Cultures throughout history and all over the world have enjoyed the flavor and crunch of almonds. Over time, folklore spread linking almonds with health, fertility and happiness. Based on mounting scientific research, nutrition experts agree that almonds do offer more than flavor and crunch —almonds are good for heart health.
A Nutritious Nut
Researchers at the University of Toronto have been studying the combined effects of a diet that includes a variety of heart-healthy foods. Study participants ate a diet that included almonds, soy protein, margarine spreads containing plant sterols, and dietary fiber. The study found that LDL cholesterol was lowered by 29 percent for those following the heart healthy diet. This compares favorably to prescription medication that lowered cholesterol by 30 percent.
Almonds are the best nut source of vitamin E, providing the most vitamin E per serving. Just one ounce of almonds, about a handful, contains 7.3 mg of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E, the form of vitamin E the body prefers. This is about half of the Recommended Daily Allowance (15mg). Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from everyday damage.
The Nut Health Claim
Approval of this health claim was the result of an FDA review of the research related to nuts and heart health. This claim is consistent with healthy eating recommendations from the American Dietetic Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association.
The following nuts are included in the new claim for food labels: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Nut containing foods can have this claim on the food label if they meet criteria for healthful levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and contain at least the minimum amount of nuts per serving.
When eating more almonds, weight-conscious consumers should substitute them for other foods. Research has shown that when almonds are eaten in place of less nutrient-dense foods, there is no significant change in body weight. Fortunately, with six grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and heart-healthy fat, almonds are very satisfying. Keep in mind that one serving of almonds is one and a half ounces or about one-third cup.
Almonds are more than just an indulgence with taste and crunch. They can be a part of a heart healthy, weight-conscious eating plan when eaten in moderate portions. Experts agree that a handful a day of almonds may lower cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. So grab a handful for your heart.
Give snacks and meals anutrition boost with almonds
BARLEY & ALMOND SALAD
*To roast slivered, chopped or sliced almonds: Spread in an ungreased baking pan. Place in 350ºF oven and bake 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant; stir once or twice to assure even browning. Note that almonds will continue to roast slightly after removing from oven.
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