Sure, you’re aware that almonds are nutritious. The brown, elongated nuts are renowned for their heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, their antioxidant vitamin E, and their plant-based protein. It’s no surprise they have a reputation for being crispy—in both the literal sense and the naturally beneficial way—enhancing various nutritious dishes from cupcakes to snack mixes.
However, it appears that almonds have been withholding information from us. Recent research reveals that they possess even more health advantages than we initially thought. Recent studies have uncovered that almonds can promote gut health, improve skin health, and even support physical fitness. SHAPE consulted dietitians to provide insights into the practical implications of these hidden benefits—so you can enjoy indulging in almonds more than ever.
Almonds Support Gut Health
It’s widely recognized that the dietary fiber in almonds aids in promoting a healthy digestive system. A serving of one-fourth cup of whole nuts contains 4.5 grams of fiber, which accounts for 18% of the recommended daily fiber intake for men and 12% for women. Consuming an ample amount of fiber not only facilitates smooth bowel movement but also nourishes the beneficial bacteria that contribute to a thriving gut microbiome.
A study published in December 2022 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that fiber isn’t the sole factor that makes almonds beneficial for gut health. The study explored how gut microbes break down almonds and produce a substance known as butyrate.
So… what exactly is butyrate, and how does it impact your digestive system? “Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SFCA) and is generated by gut bacteria through the fermentation of fiber,” explains Amanda Sauceda, MS, RDN, a dietitian specializing in gut health. “Butyrate serves as the preferred fuel source for the cells in the colon, and it also plays a role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining.”
Butyrate (which, by the way, is pronounced “byoo-ter-ate”) could potentially enhance digestive health by reducing inflammation, strengthening the gut barrier, and even alleviating certain gastrointestinal conditions. “There is also ongoing research examining butyrate’s role in regulating appetite and promoting satiety,” adds Sauceda.
The study also observed a significant increase in stool output (commonly referred to as #2) among participants who consumed almonds. This crucial indicator of gut health is likely attributed to almonds’ high fiber content. “Incorporating more fiber into the diet is an effective way to alleviate constipation,” explains Sauceda.
And, given that participants did not report any unfavorable gastrointestinal symptoms from consuming additional almonds, Sauceda asserts there is ample justification to commence munching.
Almonds Are Fuel for Fitness
Almonds serve as a fantastic snack before or after a workout because of their combination of intricate carbohydrates and protein. However, here’s an interesting revelation: a study published in January 2023 in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that almonds provide even greater benefits for your workout than you might expect. According to this research, almonds helped alleviate fatigue and tension during muscle recovery, increased strength in the legs and lower back, and reduced muscle damage after a workout.
These remarkable effects can be attributed to the distinctive nutritional composition of almonds, as explained by dietitian Kristen White, RDN, LD, CLT. White states, “Almonds contain several essential nutrients that contribute to post-workout muscle recovery, including protein, antioxidants, and magnesium. Protein provides crucial amino acids that are particularly useful for muscle recovery. Antioxidants such as vitamin E, phytochemical polyphenols, and flavonoids help combat oxidative stress.” Given that exercise induces oxidative stress, consuming antioxidant-rich foods like almonds can aid in minimizing resultant muscle damage. So, make sure to include almonds on your list of must-have snacks for recovery days and toss them into your gym bag for a light bite before or after a sweaty workout.
Almonds Promote Healthy Skin
When contemplating skincare, the first things that come to mind are often topical creams or prescribed cleansers. However, certain foods, including almonds, provide a delightful and cost-effective alternative.
A study conducted in February 2021, published in Nutrients, revealed that consuming high amounts of almonds (approximately 56 whole almonds per day) led to reduced wrinkle severity and improved skin tone evenness by reducing pigmentation. Postmenopausal women who incorporated 20% of their daily caloric intake from almonds experienced a 16% decrease in wrinkle severity after 24 weeks. Although consuming a large quantity of almonds may seem excessive, it demonstrates the potential power of almonds in combating signs of aging.
Another study from September 2021 investigated the ability of almonds to protect the skin from harmful UVB rays. Healthy Asian women who consumed 1.5 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) of almonds daily for 12 weeks exhibited better defense against UV sun damage compared to a group that consumed a similar amount of pretzels. This demonstrates how a simple snack swap can make a difference.
Similar to the fitness benefits of almonds, their impact on skin health is likely attributed to their abundance of antioxidants. White explains, “Oxidative stress can lead to premature aging and damage to skin cells. Vitamin E in almonds helps counteract free radicals and supports skin repair and rejuvenation.
Meanwhile, almonds additionally contain zinc and selenium, crucial micronutrients for a well-nourished epidermis. “Zinc aids in the generation of collagen and in the healing of wounds, as well as facilitating the regulation of sebum production, while selenium contributes to the preservation of antioxidative capabilities,” asserts White.
How to Obtain More Almonds in your Diet
Complete, sliced, pulverized, and more—you have a variety of almond choices if you wish to incorporate additional of the advantageous nuts in your diet. Consuming a portion each day is a completely worthwhile objective for health advantages. “A customary serving dimension of almonds is roughly 1 ounce, which is about 23 almonds. This is the ideal serving dimension to acquire their antioxidant advantage,” says White.
During the first meal of the day, enhance the taste of an oatmeal bowl or a smoothie with a sprinkling of sliced almonds. Alternatively, for a nourishing midday meal, scatter some complete nuts onto a verdant salad or fold sliced ones into a chicken or tuna salad wrap. For dinner, roasted vegetables can receive a textured enhancement with a garnish of toasted, sliced almonds, or meats might acquire an almond flour coating before being cooked in a frying pan.
Afterward, of course, there’s the simplest occasion for indulging in almonds: snack time. There’s nothing amiss with consuming a handful directly, but if you prefer to be imaginative, combine a mixture of nuts and dried fruits to create a trail mix. You’ll gain all the advantages you were already aware of from almonds—and some fresh ones as well.
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