Sometimes, it’s okay to go a little bit nutty – especially if that means upping your intake of almonds. Native to the Mediterranean climate, almonds are a staple of a heart-healthy diet and provide many health benefits. Dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, helps unpack the details about this nutrition-packed nut.
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Like many other nuts, almonds are high in fat, which tends to give them a bad rap. It’s true they’re high in fat in general, but they’re packed with healthy monounsaturated fat.
Why unsaturated fats are good for your heart (and the rest of you)
If you read the nutrition label for almonds, you may notice they’re higher in fat than other foods you’re used to consuming. Don’t be alarmed by this. The fat in almonds is unsaturated — aka healthy fat. These fats are good for your heart because they can lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol. So if you’re trying to manage your cholesterol, almonds are a good snack choice.
And unsaturated fats aren’t just good for your heart. They boost serotonin levels during the day, which in turn help you sleep better at night. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, which helps to stave off infection and boost your immune system.
If you’re watching your weight, or trying to lose weight, an alluring benefit of almonds is that they’re a great source of fiber. This means they help keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. One study found people who ate nuts at least two times a week were less likely to gain weight than people who did not have nuts in their diet.
The amount of fiber found in almonds is especially important if you have type 2 diabetes. The fiber in almonds keeps your blood sugar more stable, which reduces the risk of having a spike in blood sugar.
How many almonds should you eat for heart health?
But if you’re trying to cut back on calories, be cautious with almonds. You only need a small handful to feel full from the fiber in almonds. One cup is about 530 calories. So stick with about an ounce — about two dozen nuts — for about 160 calories. One way to visualize a single serving of nuts is to imagine them covering a 3-inch by 3-inch sticky note. This is a serving.
Almonds keep you strong, too because they’re chock-full of protein (with 6 grams of protein in that one-ounce serving).
Many people are surprised to learn that almonds also help to build strong bones and teeth. That’s because almonds have more calcium than any other nut, boasting 75 milligrams per ounce. Calcium works with vitamin D to build your bones and keep your body’s systems running at peak performance. So almonds make for a perfect post-workout snack.
Whatever your reason for reaching for this nutritious snack, almonds are a healthy option.