A New Reason to Heart Almonds

Research shows the little superfood packs a big punch when it comes to heart disease prevention.

July 7, 2014

Almonds get a lot of press for being a great snack for weight loss and appetite control, but the latest research shows that health-minded snackers have yet another reason to reach for these pint-sized superfoods -- and it has nothing to do with a shrinking waistline. A new study, appearing in Free Radical Research found that adding almonds to your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, strengthening support for the theory that nut-rich Mediterranean diets boast big-time health benefits.

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Researchers recruited a pool of young and middle-aged men, as well as young men who had some risk factors for heart disease (like having high blood pressure or being overweight). For one month, one group ate as they normally would, and the other added 50 grams of almonds to their daily diet. In the end, the added almonds led to increased antioxidants in the bloodstream, improved blood flow, and lowered blood pressure. 

The bottom line? Almonds pack a powerful nutritional punch of vitamin E and healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidant-rich flavonoids, which work together to increase your overall health, keep your blood vessels healthy, and potentially lower your risk for developing heart disease, the number one killer of women in the US. “Adding even a handful every day for a short period can help,” said lead researcher Helen Griffiths of Aston University in Birmingham, UK.

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Wary of replacing your afternoon granola-and-Greek-yogurt protein fix with a wee little handful of almonds? We spoke with Dr. Barry Sears, Ph.D., a 30-year nutrition veteran and creator of the Zone diet, to get some fresh ideas on how to add more almonds to your diet that have nothing to do with swapping your mainstays, and everything to do with infusing your current menu with a little superfood action.

Dr. Sears says almost any recipe can benefit from a healthy topping of slivered almonds. "That means you can sprinkle the almonds over any portion of the meal or, alternatively, add them to a smoothie to get additional monounsaturated fat,” he says. Stay slim and protect your heart this week with Sears's top three ways to incorporate almonds into your daily grind:

1. Grind 'em up. Bust out your high-speed blender to turn your raw almonds into a shake-friendly powder, and transform a blah vanilla shake into a delicious nutty treat. Not a fan of almond flavor? Add almond powder to your chocolate shake for all the nutritional benefits and none of the taste.


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2. Coat your protein with 'em. Boost your low-fat fish or chicken with some almond slivers for enhanced texture and a boost of healthy fats.

3. Mix 'em with veggies. Sliced almonds are a perfect companion for crunchy veggies like broccoli or beans, Dr. Sears says, making for a much more satisfying side dish.