By Garry Messick
Almonds are the snack of choice among informed, health-conscious consumers.
The almond, contrary to popular belief, is not a nut, but the seed of the almond tree, which is native to the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent.
Plant sterols, or phytosterols, are a class of compounds similar to cholesterol that may inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce cholesterol in the blood. Almonds are an excellent source of phytosterols and research has shown beneficial impacts on LDL cholesterol.1
In addition, almonds may play a role in normalizing a particularly dangerous blood lipid abnormality—the small, dense LDL particles that are strongly atherogenic and toxic to the delicate endothelial cells that line blood vessels.2
Reduced Heart-Disease Risk
When added to the diet of subjects with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) almonds have been found to significantly reduce risk factors of coronary heart disease. Researchers attribute this effect at least in part to almonds’ fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fatty acid content.3
Research shows that a low-calorie diet that includes almonds leads to greater and better-sustained weight loss compared to diets without them.4 The same study found that an almond-infused diet improves a preponderance of the abnormalities linked to metabolic syndrome.
Digestive System Benefits
Research has shown almonds and almond oil can help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and are associated with a reduced incidence of colon cancer.5
Almonds are very nutritious and research suggests that almond milk may be an efficacious substitute for cow’s milk for those who are lactose intolerant, or have a cow-milk allergy.6
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- Br J Nutr. 2004 Oct;92(4):657-63.
- Circulation. 2002;106(11):1327-32.
- Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(11):1365-72.
- Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010;16(1):10-2.
- Minerva Pediatr. 2005;57(4):173-80.