Are Almonds Good For You?
Almonds are a food that you hear about a lot. Everywhere you turn, there’s someone to tell you how healthy almonds are. It seems like every “Top health foods” article includes three things: blueberries, spinach, and almonds. We’ll save blueberries and spinach for another day, but today we answer the question, are almonds good for you?
Let’s start with the nutrition facts:
Almonds are nutritious.
First things first, an almond weighs a little over a gram. The above nutrition facts are about 23 whole raw almonds, which comes out to 28 grams. When I look at this, I notice a few things:
- High fat content – You might have heard by now that fat can be good for you. In fact, unsaturated fats high in omega-6 fatty acid, like the fat found in almonds, is actually quite necessary for regulating your metabolic processes.
- Very low net carbs - Total carbs (6g) – Dietary fiber (3g) = Net Carbs (3g). Keeping net carbohydrate intake low is a leading principle in many common diets today, and almonds make a convenient on-the-go snack for those who follow such a diet.
- Excellent source of vitamins/minerals – You can’t see it in the above nutrition label, but almonds have lots of B-vitamins (especially riboflavin) and Vitamin E. This amount (23 almonds) also contains 19% of your daily magnesium and 6% of your daily potassium. Those are two crucial electrolytes that you absolutely need to replenish if you’re exercising or sweating a lot. Overall, almonds are a very nutrient rich food.
- Low sugar – The low sugar content as well as the high fat and fiber content will keep your blood sugar low. In fact, almonds’ blood sugar stabilizing effect makes almonds a great late night snack. If you find yourself craving something late night, almonds are a great way to satisfy an appetite (even with a small serving), and stabilize your blood sugar while you sleep.
- Good source of protein – While most of the calories in almonds come from fat (72% of the calories to be exact), you still get a decent amount of protein in a handful of almonds. Protein is of course necessary for cell repair and muscle recovery, and thus it’s important to eat adequate protein every day (we recommend at least 0.5g/day per pound of body weight). The high fat content in almonds means you’ll still need other protein sources such as eggs, lean meat, or legumes.
Overall, the almond is a highly nutritious nut. For this reason, almond milk also has a number of health benefits. If you’re lactose intolerant, almond milk is an especially useful option for you!
Almonds are brain food.
In late 2012, a study confirmed “Nootropic and hypophagic effects following long-term intake of almonds.” Bear in mind that this was not a human trial, but it is still worth our consideration.
Allow us to elaborate:
- Nootropic: adj. pertaining to a drug that enhances mental functions, such as memory.
- Hypophagia: noun. reduced food intake.
In the study, the rats showed improved memory as well as decreased food consumption. Again, this was not a human trial, so give it a try for yourself. Eat almonds for a week or so and see if you notice any improvement in mental performance (especially memory). If you’re dieting, try adding almonds to your diet and monitor your appetite. The high fat and fiber content will likely reduce cravings and cause some degree of hypophagia, or appetite suppression.
Almonds can lower cholesterol.
Researchers from Temple University investigated an almond-enriched diet as a potential weight loss treatment in obese subjects. After 18 months of the diet, those subjects eating almonds showed no significant difference in weight lost versus those in the control group. However, the almond eaters did show improvements in lipid profiles: lower cholesterol and lower triglycerides. That makes almonds a great heart healthy snack.
So are almonds good for you?
Next time you find yourself wondering if almonds are good for you, remember that they are great in moderation. Like all nuts, almonds are high in fat and therefore calorie dense. If you’re interested in losing weight, be sure to monitor your portion size and keep your net calorie intake negative. On the other hand, if you’re trying to gain weight, almonds are a great way to boost your calorie intake (as long as you don’t let that darned hypophagia set in). Really, the answer to the question ”are almonds good for you?” varies based on your health and fitness goals.
Overall, almonds are good for you, and we officially recognize them as Good Food.
 “Nootropic and hypophagic effects following long term intake of almonds (Prunus amygdalus) in rats.” Haider S, Batool Z, Haleem DJ. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588464.
 ”A randomized trial of the effects of an almond-enriched, hypocaloric diet in the treatment of obesity.” Foster GD, Shantz KL, Vander Veur SS, Oliver TL, Lent MR, Virus A, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Zemel BS, Gilden-Tsai A. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22743313.