Almonds have long been a symbol of love and luck across cultures and time: Roman newlyweds were showered with almonds, and today in the US, sugar covered almonds are often gifted to guests. In Sweden, an almond is hidden inside rice pudding at Christmas: the lucky almond finder is promised good fortune for the year.
Historical Medicinal Uses:
Almonds’ health benefits on a physical level are just as impressive as their symbolic representations. One of the first traces that has been found of almonds is in the Greek physician Hippocrates’ collection of medical work. In the ancient Greek medical system, it was considered a hot and dry food, useful for treating colds for example1.
Almonds were also believed to prevent inebriation if consumed before drinking alcohol. They were used as a diuretic, as well as to help with sleep and to sharpen the appetite. Today, scientific studies show us that almonds have many more health benefits.
One of the most popular benefits of almonds is its cholesterol reduction properties. A study carried out on a group of male volunteers showed that the group of participants who were given half of their total fat intake in the form of almonds had a significant cholesterol reduction compared to the group given the reference diet2.
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”, and HDL cholesterol, also referred to as “good cholesterol”. The former is considered bad because it contributes to fatty buildups in the arteries. As the arteries get clogged up, the risks for heart attacks, strokes and other diseases go up3. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol earned its “good” qualifier by helping the body eliminate LDL cholesterol. As you might have guessed, almonds contribute to reducing levels of LDL cholesterol.
It is no wonder that the heart is probably the most widely romanticized organ of the human body. It plays a crucial role in making your body function properly, and heart disease can be fatal. So whether your love life is going well or not at the moment, be sure to nurture and take good care of your physical heart!
Almonds can be a great help with that. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that almond consumption reduces the risk of heart diseases4. Almonds keep your blood vessels healthy, allowing your heart to work properly. The antioxidant flavonoids and vitamin E present in almonds are responsible for helping with artery health and reducing inflammation.
Almonds also have powerful prebiotic properties5. Prebiotics help with the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the body. Almonds particularly help with intestinal microbiota, or gut flora. Microbes have a bad reputation, but many of them are actually essential to making your body function properly! You might be surprised to learn that our guts alone host over 100 trillion microbial cells6. Although you might have been unaware of their existence inside of you until now, they have been playing a crucial role in your body, especially in regard to immune, metabolic and neurobehavioral traits.
There are many more health benefits to almonds, and hopefully, this article will have served as an amuse-bouche that will encourage you to further research the subject, and most importantly, incorporate almonds into your diet (if you haven’t already done so). You can eat almonds raw or roasted on their own as a snack. They are also delicious in all sorts of desert and breakfast foods, including cooked oats. Flavorful and healthy, almonds are a must have in your diet!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.