Ancient Wisdom is a treasure trove of age-old insights that have enriched countless lives with timeless solutions to everyday health challenges, chronic ailments, and stress management, among other things. In this ongoing series, we endeavor to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and contemporary well-being by offering insights into traditional practices.
Embracing the Nutty Path to Wellness
Incorporating nuts and seeds into your daily diet is perhaps the most convenient and effective way to embark on a journey toward weight loss and better health. These nutritional powerhouses are not only portable and easy to consume but also remarkably satiating in small quantities. Whether you fancy almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or cashews, each of these nuts provides a wealth of essential nutrients and can potentially stave off various chronic diseases.
Among this diverse array of nuts, almonds stand out as true superfoods. They can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. You can roast them to perfection or soak them for a quick and energizing snack. Alternatively, transform them into a creamy and delicious vegan milk. The versatility doesn’t stop there; almonds can even be harnessed for external applications to address skin-related concerns.
Ancient Trust in Almonds
The ancient world placed unwavering trust in almonds, not just for culinary delights but also for their myriad medicinal properties. In Ayurveda, almonds were employed to create invigorating tonics aimed at enhancing vitality and energy. These age-old treasures find mention not only in Ayurvedic texts but also in religious scriptures like the Bible. From respiratory issues to digestive ailments, almonds were prized for their multifaceted contributions to well-being.
Almond: A Nutrient Powerhouse
“Almond are a treasure trove of healthy fats, dietary fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Their potential benefits span from regulating blood sugar levels and reducing blood pressure to lowering cholesterol levels. Remarkably, they can also help control appetite and facilitate weight loss, especially in the abdominal region.
However, it’s crucial to recognize that despite their health advantages, the role of nuts in addressing obesity remains somewhat uncertain due to their high energy density. Almonds further offer key B vitamins, such as riboflavin and niacin, which are instrumental in maintaining healthy skin. In fact, a handful of almonds provides 25% of the Daily Value for riboflavin and 6% for niacin. Additionally, almonds are rich in copper, a mineral that contributes to skin and hair pigmentation. Linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid abundant in almonds, plays a pivotal role in preventing skin dryness,” elucidates Clara Taniya, a Dietitian from the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Amrita Hospital in Kochi.
“Almonds are a veritable source of healthy unsaturated fats, primarily monounsaturated fat, constituting 66% of their total fat content. Their saturated fat content is notably low, at a mere 7% of the total fat. As a protein-rich source, almond also promote improved endothelial function. With around 6g of protein per 30g handful, they serve as an excellent alternative for vegetarians and vegans when compared to meat, fish, and poultry. Notably, almond harbor the amino acid L-arginine, which enhances the bioavailability of nitric oxide and mitigates endothelial dysfunction,” notes Riya Desai, Senior Dietitian at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road.
Supporting Skeletal Health
Almond are a rich source of calcium, making them a boon for bone, teeth, nerve, and muscle tissue health. A mere 30g serving of almonds provides approximately 75mg of calcium, accounting for 7% of the daily calcium requirement (RDA) for individuals aged 18 to 55 years. This abundance of calcium renders almonds an alternative natural source of this vital mineral, particularly suitable for those who either cannot or choose not to consume dairy,” highlights Desai.
Almonds Through the Ages
Throughout history, almonds have been prized in various cultures, not just for their nutrition but also for their medicinal properties. Here’s a glimpse of some traditional uses and health benefits of almond, as explained by Dr. Neeti Sharma, Senior Consultant in Nutrition & Dietetics at Marengo Asia Hospitals in Gurugram:
- Cosmetic Marvel: Almond were a common ingredient in ancient cosmetic preparations. Applying almond oil to the skin served to moisturize and nourish it, preserving skin health and beauty.
- Therapeutic Elixirs: Ancient medical systems frequently used almond-based concoctions as therapeutic elixirs. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical system, employed almond to create tonics believed to enhance vitality and energy.
- Skin Saviors: Almond were recognized for their efficacy in treating various skin conditions, including eczema and rashes. They were particularly valued for their moisturizing and soothing effects.
- Natural Analgesics: Almonds were deemed to possess analgesic properties and were employed to alleviate headaches and other forms of pain through almond-infused products.
- Cognitive Enhancement: Some prehistoric societies viewed almond as cognitive enhancers and memory boosters, attributing these capabilities to their consumption.
Harnessing the Benefits of Almond
Shamika Girkar, a Dietician, and Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, a Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon affiliated with Saifee, Apollo Spectra, and Namaha Hospitals in Mumbai, shed light on the diverse benefits of almonds:
- Nutrient-Rich Powerhouses: Almonds are brimming with essential nutrients, including healthy fats, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins (notably vitamin E), and essential minerals like magnesium and calcium.
- Heart Health Guardians: The composition of almonds is dominated by good fats—monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) at 60% and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) at 30%. These fats contribute to potentially reducing the risk of heart disease by modestly lowering bad cholesterol levels and promoting overall heart health due to their healthy fats and antioxidant content.
- Weight Management Allies: Despite their calorie density, almond can support weight management efforts. Their high fiber and protein content can foster a sense of fullness. However, portion control remains key to reaping these benefits.
- Blood Sugar Regulators: Almonds possess a low glycemic index, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels, making them a suitable choice for individuals managing diabetes.
- Skin Nourishment: The vitamin E content in almonds can contribute to healthier skin by shielding it from UV damage and enhancing skin hydration.
- Bone and Digestive Health: Almonds are excellent sources of calcium and magnesium, both vital for strong bones, teeth, and digestive well-being.
- Gut-Friendly Nutrition: Recent research underscores almond’ prebiotic potential. Their fiber content supports digestion and aids in preventing constipation.
“Iron and zinc content in almonds bolster immunity and vitality, enabling individuals to carry out daily tasks with vigor and efficiency. Iron plays a pivotal role in nutrient transportation, maintaining oxygen levels in the body through hemoglobin, and energy production. Zinc is instrumental in the development and maintenance of immune system cells. Almond offer plant-based iron and zinc, particularly crucial for individuals adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they abstain from fish, eggs, or meat. Enhancing the absorption of plant iron can be achieved by pairing it with a source of Vitamin C,” adds Riya Desai.
Vitamin E for Heart Health
“Vitamin E in almonds contributes to heart health. Almond are a rich source of vitamin E, supplying over 70% of the recommended daily intake in a single serving. Vitamin E, a crucial fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, helps maintain a healthy heart. Almond also contain plant sterols, with 100g of almonds containing 197mg of plant sterols. These compounds can lower cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Almond are low in saturated fat, high in mono and polyunsaturated fats, and provide fiber, phytosterols, plant protein, and other cardioprotective nutrients,” expounds Desai.
Effective Diabetes Management
“Almond demonstrate effectiveness in managing diabetes due to their rich fiber content. Fiber is universally acknowledged for its ability to regulate sugar release and maintain blood sugar levels. Adding almonds to carbohydrate-rich meals can lower the overall glycemic index of the meal, thereby slowing the post-meal rise in blood glucose levels. Moreover, almonds support weight loss, thanks to their high fiber content. Consuming almonds enhances appetite control and promotes satiety.
The biological mechanism behind this also indicates that nuts have a thermogenic effect, potentially leading to increased energy expenditure. Almonds possess a unique property where their fat content is stored within cell walls, impacting the amount of fat available for absorption and rendering it less bio-accessible. Consequently, this decreased fat absorption may explain why almonds contribute to weight maintenance and loss. Furthermore, evidence suggests that we may only absorb around 70% of the total calories contained in almonds,” adds Desai.
Integrating Almonds into Your Diet
Shamika Girkar and Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker recommend several ways to incorporate almond into your daily meals:
- Sliced Almonds in Yogurt, Oatmeal, or Salads: Add sliced almonds to yogurt, oatmeal, or salads to enhance both texture and flavor.
- Almond Butter as a Spread or Smoothie Ingredient: Use almond butter as a delectable spread on toast or incorporate it into your smoothies for added creaminess and nutrition.
- Almond Flour in Baking: Almond flour serves as a gluten-free alternative in baking recipes, providing a nutritious twist to your favorite treats.
- Almond Milk for Dairy-Free Delights: Substitute regular milk with almond milk in various recipes, offering a dairy-free option that’s equally delightful. Almond milk is not only an excellent substitute but also a fantastic addition to baking and coffee preparations.
- Vegetables with Almond Crust: Bake vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, or green beans after coating them in almond meal for a nutritious and flavorful side dish.
- Almond-Infused Toast: Slice some almonds and spread almond butter on whole-grain bread, then top it with banana slices or honey to create a delightful and nutritious toast.
Who Should Exercise Caution with Almonds?
“People with nut allergies should steer clear of almonds. Additionally, individuals with kidney issues should monitor their almond intake due to their oxalate content, which can contribute to kidney stone formation in excessive amounts,” advise Girkar and Dr. Bhasker.
“Almonds should be entirely avoided by individuals with almond allergies, and those with gallbladder problems or specific dietary restrictions should consume them in moderation,” they further caution.
Fascinating Almond Facts
- Almond are not true nuts but seeds. Botanically, they are related to peaches and cherries.
- California boasts the distinction of being the world’s largest almond producer.
- Almonds rank among the earliest domesticated tree nuts, with roots stretching back to ancient times.
Closing Thoughts on Almonds Incorporating almonds into your diet can usher in a multitude of health benefits. However, before making significant dietary changes, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional. As you embark on your journey toward holistic well-being, a daily intake of 10-15 grams of almonds is a practical approach, as opposed to the recommended 20-50 grams. One ounce of almonds provides:
- Energy: 172.72 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 2.98 g
- Protein: 2.98 g
- Fat: 16.7 g
- Total fiber: 3.7 g
Ancient wisdom continues to enrich our lives with valuable insights that transcend time. By embracing the wisdom of the ages, we can unlock the door to improved health, vitality, and well-being.