Remind Me Again: What Are the Health Benefits of Almonds, Exactly?

From almond flour to almond milk, this little nut is a star of the supermarket — and for good reason. Here, all the almond benefits and nutrition facts to know.

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If you aren't already nutty about almonds, their health benefits will change your mind. The delicious nut is chock-full of essential nutrients, including gut-friendly fiber, heart-healthy fats, and a myriad of other vitamins and minerals. Almonds are also super versatile, as they can be used in sweet and savory dishes alike. Ahead, learn all the must-know info about the nut, including the health benefits of almonds and different ways to enjoy them at home.

What Are Almonds?

Almonds are tree nuts that hail from the Mediterranean, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They're also technically seeds, as they grow inside fleshy fruits (aka drupes) on large trees. What's more, almonds are a type of stone fruit, meaning they're related to apricots, plums, peaches, and cherries. (Have you ever noticed how almonds kinda look like stone fruit pits? That's why!) However, unlike their juicy counterparts, almond seeds (or kernels) are the parts you eat, rather than the fleshy outer layers, according to Utah State University.

Almond Nutrition Facts

Almonds might be small, but they pack a nutritional punch with their impressive amounts of protein, monounsaturated ("good") fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (e.g. calcium and magnesium). They're also teeming with potent antioxidants, including flavonoids and vitamin E, according to a 2021 article. (More on that, below.)

Check out the nutritional profile of 22 whole almonds (~1 ounce; dry roasted, without salt), according to the United States Department of Agriculture:

  • 170 calories
  • 6 grams protein
  • 15 grams fat
  • 6 grams carbohydrate
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 1 gram sugar

Health Benefits of Almonds

Before getting into the many health benefits of almonds, let's talk about phytic acid. Phytic acid is a substance found in plants (including almonds) and is the major storage form of the mineral phosphorous; it can decrease the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium in your body, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But you shouldn't be concerned, says Marissa Meshulam, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of MPM Nutrition. "You can still reap the benefits of almonds even if they have some phytates," she says. If you want to reduce the phytic acid in the name of optimal nutrition absorption, you can soak the almonds before eating them, explains Meshulam. Most people do this by soaking almonds in water in a bowl at room temp overnight, according to a 2020 study.

Ward Off Disease

First, a quick refresher: Free radicals are a normal byproduct of basic cellular processes. But environmental stressors such as cigarette smoke and pollution can increase the production of free radicals, resulting in cellular damage called oxidative stress. Over time, this damage can lead to chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Enter: antioxidants, which alter the molecular structure of free radicals, essentially turning them "off" and rendering them harmless, according to Meshulam. And guess what? Almonds are loaded with these powerful compounds, thereby making them a particularly delish way to stave off disease. Specifically, the nuts contain antioxidants such as vitamin E and flavonoids (a type of plant compound), adds Meschulam. Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, according to a 2016 article, further enhancing the disease-busting potential of almonds.

Promote Gut Health

Nuts (such as almonds) contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, according to the University of California Los Angeles. This is stellar news for your gut, as both types of fiber support healthy digestion. Here's the deal: Insoluble fiber, which doesn't dissolve in water, helps move food through your gastrointestinal system. It also bulks up the stool, which is helpful if you're prone to constipation. Meanwhile, soluble fiber (which dissolves in water) turns into a gel in your gut. This can normalize stool consistency — think: firming up loose stool or softening hard stool.

The fiber and flavonoids in nuts, including almonds, also boast prebiotic properties, according to a 2017 scientific review. This means they feed good gut bacteria in the gut, helping said microbes flourish and grow. In fact, according to a 2021 scientific review, almonds in particular can increase the ratio of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut. These effects help prevent dysbiosis (aka an imbalanced gut), thereby thwarting GI issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, according to a 2021 review article.

Control Blood Sugar

As noted earlier, soluble fiber turns into a gel in the GI tract. This slows down the absorption of carbs, which prevents spikes in blood sugar, says Charmaine Jones, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of Food Jonezi. This is noteworthy because blood sugar spikes increase the production of insulin (the hormone that moves glucose into cells), which then works to normalize blood sugar levels. Frequent blood sugar spikes can cause insulin to stop working properly, resulting in poor blood sugar control and type 2 diabetes, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. That said, the high fiber content in almonds can help keep your blood sugar in check.

Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Almonds also support heart health, and it's partly thanks to — surprise! — fiber. See, soluble fiber binds with LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the digestive system, keeping it from entering the bloodstream and traveling to other parts of the body. When this fiber is excreted in the stool, it brings along the cholesterol, ultimately preventing your body from absorbing the "bad" stuff (and negatively impacting blood cholesterol levels). The unsaturated fats in almonds also raise HDL ("good") cholesterol while reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol, according to Jones. These effects are key because high levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. (Read more: These Benefits of Fiber Make It One of the Most Important Nutrients In Your Diet)

And though lower LDL cholesterol levels are ideal, it's still important to protect the LDL cholesterol you do have from oxidative stress. That's where almond antioxidants come in. Essentially, "LDL cholesterol can get oxidized when it interacts with free radicals," says Meshulam. This increases the risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, which reduces blood flow to the heart and increases the chance of heart attack and/or stroke. However, the antioxidants in almonds can stave off LDL cholesterol oxidation, thus protecting your heart.

Promote Brain Health

If you want to eat for brain health, add almonds to your rotation. The nuts contain L-carnitine, a compound derived from lysine, an amino acid. "L-carnitine in almonds can stimulate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in memory and clear [thinking]," says Meshulam. The antioxidants in almonds (think: vitamin E and flavonoids) also help, as they combat oxidative stress in the brain. Otherwise, oxidative damage can lead to neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, according to Meshulam.

Increase Feelings of Fullness

If you're looking for a satisfying and filling snack, munch on some almonds. As noted earlier, the nuts contain protein and fiber — two nutrients that can help you feel satisfied, says Jones. Fiber is also digested slowly, she adds, meaning it stays in the GI tract for a longer time. This can keep you satiated for a longer time, which can be an actual lifesaver when you're rushing out the door or hosting back-to-back virtual meetings.

Potential Risks of Almonds

If you have a history of food allergies or if you're allergic to other stone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.), see an allergist before eating almonds for the first time. Tree nuts, including almonds, are some of the most common allergens, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Possible symptoms of a food allergy include "rashes, hives, nausea, and/or vomiting," says Jones. It's worth noting that even if you're allergic to almonds, you might be able to safely eat other tree nuts (or vice versa), according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. However, the best way to know for sure is to see a doc before noshing on the nut.

Also, if you have a particularly difficult time swallowing or a swallowing disorder (aka dysphagia), the hard texture of almonds may pose a choking hazard, says Jones. So the same advice applies here: Chat with your doc before chowing down on a handful of almonds, as they can let you know if the nuts or certain products (e.g. almond butter) are safe to eat.

How to Buy and Use Almonds

In the supermarket, almonds are sold in several different forms, including raw, roasted, salted, and/or flavored with seasonings. You can buy 'em in the bulk section and in packages, which may include whole, sliced, chopped, or crushed nuts. Almonds may also be processed into different forms, such as almond milk, flour, oil, or butter.

When it comes to almond nutrition, plain raw or dry-roasted varieties are all similar, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So, if you're looking for the healthiest and simplest choice, any of those will do. Craving nuts with a bit more flavor? Keep in mind that you can always season them at home. Otherwise, if you'd like to try a packaged almond product and are watching your sugar and/or sodium intake, look for items without added sodium or sweetener (e.g. unsweetened almond milk).

On that note, the nutrient content of almond products can vary depending on how they're processed. For example, almond flour is just ground almonds, so, like whole almonds, it's still high in protein and fiber, according to a recent article in the journal Food Chemistry X. But almond milk (which is made of water and almonds) only has a few almonds per serving, so it's low in protein/fiber/other nutrients, according to the University of Florida. As for pre-packaged almond items, such as almond butter and snack mixes? These products usually contain additional ingredients, which may include sweeteners, salt, and flavorings. So, for the most nutritious option, look for an item that's made with minimal ingredients and free of added sugars and salt.

Almond flour is great for making gluten-free baked goods, though it can't replace all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. Three-fourths cup of all-purpose flour equals about 1 1/2 cups almond flour, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. However, almond flour has a high moisture content, so you'll likely need to tweak the rest of the recipe. For best results, use an almond flour-specific recipe, such as the one for Easy Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes by food blog Minimalist Baker. Finally, almonds are common ingredients in ready-made foods like granola, protein bars, and nut mixes.

The recommended serving size for almonds is 1.5 ounces, or a handful, per day, says Jones. You can eat the almonds as is — or, if you want to spice things up, add them to different dishes. Almonds work well in both sweet and savory recipes that could use a bit of crunchy texture and nutty flavor. Here are several delicious ways to use almonds a home:

As a topping. Add texture and crunch to your meals by adding sliced almonds to soups, pasta, or salad.

In baked goods. Like all nuts, almonds are delish in baked goods such as baked oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies, or banana bread. (See also: The 5-Ingredient Almond Butter Cookies You'll Want to Make Again and Again)

In nutritious sweet treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth by making almond treats, which adds a wonderfully creamy consistency to no-bake desserts.

With your favorite protein. Almonds can elevate the simplest protein dish while rounding out the textures and flavors. You can also use crushed almonds to coat a protein, as you'd do in this recipe for Marcona almond-crusted chicken.

In smoothies. To give your smoothies a protein boost, add almond milk or almond butter. The latter is especially useful for creating a smoothie with a super thick and creamy consistency. And while the exact amount depends on the other ingredients in the recipe, 1 cup almond milk or 2 tablespoons almond butter tends to be a great place to start.

In condiments. As it turns out, almond butter is super versatile. It can be used to make nutty sauces, as seen in this recipe for beef Satay with spicy almond sauce.

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