Health

Health Benefits of nuts: Almond nut

All year round, you can get peanuts (groundnut) especially shelled ones to buy in the market but presently, freshly harvested ones are being sold around. In fact, you can get cooked ones to buy. I have discussed peanuts in this series, taking advantage of the fact that it is in season.

If you have ever visited my alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University, you will notice that a particular tree is planted everywhere as an ornamental plant. It is popularly called fruit.

The English name is tropical almond. The botanical name isTerminalia catappa and it belongs to Combretaceae family. After eating the fleshy part, some people break the shell to remove the seed and eat.

Contrary to people’s belief, Prunus amygdalus also known as Prunus dulcis which belongs to Rosaceae family is the plant that bears the almond popularly sold in stores notTerminalia catappa. Now you know the difference between the two.

Before I proceed, let me talk about the confusing local names given to plants even on the internet. While preparing for this article, I saw a picture of Prunus amygdalus

(almond nut) on Google and the Yoruba name attached to it is ofio! That is wrong because ofio is tiger nut. I will discuss Prunus amygdalus this week and before I start getting a continual influx of text messages asking for the local name, let me announce that it is an exotic nut too. Let us be contented with the fact that we can get them to buy here in Nigeria instead of bothering about the local names they do not have.

Prunus amygdalus also known as Prunus dulcis is a species of tree native to Iran. It is among the world’s most popular tree nuts. It is highly nutritious and rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

The fat in almonds is unsaturated (healthy fat).These fats are good for your heart because they can lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol.

There are bitter and sweet almonds. Bitter almonds which tend to be a bit smaller and have pointier ends are scientifically called Prunus dulcis var. Amara, the word amara means “bitter” in Latin. You are not likely to munch on a handful of bitter almonds because as the name suggests, the nut does not taste good.

They usually give off a considerably stronger scent and are often used to make non-edible products like soaps or perfumes. Sweet almonds have a much less intense aroma, they are the ones considered safe and are the ones sold in grocery stores.

Almond nut has oil too. It is heart-healthy oil that contains monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. It is often added to many beauty products for the hair and skin and can be bought as a cooking oil. There is almond flour too and it is a good substitute for wheat flour. The nut can be made into flour.The milk is a good alternative to dairy milk too.

Some of the benefits

Almonds are high in vitamin E: Vitamin E is a family of fat-soluble antioxidants. These antioxidants tend to build up in cell membranes in your body, protecting your cells from oxidative damage. Almonds are among the world’s best sources of vitamin E. Several studies have linked higher vitamin E intake with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease

Almonds can assist with blood sugar control: Nuts are low in carbs but high in healthy fats, protein and fiber. This makes them a perfect choice for people with diabetes. Another boon of almonds is their remarkably high amount of magnesium.

Magnesium is a mineral involved in more than 300 bodily processes, including blood sugar control. Interestingly, 25–38 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes are deficient in magnesium.

Correcting this deficiency significantly lowers blood sugar levels and improves insulin function. People without diabetes also see major reductions in insulin resistance when supplementing with magnesium. This indicates that high-magnesium foods such as almonds may help prevent metabolic syndrome.

Lowers blood pressure: The magnesium in almonds may additionally help lower blood pressure levels. A deficiency in magnesium is strongly linked to high blood pressure regardless of whether you are overweight. Studies show that correcting a magnesium deficiency can lead to major reductions in blood pressure.

Almonds can lower cholesterol levels: A 16-week study in 65 people with prediabetes found that a diet providing 20 per ent of calories from almonds lowered LDL cholesterol levels. Another study found that eating 42 grams of almonds per day lowered LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining “good” HDL cholesterol. Participants also lost belly fat.

Eating almonds reduces hunger, lowering overall calorie intake: Almonds are low in carbs and high in protein and fiber. Both protein and fiber are known to increase feelings of fullness and this can help you eat fewer calories.

One four-week study in 137 participants showed that a daily 43-gram serving of almonds significantly reduced hunger and the desire to eat.

Almonds may be effective for weight loss: In one study, a low-calorie diet with 84 grams of almonds increased weight loss by 62 per cent compared to a diet enriched with complex carbohydrates.

Another study in 100 overweight women found that those consuming almonds lost more weight than those on a nut-free diet. They also showed improvements in waist circumference and other health markers.

  • Almonds are good for the eyes
  • They prevent cancer
  • Good for the brain
  • Good for anemia
  • Good for the nerves
  • The oil is good for stretch mark and the hair

Scientific study

In a study titled, “The nutritional and health benefits of almonds: a healthy food choice,’’ by Richardson et al, the conclusion is that nuts as almonds are considered to be an important component of a healthy diet.

In a study titled, “The protective effect of peanut, walnut, and almond consumption on the development of breast cancer,’’

Alejandro D Soriano-Hernandez et al, the conclusion is that high consumption of peanuts, walnuts, or almonds significantly reduced the risk for breast cancer by two and three times.

In a study titled, “Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia,’’ by Zehra Batool et al, the results show that almond administration for 28 days significantly improved memory retention.

In a study titled, “Almonds and Cardiovascular Health: A Review,’’ by Soumik Kalita et al, Almonds have been shown to reduce LDL-C (bad cholesterol) which is a known risk factor for coronary heart disease in several well conducted clinical trials. Studies have also looked at the effect of almonds on HDL-C (good cholesterol) and it has been found that consumption of almonds have helped maintain or even increase HDL-C levels.

The skin of the nut contains tannins which prevent the complete absorption of nutrients and is also difficult to digest, that is why it is recommended that it is soaked before use. It is completely safe to have unpeeled almonds. You can roast the nuts and snack on them.

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