The almond is recognizable among a thousand thanks to its sweet flavor, its pretty ovoid shape and its color which can vary from green to brown. For several decades, its consumption has exploded and become more democratic around the world. Excellent news when you know its many nutritional and health benefits.

Almond Characteristics

  • Rich in unsaturated fatty acids;
  • Source of vegetable protein;
  • Helps naturally lower cholesterol levels;
  • Promotes cardiovascular health and transit;
  • Excellent source of essential micronutrients.

 Nutritional and caloric values ​​of almonds

Almonds are of great importance for their high content of phytosterols, monounsaturated fatty acids, vegetable proteins, soluble fibers, vitamins and minerals. In fact, since 2003 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted the following claim on food labels for tree nuts: "There is evidence to suggest, but does not prove, that the consumption one and a half ounces a day of most nuts, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Although scientific data abounds on the beneficial effects related to the consumption of almonds, this claim is however not permitted elsewhere.

Focus on the micronutrients contained in the almond

The almond benefits from a complete and unique nutritional profile. That's what makes it so interesting. Among the essential nutrients for the health of the body and present in the almond, we can mention the following:

  • Magnesium. Almond and plain almond butter are excellent sources of magnesium for women and good sources for men, their needs being different. Magnesium participates in bone development, building proteins, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses;
  • Manganese. Almonds and plain almond butter are excellent sources of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals;
  • Copper. Almond is an excellent source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used in the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also contribute to the body's defense against free radicals;
  • Vitamin B2. The almond is an excellent source of vitamin B2 for women and a good source for men, their needs being different. Plain almond butter is a good source of vitamin B2 for women and a good source for men. Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to the growth and repair of tissues, the production of hormones and the formation of red blood cells.
  • Vitamin E. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E. A major antioxidant, this vitamin protects the membrane that surrounds body cells, especially red blood cells and white blood cells (cells of the immune system);
  • Phosphorus. Almonds are a good source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy

    bones and teeth. In addition, it participates, among other things, in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes;
  • Iron. Almond and plain almond butter are good sources of iron for men and sources for women, their needs being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses);
  • Zinc. The almond is a good source of zinc for women and a source for men, their needs being different. Plain almond butter is one source. Zinc participates in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), storage and release of insulin;
  • Calcium. Almond is a source of calcium. Calcium is by far the most abundant mineral in the body. It is mainly stored in the bones, of which it is an integral part. It contributes to the formation of bones and teeth, as well as to the maintenance of their health. Calcium also plays an essential role in blood clotting, maintaining blood pressure and muscle contraction (including the heart);
  • Potassium. Almond and plain almond butter are sources of potassium. In the body, it serves to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus aiding digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses;
  • Vitamin B1. Almond is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, this vitamin is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth;
  • Vitamin B3. Almond is a source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the process of DNA formation, allowing normal growth and development;
  • Folate. Plain almond butter is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

The benefits of almond

Like most oilseeds, almonds have an amazing and unique nutritional profile. Rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vegetable proteins and micronutrients, it is a valuable health ally when integrated into a varied and balanced diet.

Almond, a precious ally to reduce cholesterol

Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oilseeds with various health benefits such as a cholesterol-lowering effect, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of gallstones and removal of the gallbladder, and a reduced risk of colon cancer in women. The amount of nuts and oilseeds to get these benefits most often equates to about five one-ounce (30 g) servings per week.

Several clinical studies have demonstrated the effects of eating almonds on lowering blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. According to epidemiological data, a daily consumption of 30 g of nuts could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 45%, when these foods replace foods high in saturated fat. These benefits could be attributed to the high content of nuts and oilseeds in different components known for their cholesterol-lowering action, such as phytosterols, vegetable proteins and soluble fibres.

An interesting content of phytosterols

Almonds have a high phytosterol content. Indeed, 30 g of almonds (about 25 almonds) contain 34 mg of these compounds. Phytosterols are constituents with a structure very similar to that of cholesterol found in products of animal origin. This resemblance allows phytosterols to compete with cholesterol in the gut and therefore decrease its absorption. In addition, a meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials demonstrated that taking 2 g/day of phytosterols reduced LDL cholesterol levels by 10% and that this reduction could reach 20% in the context of a low-fat diet. saturates and cholesterol. This amount of 2 g/day is practically impossible to achieve through diet alone. It is for this reason that products enriched with phytosterols, such as margarine, have appeared on the market. Even if present in very small quantities, the phytosterols naturally present in foods such as almonds remain interesting for cardiovascular health.

A source of unsaturated fatty acids

More than half of the lipids in almonds are monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid, which is also found in olive and canola oil. A study of more than 80,000 women followed for a period of 14 years revealed that the consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids was linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, a meta-analysis of 27 clinical trials published between 1970 and 1991 illustrates an increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol when carbohydrates are partly replaced by monounsaturated fats in the diet, while this substitution does not affect LDL cholesterol levels. Among all the other shelled fruits and nuts, the almond is the one that contains the least saturated fatty acids (4%).

Almond is rich in dietary fiber

The almond contains a large proportion of fibers of which 80% are insoluble and 20% are soluble. Fiber helps to normalize intestinal transit in addition to having a faster satiating effect. Several studies have shown that a diet high in fiber is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Although the preventive effect has been demonstrated, the role of fibers in the treatment of cancer remains controversial. In addition, soluble fiber promotes the faecal excretion of cholesterol, which leads to a reduction in blood cholesterol levels. A diet rich in soluble fiber may also help normalize blood glucose and insulin levels, which may help in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

An excellent source of vegetable protein

Among the other shelled fruits or nuts, the almond is the one that contains the most protein. The latter are of good quality, but incomplete compared to animal proteins. Indeed, vegetable proteins differ from animal proteins by their amino acid composition. They are generally higher in arginine, but lower in lysine, an amino acid considered essential to the body. An animal study has shown that arginine has a cardioprotective effect by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Almonds also contain a good proportion of arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to have effects on energy metabolism. Indeed, arginine would have thermogenic properties which would increase the oxidation of carbohydrates and lipids via the modulation of genes which regulate the basic energy expenditure. Arginine is also a compound that stimulates the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), a powerful neurotransmitter in the body that promotes vasodilation of blood vessels. Some studies have shown that arginine could help improve blood circulation in the arteries of the heart and thus prevent certain cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, the evidence is still insufficient and other scientific data must come to confirm these results.

Antioxidants to protect the body

Almonds are high in antioxidants, compounds that reduce free radical damage in the body. The latter are very reactive molecules that would be involved in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases related to aging. Among these, vitamin E8 (also called "alpha-tocopherol"), a powerful antioxidant, would have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cognitive decline. Squalenes, precursors of phytosterols, are also found in almonds. Several studies indicate that these compounds would have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects by preventing tumor growth and inactivating many carcinogenic substances. Finally, the skin of almonds contains phenolic compounds which, according to an in vitro study, have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. However, additional studies will have to be carried out before concluding on their effects on humans.

Almond, a slimming food?

Recently, a new nutritional approach has been proposed to reduce blood cholesterol levels: the Portfolio diet. This diet combines four food constituents recognized for their beneficial effects on total cholesterol levels, namely soluble fibers (oats, eggplant, combo), soy protein, phytosterols (enriched margarine) and almonds. The researchers studied the effect of this diet in 34 subjects with high blood cholesterol levels. Adherence to this diet for a period of four weeks resulted in a decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) cholesterol by approximately 30%, compared to 8.5% for the low-fat control diet. without affecting HDL ("good") cholesterol or triglyceride levels. In addition, the Portfolio diet lowered blood cholesterol levels similarly to a drug designed for this purpose (statin). The four components of this diet would have complementary mechanisms, each acting in a different way, which generates a complementary effect on the reduction of LDL cholesterol levels.

In addition, many people limit their intake of nuts and oilseeds for fear that their high caloric content will lead to weight gain. Several epidemiological studies indicate that regular consumption of nuts and oilseeds is not associated, contrary to what many are led to believe, with an increase in body weight. Indeed, certain compounds contained in nuts and oilseed fruits increase satiety and body metabolism and make the absorption of lipids incomplete (nearly 20%), which results in a decrease in energy intake.

 Contraindications and allergies to almond

As we have seen, almonds are a real health ally and have their place in a varied and balanced diet. However, there are some contraindications to its consumption. In fact, oilseeds are among the most allergenic foods and their oxalate content can also be a problem for some people.

Almond and allergic reaction

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), nuts (including all nuts and oilseed fruits, including almonds), are among the foods most frequently associated with allergies. The symptoms of allergy to nuts and oilseeds can be serious and go as far as anaphylactic shock. In addition, it is recommended that people with peanut allergies also avoid consuming other tree nuts and oilseeds (including almonds), since they are often handled and distributed by the same companies that handle and distribute peanuts.

A source of oxalates to limit in case of urinary stones

Some people may be recommended to adopt a diet restricted in oxalates in order to prevent recurrences of kidney stones or urinary stones (also called urolithiasis). Oxalates are compounds found naturally in many foods, including shelled fruits and oilseeds in general. It is therefore preferable that these people avoid consuming it.

Bitter almond, source of hydrocyanic acid

The bitter almond is used in food, but is not found as such on the market because it must be rid of the hydrocyanic acid it contains, this substance being toxic even in small doses.