Maybe you're not a nut person or you don't understand the hype surrounding almonds these days — the center of a billion-dollar industry, expected to grow another 7 percent in the next five years. Aren't you curious why consumers are choosing almond milk over cow's milk for their cereal and smoothies? Why is it that energy and protein bars, go-to snacks, trail mixes, cereals, shakes and the nation's most popular dieting trends include the almond? This humble nut is packed with powerful nutrients, they're affordable and easy on the environment.
Nutrients: Like most nuts, the almond is a great resource for protein. The almond is heart-healthy, low in calories, high in good fats, boosts weight loss and helps prevent weight gain. They're also super filling, so you don't need much to be satisfied. Take a closer look at these nutrients found in one tiny nut:
- Biotin: helps produce fuel out of food, therefore energy. Biotin is also known for developing strong hair and healthy nails.
- Vitamin E: assists in the production of red blood cells, contains antioxidants and prevents damage to the body's cells.
- B12: a water soluble vitamin that helps with metabolism and the central nervous system
- Phosphorous: works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth as well as with the kidneys to remove waste.
- Magnesium: in high demand by the heart, kidneys and liver, it helps activate enzymes and fuel energy.
- Fiber: makes you feel fuller faster and helps push things along in the digestive tract, promoting healthy weight. Find out more about how fiber can help you here.
Healthy heart: Heart disease is on the rise as the cause of nearly half a million deaths each year — responsible for 25 percent of deaths in the United States. It has created a price tag with more than 100 billion dollars on the line between health care services and medications. Approximately half of the women in the US have a total cholesterol of more than 200mg/dL (anything less than 180mg/dL is considered optimal). You can imagine the stats for high blood pressure are just as high, one in three people being affected.
Almonds are awesome because they actually lower your levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), reducing your risk of heart complications by 30 to 45 percent. Plus, almonds contain magnesium, right? Magnesium works with calcium so calcium just sit idly in your veins and arteries, which could cause a blockage.
>> Read more: You've Got High Cholesterol, Now What?
Dodge diabetes: No one wants this life altering disease, but more than 29 million people in the US are living with it right now. That's about one out of every 11 people, and one out of four are living with symptoms sans diagnosis. Yikes! You can even develop something called prediabetes with up to a 30 percent chance of it turning into the real deal (find out more about that here).
Almonds help prevent you from becoming a statistic because they make you feel fuller faster and limit the rise of your blood sugar levels after a meal. This is because they're super low on the glycemic index. Pop a handful of almonds after lunch to offset a possible a spike and crash in the afternoon. Make them part of your meal by using pure almond butter as a topping or steaming them with your veggies. Yum.
Lose weight and prevent weight gain: Your body needs fuel to function, so that means you've got to eat! When you choose what goes into your diet, almonds should certainly be included. Almonds can suppress your appetite, making it less likely for you to over indulge in anything else. They also keep the blood sugar levels under control, which is critical to limit fat storage. Any time your body has a ton of sugar in it, it can't process it fast enough so it converts it to fat and stores it instead. Dn't even give the choice! One study found that eating a handful of almonds a day threw you into 25-percent of those who are less likely to be overweight. (via Food NDTV)
Environmentally friendly: Despite the almond being in high demand, the growth and production of these little nuts (or seeds, really) have a very small carbon footprint. Recently, the media has put a storm cloud over the almond tree, saying it was one of the main factors of California's current drought (the state is the source of more than 80 percent of almond production). Once the almonds are picked and sent off for consumer purchase, the orchards "productively use orchard prunings (tree wood, bark, clippings and other materials) for in-orchard chipping, composting, or energy generation" and by-products like the nuts' shells are "typically used as livestock bedding and as alternative energy in co-generation plants, and their hulls, used as livestock feed." Read more here.
For 30 raw almonds, here are your nutritional notes (via Nuts):
Total fat (the good stuff): 15 g
Cholesterol/Sodium: 0 mg
Total Carbs: 5g
Get inspired with a few of these recipes to add to your daily diet. Raw almonds are better than salted, roasted or coated. Check the label on the any almond butter containers for purity or make your own at a health food store!
>> Read more: Ways to Make Almonds Taste Good
Apple Sandwiches: Make those perfect apple slices and sandwich some almond butter and fresh granola between them. Get the recipe here!
PB&Jelly Sushi (WATCH it here): Take a twist on the classic sandwich by introducing this bite-size finger food dish.