What are the health benefits of almonds?

Almonds aren't just tasty and versatile, they're also very good for you. Here's why.

Almonds are a pretty amazing foodstuff. Quite apart from being a constituent of sweet treats like biscuits and cookies, marzipan and nougat, they’re a remarkably nutritious snack in their own right.

They’re versatile, too. They can be eaten raw or toasted; whole, flaked or ground; and as flour, oil, butter or milk. More importantly, they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre.

[Read more: 7 of the healthiest foods on the planet]

Find out here about the health benefits that make almonds a great addition to your diet.

What are almonds?

Almonds are technically not nuts at all – they actually come from the drupes (stone fruits) of the almond tree, the piece we eat being the drupe’s seed.

You can buy them shelled (still wearing their brown outer ‘skin’) or blanched (treated with hot water to remove the skin, leaving just the white inner seed).

What vitamins and minerals do almonds provide?

To get the technical stuff out of the way, 100g of almonds provide a rich source – more than 20% of your recommended daily intake - of the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, vitamin E, and the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.

They’re also a good source of the B vitamins thiamine, vitamin B6, and folate; choline; and the essential mineral potassium, the same 100g providing 10-19% of your daily needs.

Almonds in their 'shell' and ready to eat.

What are the benefits of those?

Vitamin E is believed to protect against UV light damage and Alzheimer's disease. Riboflavin helps to get rid of particles in the body that can damage our cells, and is essential in the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin. Niacin helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Calcium is good for strong bones and teeth, but also aids muscle and nerve function and the ability to form blood clots. Manganese also helps strengthen bones and regulates blood sugar, while magnesium is essential for organ, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and regulating blood pressure.

Iron is also important in the development of healthy red blood cells, while phosphorus is primarily used for growth and repair of body cells and tissues. Some studies suggest zinc has antioxidant effects and is vital to the body's resistance to infection; it’s thought to stimulate the immune system.

Can almonds help with weight loss?

Because almonds are lower in carbohydrates and high in protein and fibre, they can help people feel fuller for longer, which can lead to fewer calories being consumed overall.

Research by the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming around 55g of nuts daily as part of a healthy diet is not only beneficial to reducing the risk of heart disease, but also helps to reduce hunger without leading to weight gain.

[Read more: 7 ways to stop munching and lose weight]

Aren’t almonds high in fat?

Almonds are high in fat, but most of it is monounsaturated fat which helps maintain levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol over ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the body.

Along with other nuts and seeds in general, almonds have been associated with improved levels of blood lipids and being good for the heart.