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The Healthy Snack that Can Actually Improve Your Health

A study sought to evaluate the effect of an almond-enriched low-calorie diet on body composition and metabolism in a weight reduction program. The results showed that supplementation with almonds, in contrast to complex carbohydrates, was associated with greater reductions in weight and BMI, waist circumference, fat mass, total body water and systolic blood pressure.

According to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:

“The findings suggest that an almond-enriched [low-calorie diet] improves a preponderance of the abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome ... Almond supplementation ... is a novel alternative to self-selected complex carbohydrates and has a potential role in reducing the public health implications of obesity.”

In related news, another study from as far back as 2002 showed that almonds used as snacks could significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors, probably because of the healthy components of the nut.

Green Med Info
Circulation September 2002; 106(11): 1327-1332
International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders November 2003; 27(11):1365-72

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Even though the low-fat craze of the 90s is over, many people still resist snacking on nuts because they believe they're fattening. It remains one of the biggest nutritional myths of all time that if you eat a food high in fat, even healthy fat, it will make you fat. But as the above studies show, nuts like almonds are actually a sensible snack if you're trying to lose weight, and they have added health benefits as well.

What's Better for Weight Loss -- Almonds or Complex Carbs?

If you're watching your weight, a small handful of almonds is a better snack choice than a snack high in complex carbohydrates, such as a bran muffin. In one study comparing those who ate a low-calorie diet that included either almonds or complex carbs, the almond group had a:
•62 percent greater reduction in their weight/BMI,
•50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference
•56 percent greater reduction in body fat

A separate study in the journal Obesity also found that eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain.

Other research has further proven that almonds confer superior health benefits to complex carbs like whole-wheat muffins; a study in Circulation found people with abnormally high level of lipids, such as cholesterol, in their blood, were able to significantly reduce their risk factors for coronary heart disease by snacking on whole almonds. Those who snacked on whole-wheat muffins got no such benefit.

What Makes Almonds so Healthy?

Although almonds are referred to as nuts, they are technically the seed (or pit) of the almond fruit. And, like most whole foods, they are naturally rich in a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that help your body thrive.

This includes:

Monounsaturated fats Magnesium Potassium
Vitamin E Selenium Calcium
Manganese Fiber Protein


There are actually nine clinical studies on record that show almonds may have a beneficial impact on heart health and cholesterol. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even issued a qualified health claim that states:

"Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

One of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits. As the Almond Board of California reported, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry even revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea.

Still more research shows that almonds may help improve measures of insulin sensitivity and other heart risk factors among people with pre-diabetes, and emerging research also suggests almonds may have a prebiotic effect in your gut, which may help boost your immune system.

Beware: Most All Almonds in North America are Pasteurized

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented a mandatory pasteurization program for almonds in 2007, a measure they claimed would improve food safety. But what this really means is that you can no longer get raw almonds in North America.

The Almond Board of California states they have conducted independent nutritional lab analyses that show pasteurization does not degrade the nutritional value of almonds, but this is also what is claimed regarding milk -- that pasteurization does not change its nutritional composition. We know, however, that raw milk and pasteurized milk are two very different foods from a health standpoint, and it stands to reason that raw and pasteurized almonds are too.

The Almond Board of California again states that the pasteurization processes for almonds are slightly different from the one used for milk and juice in that they only treat the surface of the nut, but the Cornucopia Institute states the USDA mandate "requires sanitation of almonds with a toxic fumigant or treatment with high-temperature heat."

So please be aware that if you purchase almonds in North America, they will have gone through one of the following pasteurization methods:

Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
Steam processing
Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment
Propylene oxide is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons. As the Cornucopia Institute states:

"PPO is so toxic that it is not even registered for use as a food processing agent in many parts of the world, including most of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Canada. It is also banned by the U.S. Hot Rod Association as too carcinogenic even to be used as a racing fuel! Yet despite its many dangers, the Almond Board of California and the USDA are willing to employ this toxic treatment to protect almond marketers from future food liability lawsuits.

The primary use of PPO is the production of polyethers, but it is also used to fumigate foods and plastic medical instruments, and in the production of dipropylene glycol and glycol ethers (as herbicides, as solvents, and in the preparation of lubricants, surfactants, and oil demulsifiers.) It is a popular wood varnish—hardly suitable for human consumption!"

Be aware, too, that pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled "raw" even though they've been subjected to one of the treatment processes listed above. There are generally no truly "raw" almonds sold in North America, so don't be mislead. I personally enjoy raw almonds nearly every day as it is an outstanding food. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. Key is to find a company with the waiver that is NOT pasteurizing them.

A legal battle lead by the Cornucopia Institute is currently underway alleging the USDA exceeded its regulatory authority in imposing the raw almond treatment mandate. If you'd like to get involved, you can use the Institute's sample letter to contact your elected officials and let them know you feel the almond treatment rule should be overturned.

Almonds remain a wholesome food that may offer you benefits for weight loss, heart health and more, but to get the whole range of benefits, seek truly raw almonds that have not been pasteurized -- which, fortunately for those in North America, can still be found from high-quality sources online.

Almond Facts

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almonds

Almond tree

The fruit of the almond is not a true nut, but a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed ("nut") inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are commonly sold shelled (i.e., after the shells are removed), or unshelled (i.e., with the shells still attached). Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo.

The almond is a small deciduous tree, growing to between 4 and 10 meters in height, with a trunk of up to 30 centimetres in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm (1 in) petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3–5 cm diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.

Almonds begin bearing an economic crop in the third year after planting. Trees reach full bearing after five to six years after planting. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.

In botanical terms, the almond fruit is not a nut, but a drupe 3.5–6 cm long. The outer covering or exocarp, fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry, is instead a thick leathery grey-green coat (with a downy exterior), called the hull. Inside the hull is a reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) called the endocarp. Inside the shell is the edible seed, commonly called a nut. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two.

Almonds contain approximately 49% oils, of which 62% is monounsaturated oleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid), 24% is linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated omega-6 essential fatty acid), and 6% is palmitic acid (a saturated fatty acid).[25]
"Oleum Amygdalae", the fixed oil, is prepared from either variety of almond and is a glyceryl oleate, with a slight odour and a nutty taste. It is almost insoluble in alcohol but readily soluble in chloroform or ether. Sweet almond oil is obtained from the dried kernel of sweet almonds.
The oil is good for application to the skin as an emollient, and has been traditionally used by massage therapists to lubricate the skin during a massage session. It is a mild, lightweight oil that can be used as a substitute for olive oil.
Almond oil is also used as a wood conditioner of certain woodwind instruments, such as the oboe and clarinet.


The sweet almond contains about 26% carbohydrates (12% dietary fiber, 6.3% sugars, 0.7% starch and the rest miscellaneous carbohydrates), and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and cookies (biscuits) for low-carbohydrate diets. A standard serving of almond flour, 1 cup, contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, of which 10 g is dietary fiber, for a net of 10 g of carbohydrate per cup. This makes almond flour very desirable for use in cake and bread recipes by people on carbohydrate-restricted diets.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, containing 24 mg per 100 g. They are also rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins, essential minerals and monounsaturated fat (see nutrient table), one of the two "good" fats which potentially may lower LDL cholesterol. Typical of nuts and seeds, almonds also contain phytosterols, associated with cholesterol-lowering properties.
Potential health benefits, which have not been scientifically validated, include improved complexion and possibly a lower risk of cancer. Preliminary research associates consumption of almonds with elevating blood levels of high density lipoproteins and lowering low density lipoproteins. A preliminary trial showed that, in spite of the high fat content of almonds, using them in the daily diet might lower several factors associated with heart disease, including cholesterol and blood lipids.
Almonds contain polyphenols in their skins analogous to those of certain fruits and vegetables.
Almonds may cause allergy or intolerance. Cross-reactivity is common with peach allergens (lipid transfer proteins) and tree nut allergens. Symptoms range from local symptoms (e.g., oral allergy syndrome, contact urticaria) to systemic symptoms including anaphylaxis (e.g., urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms)

Mandatory pasteurization in California

Because of two cases of salmonellosis traced to almonds in 2001 and 2004, the Almond Board of California proposed rules in 2006 regarding pasteurization of almonds available to the public, and the USDA approved them. The almond pasteurization program became mandatory for the California industry on September 1, 2007, and was implemented voluntarily over the previous two years. Since September 1, 2007, raw untreated California almonds have technically not been available in the United States. Controversially, California almonds labeled as "raw" are required to be steam-pasteurized or chemically treated with propylene oxide. This does not apply to imported almonds, or to almonds sold from the grower directly to the consumer in small quantities. Nor is the treatment required for raw almonds sold as exports to countries outside of North America.
This USDA-approved marketing order has been challenged in court by organic farmers organized by the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group. According to the Cornucopia Institute, this almond marketing order has imposed significant financial burdens on small-scale and organic growers and damaged domestic almond markets. The federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in the spring of 2009 on procedural grounds, but farmers are appealing this decision in August 2009, seeking to have the merits of their arguments heard in court.


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