163 calories, 14 grams of fat, six grams of protein, and six grams of carbohydrates.

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Also, be mindful of how many MUFAs you’re consuming. Even healthy fats have a limit — for a 2,000-calorie diet, it’s 65 grams. With one serving of almonds, you’re hovering around 21 percent of your daily fat intake, and that’s if you’re on the 2,000-calorie program.

What does this mean? Too many servings of almonds in a day could end up causing some weight gain. So like we always say — everything in moderation (and be mindful of what you’re putting in your body!). Find the balance that works for you, and eat up.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry

Nuts are the perfect weight loss snack when eaten in moderation. (Picture: AP)

Before we get started, let’s get the ‘almonds are fattening’ thing out of the way. They aren’t.

In fact recent studies show that participants who consumed a 43 gram portion of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds every day for four weeks saw a huge increase in their vitamin E and monounsaturated or ‘good’ fats levels, but didn’t gain any weight. This was tested on both men and women, of which some were overweight and some normal weight.

Other studies such as the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that women who consumed more than five ounces of nuts a week (around 90 almonds in total) lowered their risk of heart disease by 35%, compared with women who rarely ate nuts. And another study done at Harvard’s School of Public Health found that eating nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of having a second heart attack by 25% among 4,000 people.

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But why do they help you lose weight? For starters, these popular nuts are actually low in calories with ten almonds costing you approximately 78 calories. Other than that they’re packed with useful nutrients like Vitamin E, mono-saturated fat (‘good’ fat) and fibre, which is highly satiating and provides bulk to food without adding calories. They are also full of B vitamins and zinc, which helps stop sugar cravings, plus the oleic oil in the nuts cuts hunger very quickly.

Tempted? You should be.

Here are a few ways that I include almonds in my diet. It’s very rare that a day goes by without me having a handful. You should give it a try too.

  • Eat a handful of almonds, in place of your regular snack. They are low in calories, making them perfect for a quick and easy weight loss snack. You will also consume a healthy amount of fiber, which will satisfy your hunger, so you feel fuller for longer and aren’t tempted to indulge in mid-afternoon biscuits.
  • Add almonds to your breakfast to fill your stomach and keep you energised and full until your next snack or lunchtime. In addition to fiber, almonds also contain protein that will give you energy and help prevent you overeating.
  • Add sliced almonds to your porridge, sprinkle chopped almonds on your breakfast cereal or have some creamy almond butter on a slice of wholemeal toast, or sprinkle almonds in your soup or over your salad at dinner. They will add bulk to your meal so you can eat less and not feel hungry.

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How To Chow Down

Thanks to modern technology, you can drink, bake and spread your almonds. If you want to reap the benefits of these nuts, try these options:

  • Almonds are a great dairy alternative. You will find almond milk and almond yogurt right next to the dairy versions. Pour it over your cereal, add it to your coffee or drink it straight. You can replace your regular yogurt for the antioxidant-rich alternative and use it as a snack, in a parfait or dip for your crudités. (As upwave review-board member David Katz, MD, notes, almond milks vary in quality and may contain added sugar; also, they don’t provide all of the nutrients of the nut.)
  • Almond butter is one of those brilliant inventions that was once confined to health food stores, but now we find it everywhere we turn. Use it as you would peanut butter: on a sandwich, with celery sticks and apple slices and stirred into your oatmeal. Be on the lookout for squeeze packs that you can toss into your purse, desk or car for a portable, stable snack on the go.
  • Of course, there is no shortage of almond recipes out there — but if you like them seasoned and snackable, they’ll store for a couple of weeks, so they make a great homemade holiday gift. If you want to make them savory, think cayenne, salt and Tabasco. If you like ‘em sweet, bake ‘em up with some sugar and spice and everything nice.

Calories in raw almonds

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