Almonds are nutrient powerhouses. Whether consumed whole, chopped, sliced, or ground into almond flour or almond butter, this deliciously satisfying nut truly deserves its superfood status. Here are six research-backed almond benefits, and simple ways to incorporate them into meals, snacks, and treats.
Almonds are nutrient-rich
An ounce of almonds, which is about a quarter cup or 23 whole nuts, provides a generous amount of heart healthy fat, along with 6 g of plant protein, 4 g of filling fiber (13% of the daily minimum), half of the daily target for vitamin E, and 20% for magnesium—along with B vitamins and smaller amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium.
Vitamin E—which acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from damage that can lead to premature aging and disease—also supports immunity, reduces inflammation, helps widen blood vessels to improve blood flow, and is linked to protection against neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s. Magnesium plays a role in brain health, mood, and sleep, as well as the regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure. The overall nutrient package almonds provide also helps protect bone density.
They’re packed with antioxidants
Almonds are a vital source of antioxidants, much of which is concentrated in their brown layer of skin. One study (partly funded by the Almond Board of California), found that in men and women who consumed 2.5 ounces of almonds daily, blood levels of biomarkers for oxidative stress decreased by as much as 27% over one month. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to counter their harmful effects. Scientists believe that the antioxidants in almonds are responsible for the protective impact.
Almonds can help gut health
Both raw and roasted almonds have been found to act as prebiotics, which serve as food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut linked to immunity, anti-inflammation, and mental health. In a recent study, college students were randomly assigned to snack on almonds or graham crackers. After eight weeks, researchers observed that the almond eaters experienced important changes in their gut microbiome makeup, including a decrease in a pathogenic bacterium, and an increase in the diversity of bacteria tied to positive outcomes, including weight management, insulin function, cholesterol regulation, and anti-inflammation.
They keep your heart healthy
Almonds protect your heart in several ways. The nuts have been shown to maintain or increase “good” heart protective HDL cholesterol, while lowering “bad” LDL levels.
Almonds and other nuts also help reduce blood pressure and improve vascular function, meaning they help blood vessels relax and reduce artery stiffness. In one study in people with high cholesterol, two groups were randomly assigned to a cholesterol-lowering diet that contained either 1.5 ounces of almonds, or the same number of calories from a nut free muffin. After two weeks the nut eaters experienced a reduced LDL while maintaining HDL. The almonds eaters also had reductions in belly and leg fat.
Almonds can aid weight regulation
The consumption of tree nuts, including almonds, has been shown to reduce body mass index, or BMI (a measure of weight compared to height) and reduce waist measurements. In addition to being satiating, the combo of healthy fat, plant protein, and fiber in almonds boosts feelings of fullness and delays the return of hunger. Also, newer research finds that almonds actually contain about 20% fewer calories than the labels state, because some of the calories are not absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream.
They’re good for skin
We know that good fats support skin health, but almonds may actually help turn back the clock when it comes to skin aging. In a 2019 randomized controlled study.
In the study, healthy postmenopausal women were divided into two groups. For 16 weeks one group consumed 20% of their daily calories as almonds, and the other ate the same percentage as non-almond fare. A facial photograph and image analysis system was used to assess wrinkle width and severity at the start of the study, and then eight and 16 weeks later. Researchers found that the almond group had significantly decreased wrinkle severity and width compared to the non-almond eaters. Not a bad perk for a tasty food with so many additional benefits!
How to add more almonds to your meals
Almonds are an easy portable snack as is, but they can also be incorporated into meals. Whip almond butter into a smoothie, drizzle it over overnight oats, use as a dip for fresh fruit or as the base for energy balls—combined with add-ins like minced dried fruit, chopped dark chocolate, spices, and seeds.
Coat baked or sautéed fruit with a crumble topping made from almond butter, a touch of maple syrup, rolled oats, and cinnamon. Sprinkle almonds onto a salad, cooked veggies, or a stir-fry. Use almond flour in place of bread crumbs to garnish lentil soup, spaghetti squash, or hummus, or in place of all-purpose flour in pancakes and baked goods. I also love to toss veggies with a savory almond butter sauce made with veggie broth, minced garlic, fresh grated ginger, and crushed red pepper.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.