10 proven health benefits of almonds.
Medically reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson and words by Annie Hayes
Delicious, portable and easy to snack on, there are myriad reasons why almonds have earned a spot in our cupboards – but it’s the numerous health benefits of almonds, from weight loss to a glowing complexion, that make them stand out as a quality snack.
There’s so much goodness wrapped up in those versatile little seeds, which are commonly either sold raw or toasted but also frequently consumed as almond milk, almond oil, almond butter, almond flour, and for traditional baked goods fans, almond paste or marzipan.
We asked Rebecca Traylen, associate nutritionist and head of nutrition at Probio7, to talk us through the various health benefits of almonds:
10 health benefits of almonds
‘Many studies have looked at the positive impact almonds can have on health, including playing a positive role in weight management and their protective effects on diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases,’ says Traylen.
Many people eschew almonds due to their relatively high fat and calorie content – every 30 gram serving contains 16g fat and 173 calories – but in reality, your body won’t absorb between 10 and 15 per cent of these calories, because some of the fat cannot be digested, as research by King’s College London revealed.
Here, we run through 10 healthful reasons to make almonds your go-to snack:
- High in nutrients
Almonds are packed with a whole host of nutrients. ‘In each 30g serve of almonds, you can get an impressive 6g of plant-based protein, 4 grams of fibre, healthy fats, vitamin E and several essential minerals to name a few,’ says Traylen.
‘In each 30g serve of almonds, you can get an impressive 6g of plant-based protein.’
You’ll also find around one quarter of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium, almost 10 per cent of your zinc RDA, 25 per cent of your vitamin B2 intake, and seven per cent of your vitamin B3, plus around five per cent of your potassium recommendation. ‘This means you can get a whole host of benefits from just one handful,’ she adds.
With that said, almonds are also high in phytic acid. Even though phytic acid is a healthful antioxidant, it also prevents minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium from being fully absorbed. For that reason, phytic acid is sometimes called an ‘anti-nutrient’.
- Rich in antioxidants
Almonds are an excellent source of antioxidants such as vitamin E, which protects cells against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. ‘Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in several diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,’ says Traylen.
One 30g serving of almonds provides you with around 50 per cent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin E, she adds, so the effects aren’t negligible. However, much of the antioxidant goodness is concentrated in the thin brown outer later, so avoid blanched almonds (those with the skin removed) to reap maximum benefits.
- Packed with healthy fats
While almonds may be a high fat food, they’re mostly made up of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They’re known as ‘healthy fats’. Of the 15g of fat in each 30g serving, only 1g is saturated.
‘Almonds also contain linoleic acid, which helps maintain normal blood cholesterol levels,’ Traylen says. ‘Swapping saturated fats for unsaturated can help lower your cholesterol levels, which can have a positive impact on heart health.’
Not only can almonds lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, but they also prevent it from oxidising, which contributes towards the development of heart disease.
- High in fibre
Almonds contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon and slows digestion, while insoluble fibre is left intact as it moves through the gastrointestinal tract and helps to soften poop.
‘Fibre adds bulk to our stools, making them softer and easier to pass – a great benefit for our digestive system,’ says Traylen. ‘By decreasing the time your stool is in your bowel, fibre may reduce the risk of bowel cancer.’
Adults are commended to consume at least 30g of fibre per day. ‘With 4g of fibre in each serving, almonds are a great addition to achieve your dietary fibre needs,’ says Traylen.
- Reduce heart disease risk
Eating almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy, research from Aston University has shown. Snacking on 50g almonds every day ‘significantly’ increases the amount of antioxidants in the bloodstream, reduces blood pressure and improves blood flow, scientists found.
The fibre in almonds is heart-healthy, too. ‘It has also been shown that fibre can help lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar, which in turn can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes,’ says Traylen.
- Support digestive health
Almonds have prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are the non-digestible parts of foods that stimulate the growth and encourage proliferation of ‘good’ bacteria. In a study by Norwich BioScience Institutes, finely ground almonds were found to ‘significantly increase’ the levels of certain beneficial gut bacteria.
‘Our gut microbiome plays several important roles in our body including, digestion, immunity, skin, sleep and mood,’ says Traylen. ‘Therefore, it is vital we are feeding our gut bacteria with the right food to ensure they grow and thrive.
‘Almonds are packed with fibre to feed both us and our gut bacteria,’ she continues. ‘When our bacteria feed off fibre, they produce short chain fatty acids, which can have many beneficial roles for our gastrointestinal health and wider health.’
- Keep hunger at bay
For those looking to keep their weight under control, almonds may be the perfect snack. ‘One handful will provide you with a satisfying and nutrient dense snack to keep you full between meals,’ says Traylen.
In a study by the University of Sussex, people who snacked on almonds mid-morning had a lower calorie intake at lunch and dinner. ‘Therefore, instead of skipping your mid-morning snack, snacking on almonds may help control and reduce food intake later in the day,’ she says.
One handful will provide you with a satisfying and nutrient dense snack to keep you full between meals.
- Control blood sugar
Almonds have a low glycaemic index (GI). ‘This means they slowly raise your blood sugar over a long period of time,’ Traylen explains. ‘This has two benefits – it will help control blood sugar, and keep you fuller for longer. Almonds therefore may be beneficial for those who are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes.’
They’re also extremely high in magnesium, which plays an important part in blood sugar control. Many people people with type 2 diabetes are deficient in magnesium, and studies have shown that when this deficiency is corrected, they experience significantly lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin function.
- Foster healthy eating
Making almonds part of your snacking routine may also inspire you to eat healthier when consuming other foods. In a study by the University of Florida, when parents and children incorporated almonds into their diet, they ate more protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids, fewer empty calories, and less salt.
- Tackle wrinkles
Several key nutrients found in almonds are linked to skin health, including vitamin E, zinc, and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. A small study by the University of California found that a daily snack of two servings of almonds helped reduce wrinkle width by 10 per cent and wrinkle severity by nine per cent in postmenopausal women.