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Health Food of the month - Almonds

December 2019

An Xmas spread of oranges and almonds
Almonds are tasty and nutritious

Previous Health Foods of the Month...





Diet & Supplements Index

Almonds creep into many meals at Christmas, with traditional recipes for cakes, sweets and of course marzipan all stipulating almond or almond meal as an ingredient. Almonds are also very popular as a tasty nut to accompany all those Christmas tipples!

But we shouldn’t be adding or eating almond just for its lovely delicate flavour. Almonds have been described as one of the most perfect foods because of their health benefits, and certainly they are a nut that can play a useful part in any healthy diet.

Almonds are not technically a nut at all. The edible part, once the surrounding shell has been removed, is actually a seed. Almonds are related to peaches and apricots and originated in the middle east although now America is the largest producer.

Weight for weight, almonds beat almost all other nuts in their supply of fibre, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin; and that is only a start.

While eating a handful of almonds might add over 140 calories to your diet, this is not a standout figure compared with other nuts, and certainly well offset by the high levels of nutrients this will provide.

For instance, this handful of almonds, say around 23, will offer 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fibre, 35 per cent of the DV (recommended daily value) of Vitamin E; 20 per cent DV of magnesium; 20 per cent DV of riboflavin; 8 per cent DV of calcium and 6 per cent DV of potassium...and that is just a handful of these nuts.

Another good aspect is that almonds are a low glycemic index food. This means the carbohydrates are boken down more slowly and won’t cause that rapid increasein blood glucose caused by foods with a high glycemic index such as white bread and sugary drinks.

Almonds do contain a fairly high amount of fat, up to 14 grams for a once ounce serving. But again it is good news because around two thirds of this is the heart healthy monounsaturated fat.

There are a few things to note when eating almonds. Try and keep the brown layer of skin on when eating. It may be tempting to peel them, but the skin is not only totally edible, but it also contains most of the powerful antioxidants found in almonds. If you buy blanched almonds, the skin will have been removed.

One interesting aspect about almonds is that not only can they help to lower LDL levels in the blood, but they can also protect LDL from oxidation.  LDL refers to low density lipoprotein; this is a type of cholesterol that is often known as bad cholesterol.  Almond skin is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, and studies have shown that this may help to prevent the oxidation of LDL.

With more and more emphasis on health, many of us are watching carefully what we eat these days. But almonds are one food that definitely should not be added to the banned list this Christmas.


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