Increase Your Family's Heart Health with Almonds

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Mealtime

Almonds are commonly classified as a nut originating in the the Middle East, but did you know that almonds aren't really nuts? Rather, they are the seed of a fruit -- a harder outer shell with the delicious seed inside. Most almonds we see in stores have been shelled and are brown in appearance. Blanched almonds are ones that have been shelled and then treated with hot water to soften the outer seed coating, which is then removed. (Almonds with the skin still on are your best bet, though, as the skin contains lots of healthy nutrients!)

While you may not expect to get bone protection from a seed, you'll be happy to know that almonds contain both calcium and magnesium -- two things that work together to help bone mineralization. Twenty-five almonds contain 86mg of calcium and 92mg of magnesium. The nuts are also high in potassium and aid in reducing free radical damage, two factors that can help to protect against cardiovascular problems.

More almond benefits, after the jump...

Being cholesterol free -- another great health benefit -- these nuts are an excellent source of plant protein. (Seven grams of protein per 25 almonds to be exact.) Adults and kids alike can benefit from adding almonds to their afternoon snack or meal, as they provide extra appetite satisfaction and reduce your inkling to go and grab a less healthy 'convenient' snack off the shelf that does your body no good.

Snacking on a handful of almonds helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels -- great news for those with sugar imbalance or diabetes (or those trying to protect against diabetes). Eating almonds has been found to lower the glycemic index (GI) of a meal, which lessens the rise in blood sugar.

Another reason these nuts are great for the heart is their vitamin E content. Vitamin E acts not only as an antioxidant, mopping up free radicals that damage blood vessels and tissues, but has anti-inflammatory properties, which lessens the risk of blood clots that lead to a stroke or heart attack. And let's not forget that they're also a great source of fibre.

Here are some simple ways you can add almonds to your diet:
  • Use natural almond butter on any raw vegetable, whole grain bread or cracker
  • Toss a generous handful of almonds in a stir fry with veggies and chicken
  • Spread almond butter in between banana coins for a kid-friendly snack
  • Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your salad or breakfast cereal
  • Add almonds to your afternoon trail or snack mix
  • Sprinkle inside any sandwich
  • Give almond milk a try in smoothies, instead of regular milk
Karla Heintz, B.Sc., is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. If you have a question you would like answered please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks!

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