When cravings attack, it can be tempting to reach for something greasy or sweet, but neither is friendly to the waistline. For a healthy alternative, grab some almonds to help satisfy hunger and boost energy between meals. High in protein and fiber, these little nuts are this week’s Greatist superfood.
Almond Joy — Why It's Super
So why almonds over any other nut? Almonds are actually the most nutritionally dense nut, meaning they offer the highest concentration of overall nutrients per calorie and per ounce. A one-ounce serving contains 161 calories, nearly 13 grams of unsaturated fat and 3.4 grams of fiber (that’s about 14% of the daily recommended value). What's more, almonds are a good source of potassium, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron. Now that’s something to go nuts over!
Studies show almonds could also have some major benefits for the heart. One study suggests eating between 1 and 6 ounces of almonds per day can reduce total cholesterol and may contribute to lowering “bad” cholesterol (LDL), though the study’s authors believed more conclusive evidence was needed Almonds Have a Neutral Effect on Serum Lipid Profiles: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Phung, O.J., Makanji, S.S., White, C.M., et al. Hartford Hospital Evidence-Based Practice Center, University of Connecticut, Hartford, Connecticut. Journal of the American Dietic Association. 2009 May;109(5):865-73..
Almonds may also help with weight loss, reducing fat mass, and lowering systolic blood pressure in combination with a low-calorie diet Almonds vs Complex Carbohydrates in a Weight Reduction Program. Wien, M.A., Sabate, J.M., Ikle, D.N., et al. City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72.. Better yet, studies suggest eating almonds alone— without making any other dietary considerations— could spur a healthier diet all around Long-Term Almond Supplementation Without Advice on Food Replacement Induces Favourable Nutrient Modifications to the Habitual Diets of Free-Living Individuals. Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Sabate, J., Rajaram, S., et al. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, California. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2004 Sep;92(3):533-40.. When subjects added almonds to their regular diets, they unintentionally upped their intake of healthy options like plant proteins and fiber, while reducing intake of some less-than-healthy picks packed with cholesterol and sugar— no nutritionist required Long-Term Almond Supplementation Without Advice on Food Replacement Induces Favourable Nutrient Modifications to the Habitual Diets of Free-Living Individuals. Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Sabate, J., Rajaram, S., et al. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, California. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2004 Sep;92(3):533-40.. Plus, a recent study shows that snacking on almonds can reduce hunger without leading to weight gain Appetitive, dietary, and health efects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. Tan SY, Mattes RD. School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Oct 2..
Get Out of That Nut Rut — Your Action Plan
While raw nuts may be the purest form, dry roasted varieties may have some added benefits. One study found that dry roasted nuts are actually more easily digested, meaning that more of their nutrients are released. Of course, nuts roasted with, oil, honey, or salt can pack on loads of additional fat, sodium, and sugar, so it’s best to stick with raw or unsalted dry-roasted almonds.
Because almonds are so nutritionally dense and include a good deal of fat, a small handful is a good-sized serving. About 1 to 1.5 ounces of almonds per day is a good amount to reap health benefits, and should be used to replace a portion of less-healthy saturated fats, often found in fatty meats and dairy. Almonds are great alone or in cereal or yogurt, but to keep things interesting, try one of these recipes: a turkey sandwich with cranberry-almond sauce, maple cinnamon roasted almonds, or almond cranberry crunch granola. Or try your hand at making almond butter with this Greatist Superfood recipe:
Superfood Recipe: Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Butter
By Tulika Balagopal
What You'll Need:
2 cups roasted almonds
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon olive oil
What to Do:
- Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and blend for a few minutes at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the food processor bowl frequently (if the mixture sticks).
- Process for about 5-7 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.
- Store in a closed jar or container.