A Handful Can Make A Difference

A little goes a long way when it comes to almonds, the most nutrient-dense nut ounce-for-ounce. A one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23) is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, a good source of protein and fiber, and offers potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and monounsaturated fat, giving you a lot of nutritional bang for only 160 calories.

Eating a handful of almonds a day can help you meet guidelines for cutting down on saturated fat, while increasing consumption of essential nutrients like fiber, protein and vitamin E.

What do the Vitamins and Nutrients in Almonds Do?

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from everyday damage, while magnesium helps keep bones strong. Fiber is beneficial for the digestive system and heart health. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, hair, nails and skin and helps repair tissues in the body. The monounsaturated fats found in almonds are the natural “good fats” that may help lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy when substituted for saturated fat in the diet.

Almonds: One Small Step to Heart Health

Previous studies have shown that almonds play an important role in a heart-healthy lifestyle. According to research from the University of Toronto, eating a specific combination of heart-healthy foods can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels as much as certain cholesterol-lowering drugs. This special diet, called the Portfolio Eating Plan includes almonds, oatmeal, lean meats and fish. Patients who followed this diet the most closely lowered their cholesterol by more than 20%. Experts agree that diet and exercise are the first steps in reducing high cholesterol levels.

Weighing in on Almonds

Additionally, further studies have shown that almonds, as part of a healthy lifestyle, can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level without causing weight gain. Researchers from Purdue University and Queens University in Belfast asked people to add 2 oz of almonds to their daily diet. After 10 weeks, the subjects did not gain weight or increase their body fat. Also, participants did not increase the amount of food they were eating – suggesting that almonds naturally replaced other foods in the diet and that regularly consuming almonds does not cause weight gain. The participants also increased their intake of vitamin E and magnesium, showing that almonds can enhance the diet and contribute to overall health.

Almonds can also help manage blood sugar and insulin levels, which are often connected to feelings of hunger. Experts think that the fiber, protein and crunch of almonds are satisfying and help people feel fuller longer.

Correcting Portion Distortion: It’s All in Your Hand

But how many almonds should you eat, and how do you measure the proper serving? Unlike foods such as apples or bananas, almonds don’t come in a pre-portioned package. A good degree of “portion distortion” exists about the proper serving size, which is a one oz portion or about 23. Some ways to measure:

  • A handful

  • A ¼ cup measuring cup

  • An empty mint tin

  • A small, one oz spice bottle

  • Two wells of an ice-cube tray

For a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products

  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.

  • Keep saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, slat and added sugars l