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Fortunately, the delicately flavored
and versatile almond is available
throughout the year tomake a
healthy and tasty addition to both
sweet and savory dishes. Although
packaged almonds are available
year round, they are the freshest in
mid-summer, which is when they
are at the height of their season.
The almond that we think of as a
nut is technically the seed of the
fruit of the almond tree, a medium-
size tree that bears fragrant pink
and white flowers. Like its cousins,
the peach, cherry and apricot trees,
the almond tree bears fruits with
stone-like seeds (or pits) within.
The seed of the almond fruit is
what we refer to as the almond
Health Benefits
Lower LDL-Cholesterol and Reduce
Your Risk of Heart Disease
A high-fat food that's good for
your health? That's not an
oxymoron, its almonds. Almonds
are high in monounsaturated fats,
the same type of health-promoting
fats as are found in olive oil, which
have been associated with
reduced risk of heart disease. Five
large human epidemiological
studies, including the Nurses
Health Study, the Iowa Health
Study, the AdventistHealth Study
and the Physicians Health Study, all
found that nut consumption is
linked to a lower risk for heart
disease. Researchers who studied
data from the Nurses Health Study
estimated that substituting nutsfor
an equivalent amount of
carbohydrate in an average
dietresulted in a 30% reduction in
heart disease risk. Researchers
calculated even more impressive
risk reduction--45%--when fat
from nuts was substituted for
saturated fats (found primarily
found in meat and dairy products).
A study published in the British
Journal of Nutrition indicates that
when foods independently known
to lower cholesterol, suchas
almonds, are combined in a
healthy way of eating, the
beneficial effects are additive. In
this study of 12 patients with
elevated LDL cholesterol levels,
adiet containing almonds and
other nuts, plant sterols (also
found in nuts), soy protein, and
soluble fiber (in high amounts in
beans, oats, pears) reduced blood
levels of all LDL fractions including
small dense LDL (the type that most
increases risk for cardiovascular
disease) with near maximal
reductions seen after only 2
In addition to their cholesterol-
lowering effects, almonds' ability
to reduce heart disease risk may
also be partly due to the
antioxidant action of the vitamin E
found in the almonds, as well as to
the LDL-lowering effect of
almonds' monounsaturated fats.
(LDL is the form of cholesterol that
hasbeen linked to atherosclerosis
and heart disease). When almonds
are substituted for more
traditional fats in human feeding
trials, LDL cholesterol can be
reduced from 8 to 12%.
In addition to healthy fats and
vitamin E, a quarter-cup of
almonds contains
almost 99 mg of magnesium
(that's 24.7% of the daily value for
this important mineral), plus 257
mg of potassium .
Magnesium is Nature's own
calcium channel blocker. When
there is enough magnesium
around, veins and arteries breathe
a sigh of relief and relax, which
lessens resistance and improves
the flow of blood, oxygen and
nutrients throughout the body.
Studies show that a deficiency of
magnesium is not only
associatedwith heart attack but
that immediately following a heart
attack, lack of sufficient
magnesium promotes free
radicalinjury to the heart.
Potassium, an important electrolyte
involved in nerve transmission and
the contractionof all muscles
including the heart,is another
mineral that is essential for
maintaining normal blood
pressure and heart function.
Almonds promote your
cardiovascular health by providing
257 mg of potassium and only 0.3
mg of sodium, making almonds an
especially good choice to in
protecting against high blood
pressure and atherosclerosis.
Almonds Provide Double-Barreled
Protection againstDiabetes and
Cardiovascular Disease
Lessening after-meal surges in
blood sugar helps protect against
diabetes and cardiovascular
disease, most likely by lessening
the increase incholesterol-
damaging free radicals that
accompanies large elevations in
blood sugar. This is one reason
why low- glycemic index diets
result in lower risk ofdiabetes and
heart disease.
Almonds appear to not only
decrease after-meal rises in blood
sugar, but also provide
antioxidants to mop up the smaller
amounts of free radicals that still
result. (Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW,
Journal of Nutrition )
Researchers fed 15 healthy
subjects 5 meals providing a
comparable amount of
carbohydrate, fat and protein:
3test meals (almonds and bread,
parboiled rice, and instant mashed
potatoes) and 2 bread control
meals. Blood samples, taken before
each meal and 4 hours afterwards,
showed levelsof protective
antioxidants increased after the
almond meal,but decreased after
the other meals. And not only did
the almond meal increase
antioxidantlevels, but unlike the
other foods, almonds also lowered
the rise in blood sugar and insulin
seen after eating.
Further research shows that eating
almonds along with a highglycemic
index food significantly lowers the
glycemic index of the meal and
lessens the rise in blood sugar
after eating. (Jones AR, Kendall CW,
Metabolism )
In this study, after an
overnight10-12 hour fast, 9
healthy volunteers were randomly
fed 3 test meals and 2 white bread
(high glycemic) control meals on
separate days. Each meal contained
50 grams of carbohydrate from
white bread eaten either alone or
in combination with 1, 2, or 3
ounces of almonds. To check
subjects' rise in blood sugar, blood
samples were taken for glucose
analysis immediately after eating,
and at 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120
Eating almonds reduced the
glycemic index (GI) of the meal and
subjects' rise in blood sugar in a
dose-dependent manner - the
more almonds consumed,
thelower the meal's GI and the less
the rise in subjects' blood sugar
after eating.
When one-ounce of almonds was
eaten along with white bread, the
GI of the meal (105.8) was
comparable to eating white bread
alone, but when two ounces of
almonds were consumed with the
white bread, the GI dropped to 63,
and when 3 ounces of
almonds were eaten,the GI was
only 45.2 - less than half the GI of
the white bread only meal.
Subjects' blood sugar rose 2.8
mmol/L after eating only white
bread. When one ounce of
almonds was eaten with the bread,
blood sugar rose 2.2 mmol/L.
Eating two ounces of almonds
with the bread resultedin a rise in
blood sugar of 2.0 mmol/L, and
eating three ouncesof almonds
caused blood sugar to rise only 1.6
mmol/L - less than half the rise
seen after eating white bread
Practical Tips: Don't just enjoy
almonds as a between-meal snack.
Spread a little almond butter on
your toast or down the center of a
stalk of celery. Add a handful of
lightly roasted almonds to your
salad or chop and use as a topping
for pasta, steamed or healthy
sautéed vegetables. When eating
foods with a higher glycemic
index, including almonds in the
meal canhelp keep your blood
sugar under control.

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