If you ask your doctor or dietitian how you can improve your diet, she'll probably recommend including some nuts in your diet. Almonds are one type of nut that can accent many types of food but also help reduce your risk of various health problems, according to Harvard Health Publications.
Reduced Heart Disease Risk
Aim for at least four handful-sized servings of almonds and other seeds, nuts and legumes per week, recommends the American Heart Association. Almonds are among the many nuts that contain large quantities of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are helpful in reducing your heart disease risk if you eat them to replace saturated or trans fats because they help reduce “bad” cholesterol levels and reduce plaque buildup in your arteries. Another heart-healthy perk of eating almonds is that they contain about 10 to 20 percent of your daily magnesium needs; being too low in magnesium can increase your blood pressure and contribute to heart attacks.
Reduced Alzheimer’s Risk
A 2005 study at the University of Illinois-Chicago found that mice with an Alzheimer’s-like disease were more likely to perform better on a memory test after they ate an almond-rich diet for four months when compared to mice who ate the standard diet, according to a “USA Today” article on the study. The lead researcher, Neelima Chauhan, claimed that the almonds contain substances that act much like drugs used for treating Alzheimer’s patients. However, more research would need to be done on human subjects to find a clearer link. Chauhan also admitted that consuming almonds may not help humans suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
You may be more likely to eat a healthier diet overall when you include almonds in your diet, according to a 2007 study in the “British Journal of Nutrition.” In the experiment, researchers studied the lifestyles of 43 men and 38 women for six months and proceeded to tell the participants to eat 2 oz. or ¼ cup of almonds per day for six months without giving any additional instruction on changing their eating habits. Researchers found that study participants naturally began eating more healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, vegetable protein, copper and magnesium and cutting back on their intake of trans fats, animal proteins, cholesterol, sugars and sodium than before. All of these health-affirming eating habits can help reduce chronic health problems such as heart disease.
Almonds are rich in protein and fiber, which help you stay satiated longer. They also contain magnesium, a mineral that helps your body regulate its blood sugar. With these effects combined, you are less likely to crave food, overeat and gain weight, according to Dr. David Katz, a Yale University School of Medicine professor quoted in “Fitness” magazine. However, because almonds contain about 9 calories per gram, you may end up eating too many calories and counteracting the benefits if you eat more than about a daily handful of almonds. Find ways to add extra crunch and flavor to your meals with almonds rather than making almonds a meal in themselves. For instance, chop almonds and add them to yogurt or slice almonds and put them in a stir fry or chicken salad.
By Christa Miller