New Delhi: Almonds have been revered by cultures throughout history to the point that royalty was conferred upon them- as “the king of nuts”.
So far, this royal status was bestowed primarily on anecdotal evidence (grandma’s intuitive wisdom). In the recent past, scientific evidence has started emerging about almonds health-promoting benefits.
Am I really the King of nuts?
Hi, I am almond- your humble tree nut! Scientifically speaking, I am not a nut, but a seed and my scientific name are Prunus Dulcis. I was born about 6,000 years ago and can trace my roots to central and southwest Asia. Australia, Spain, Iran, USA, and Morocco – make up for more than 90% of my global supply – I am grown in limited volumes in beautiful hill states of India too. Although you will find my sibling varieties with subtle differences in crunchiness, sweetness, and softness by different names- Mamra, Gurbani, Californian, and European Almonds, we all still share a very similar nutrient profile.
My Nutrient Profile
Just a handful of me or 23 pieces weigh an ounce (28 grams). I provide a high amount of protein, fiber, calcium, Vitamin B2, B3, and E, in only 164 calories. With just one handful of me, I can meet- 36% of your Daily Value Requirement (DVR) of Manganese, and Vitamin E and 20% of your DVR of Magnesium.
And my unique Lipid profile amongst all the nuts- the ratio of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) to saturated fatty Acids (SFA) -perhaps hold the key to my distinctive health benefits.
My Health Benefits
In 2003 the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the body of scientific evidence related to Tree nuts and cardiovascular disease and ruled that “Scientific evidence suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
An extensive review of the latest scientific research from across the world, comprising of recent epidemiological studies, clinical trials, and meta-analysis found the following scientific evidence about my health benefits.
Growing Scientific Pieces of Evidence:
1. The PERIMED study 2003-11: In one of the ten most important medical Randomized Control Trials (RCT) of the last decade involving 7447 persons, people who were given about 1 ounce of mixed tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts) suffered about 30 % fewer heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from cardiovascular causes over the next five years compared to the controls who were discouraged from eating nuts. See: PMID 23866098, 23432189, and 24573661.
2. Almonds and heart protection: It is well-documented that due to their genetic makeup, Indians are more prone to heart diseases than Caucasians. A recent April 2018 study and meta-analysis assessed the effect of Almonds in the South Asian (particularly Indian) context and cites randomized controlled crossover study, conducted over a period of six weeks and concluded: Daily consumption of around 1.5 ounces (45 gram) of almonds can help reduce LDL-C (Bad Cholesterol)- one of the most important risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) in Indians. Another intervention study (2018) involving 97 dyslipidemic patients found regular almond oil consumption could improve total cholesterol and LDL levels but did not significantly affect the triglyceride and HDL.
3. Almonds and diabetes: A 12-week randomized crossover clinical trial in 2011 on 20 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus found incorporation of 2 ounces (60 gram) of almonds into a healthy diet has beneficial effects on adiposity, glycemic control (lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting glucose) , and the lipid profile, thereby potentially decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
4. Almonds, magnesium and diabetes connection: Experimental studies have suggested that dietary magnesium intake (such as Magnesium rich almonds) may reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a 2012 study, researchers found that long-term high blood sugar levels may cause a loss of magnesium via urine. Because of this, people with diabetes may be at a greater risk for magnesium deficiency.
5. Almonds and blood pressure: A randomized controlled 12-wk clinical trial of 86 healthy adults (with BMI of 25-40) in 2016 concluded: Moderate almond consumption by compliant overweight and obese individuals during energy restriction results in greater proportional reductions of truncal and total body fat as well as diastolic BP and hence may help to reduce metabolic disease risk in obesity.
6. Almonds a healthful snacking option: An Australian study in 2013 involving 137 participants who took 1.5 ounces of almonds daily for 4 weeks showed reduced hunger and desire to eat (increased satiety) and importantly, did not increase their risk for weight gain.
7. Almonds may boost immunity: Prebiotics play a significant role in maintaining the homeostatic immune function in our body A study in 2014 investigating the prebiotic effects of almond and almond skin intake in healthy humans concluded: Almond and almond skin possess potential prebiotic effect.
Lest I sound conceited, I should rest my case for now and let evidence-based science get to know more about me in times to come. Meanwhile, keep in touch with just a handful of me.
Epilogue: Not long ago in an open house discussion Mr. Amit Lohani, Founder Director, Forum of India Food Importers’ (FIFI), said, “Despite the mounting scientific evidence and regardless of being applauded by doctors numerous times, a handful of “the king of nuts” still eludes most Indians barring a few.
Rising landed prices of almonds (partly due to depreciating rupee, increased custom tariff, global trade outlook, and high Goods and Service Tax) act as a deterrent to their healthy consumption.” He was also quoted saying, “Our members represent about 70 percent of almond trade in India and it is our responsibility to ensure that Indian consumers have access to this health nut.
Compared to the consumption of 1000 gram in several developed countries, the annual per capita consumption of almonds in India remains abysmally low at 70 gram.”