There was an interesting piece over at Quartz recently on foods that Americans are buying less of these days. Many of those changes – less cereal, less soda – are welcome ones.
Still, there’s one trend you might find a little surprising.
Except for almonds, we don’t consume too many nuts. Part of this may be due to the rise in allergies that’s resulted in “safe snacking” and the removal of peanuts and tree nuts alike from public schools.
Yet almonds have surged in popularity, “thanks in part,” says Quartz, “to the rise of almond milk.”
Perhaps with the continued popularity of paleo nutrition and the rise of keto, we may see those numbers start to change. Nuts, after all, pack a powerful nutritional punch, and research continues to suggest the breadth of their health benefits.
For instance, a recent review of roughly 25 years’ worth of studies found a “strong and significant” relationship between nut consumption and a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and sudden death.
The primary mechanism by which nuts protect against CVD is through the improvement of lipid and apolipoprotein profile. Increasing evidence also indicates that nut consumption may confer protection against CVD via lowering of oxidative stress, inflammation; and improvement in endothelial function. Nut components, such as unsaturated fatty acids, L-arginine, beneficial minerals, phenolic compounds and phytosterols, appear to be of paramount importance for their health effects.
Other research suggests that tree nuts may have anti-aging properties.
Tree nuts are low in carbohydrates, but they abound in healthy fatty acids, in optimal proportion for a good plasma lipid profile, and are a good source of proteins, rich in proteinogenic amino acids. They contain significant amounts of vitamin E, minerals, polyphenols, and phytosterols. Polyphenols, which are powerful phytochemicals, act as direct and indirect antioxidants, reduce the inflammatory response, improve proteostasis and mitochondrial biogenesis, modulate many cell signaling pathways, have a major role in cytoprotection [cell protection], are Nrf2/ARE activators, down-regulate the NFκB system, promote anticancer potential, and prevent cell senescence [aging].
There are potential dental benefits, as well. For instance, their significant calcium and phosphorous content support ongoing tooth remineralization. It’s your saliva that delivers these essential minerals to your tooth enamel, keeping it whole and strong.
Almond milk may be particularly helpful, being especially rich in calcium and phosphorous. A 2017 study in Future Dental Journal found that almond milk was even more effective than cow’s milk in restoring calcium and phosphorous to eroded tooth enamel. (Soy milk was found least effective.)
Keep in mind, though, that if you opt to drink or cook with almond milk, be sure to use an unsweetened variety. (You could even make your own!)
Low in carbs and high in healthy fats and protein, nuts are packed with many benefits and serve as a much better snack than any hyper-processed product. Where allergies are a concern, though, always check first before sharing with a group.
Graph via The Atlas; nuts image by Judy van der Velden