Note to readers: Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.
Adding nuts and seeds to daily diet is the most convenient and effective way to support your weight loss journey. They are not only easy to carry and consume, but also keep you full even with small doses. A handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachio, cashews can provide you a range of good quality nutrients and can also prevent onset of many chronic diseases. Almonds can be consumed and used in many ways. You can roast or soak it for an energetic snack or turn it into a vegan milk. Almonds can also be externally applied for fixing skin issues. Besides studies confirm that regular consumption of almonds can boost your cardiovascular health preventing heart disorders, and also keep blood sugar levels in check. (Also read: Soaked almonds vs soaked walnuts; is one healthier than the other? Know benefits from experts)
No wonder people in ancient times trusted almonds not just for culinary uses but also for a host of medicinal issues. Almonds, for instance, were used to create tonics in Ayurveda to increase vigour and energy. The nut that dates back to thousands of years old also finds mention in ancient texts like Bible and are believed to have originated in the Middle East. From respiratory to digestive issues, almonds were widely and frequently used in earlier times.
“Almonds are packed with healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. The health benefits of almonds include lower blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. They can also curb hunger and promote weight loss, particularly in the belly area. However, it’s important to note that despite their health advantages, the role of nuts in treating obesity remains unclear due to their high energy density. Two B vitamins contribute to maintaining normal skin: riboflavin and niacin. Almonds provide 25% of the Daily Value for riboflavin and 6% for niacin. Additionally, almonds are a good source of copper, which plays a role in skin and hair pigmentation. Linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid found in almonds, helps prevent skin dryness,” says Clara Taniya, Dietitian, Dept of Clinical Nutrition, Amrita Hospital, Kochi.
“Almonds contain healthy unsaturated fats, predominantly MUFA known as monounsaturated fat (66% of total fat), and have a low proportion of saturated fat (7% of total fat). Being protein-rich source, they lead to improved endothelial function. Almonds contain around 6g of protein per handful of 30g which makes them a good alternative for vegetarians or vegans when compared to meat, fish and poultry. In particular almonds contain the amino acid L-arginine which helps increase the bio-availability or nitric oxide and improve endothelial dysfunction,” says Riya Desai, Senior Dietitian, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road
“Being high in calcium, they work wonders for bone, teeth, nerve and muscle tissue health. One serving of almonds (30g) provides about 75 mg or 7% of the daily calcium requirement (RDA) for individuals aged from 18 to 55 years. Calcium is essential for bone, teeth, nerve and muscle tissue health. This makes almonds an alternative natural source of calcium for those who cannot or choose not to eat dairy,” says Desai.
How were almonds used in ancient times?
Since ancient times, almonds have been used in many different cultures. They were admired for their medicinal qualities in addition to their nutritional advantages. Here are some traditional uses for almonds and some of their health benefits explained by Dr Neeti Sharma, Sr. Consultant – Nutrition & Dietitics at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Gurugram.
- Almonds were a common ingredient in cosmetic preparations in ancient time. Applying almond oil to the skin moisturizes and nourishes it, maintaining the health and beauty of the skin.
- Almond-based mixtures were used as therapeutic elixirs in ancient medical systems. Almonds, for instance, were used to create tonics in the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda that were thought to increase vigour and energy.
- Various skin diseases, such as eczema and rashes, were treated topically with almond paste and oil. They were valued for their moisturizing and calming effects.
- Almonds were regarded as having analgesic qualities. Headaches and other forms of pain were treated with products containing almonds.
- Cognitive health: Almonds were regarded as a food that may enhance cognition in some prehistoric societies because of the notion that they have memory-enhancing and cognitive-enhancing capabilities.
Benefits of almonds
Shamika Girkar (Dietician) and Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker (Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon), Saifee, Apollo Spectra and Namaha Hospitals, Mumbai share benefits of almonds.
Nutrient-rich: Almonds are packed with essential nutrients, including healthy fats, fibre, protein, vitamins (especially vitamin E), and minerals (like magnesium and calcium).
Heart health: Almonds contain good fat- monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA, 60%), followed by polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA, 30%). Almonds may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels to some extent and improving overall heart health due to their healthy fats and antioxidants.
Weight management: Despite being calorie-dense, almonds can aid in weight management as their high fibre and protein content can help increase feelings of fullness. However, it is important to keep a check on portion size.
Blood sugar control: Almonds have a low glycaemic index and can help regulate blood sugar levels, making them a good choice for individuals with diabetes.
Skin health: The vitamin E in almonds may contribute to healthier skin by protecting it from UV damage and promoting skin hydration.
Bone health: Almonds are a good source of calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth.
Digestive health: Recent research has confirmed the pre-biotic potential of almonds. The fibre in almonds can aid in digestion and help prevent constipation.
“Iron and zinc content help to boost immunity and energy to carry our daily tasks with efficiency. Iron is an important mineral involved in transportation of nutrients, maintaining oxygen levels of the body via haemoglobin and is also important for energy production. Zinc is known to be involved in development and maintenance of immune system cells. Almonds contain plant iron and zinc, which are important minerals especially for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet as they do not consume fish, eggs or meat. One can increase the plant iron absorption by adding a source of Vitamin C to it,” says Riya Desai.
“Vitamin E in almond can help support heart health. Almonds are high in vitamin E content providing over 70% of the RDA in just one serving. Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that can help maintain a healthy heart. Plant sterols in almonds contain 197mg of plant sterols per 100g. Plant sterols can help lower cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Almonds are low in saturated fat, high in mono and polyunsaturated fats and contain fibre, phytosterols, plant protein and many other unique cardioprotective nutrients,” says Desai.
Effective in managing diabetes
“Almonds are effective in managing diabetes. They have a rich fiber content. Fibre is universally known to control sugar release and maintain sugar levels. Adding almonds to carbohydrate-rich meals lowers the overall GI of that meal, which can help slow the rise in blood glucose levels when the food is consumed. Almonds also support weight loss being rich in fibre. Consumption of almonds improves appetite control and increase satiety. Biological mechanism also shows that nuts have a thermogenic effect, and this can in turn lead to increased energy expenditure. The fat in almonds is stored within its cell walls, that in turn impacts the amount of fat available for absorption and is less bio-accessible leading to incomplete fat absorption in the gut. This decreased absorption of fat in the body may also be a reason why almonds promote weight maintenance and loss Further, evidence suggests that we may only absorb 70% of the total calories contained in almonds,” adds Desai.
How to add almond to the diet
Shamika Girkar and Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker say sliced almonds can be added to yogurt, oatmeal, or salads. Almond butter can be used as a spread on toast or in smoothies. Almond flour can be incorporated into baking recipes as a gluten-free alternative while almond milk can be used as a dairy-free beverage or in recipes that call for milk.
Riya Desai shares more tips:
Snacking: Eat a handful of raw or roasted almonds as a healthy snack. Carrying a snack box filled with 30g of almonds and consuming as a snack at work/between lectures or meetings /traveling can make a great difference in an individual’s health.
Smoothies: Blend almonds into your smoothies for added creaminess and nutrition.
Salads: Sprinkle sliced or slivered almonds over salads to enhance texture and flavour.
Cut fruit: Fruits can be topped with crushed almonds that add a crunchy texture to the fruit and also provide a lot of benefits.
Almond milk: Substitute regular milk with almond milk in various recipe. It’s a great alternative for vegan individuals as well. It’s an excellent substitution and if every individual replaces the regular milk with almond milk once a week, it will provide amazing health benefits.
Dr Neeti Sharma shares additional ways to include almonds in diet:
- By blending almonds with water and removing the pulp, you may make almond milk at home. Use it in baking and coffee preparations as a dairy-free milk substitute.
- Vegetables with almond crust: For a nutritious side dish, bake veggies like asparagus, zucchini, or green beans after coating them in almond meal.
- Add some sliced almonds, spread almond butter on whole-grain bread and top it with banana slices or honey to make toast.
Who shouldn’t have almonds?
“People with nut allergies should avoid them. People with kidney problems may need to monitor their almond intake due to their oxalate content, which can contribute to kidney stone formation in excessive amounts,” says Girkar and Dr Bhasker.
“Almonds should be completely avoided by people with almond allergies, and they should only be consumed in moderation by people with gallbladder problems or other dietary restrictions,” says Dr Neeti Sharma.
Interesting facts about almonds
Riya Desai shares some interesting facts about almonds:
- Almonds are seeds, not true nuts, and are botanically related to peaches and cherries.
- California is the largest producer of almonds globally.
- Almonds are one of the earliest domesticated tree nuts, dating back to ancient times.
- Incorporating almonds into your diet can bring about numerous health benefits, but always consult a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes.
How many almonds can one have in a day?
“For those seeking to harness the benefits of almonds, a daily intake of 10-15 grams is practical, as opposed to the recommended 20-50 grams,” says Girkar and Dr Bhasker.
Clara Taniya shares:
One ounce of almond contains:
Energy: 172. 72 kcal
Carbohydrates: 2.98 g
Protein: 2.98 g
Fat: 16.7 g
Total fibre: 3.7 gm
Courtesy – www.hindustantimes.com