Almonds are the seeds of the common almond tree (Prunus dulcis L.). There are two types of almonds – sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Sweet almonds contain many nutrients and have health-promoting properties that make them a valuable component of a healthy diet and are used, among others, in the cosmetics industry. Bitter almonds are not suitable for consumption because they contain amygdalin – this compound is transformed in the human body into very harmful prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide). After appropriate thermal treatment, almond extract and almond oil are obtained from bitter almonds.
- What are almonds?
- Nutritional values and health properties of almonds
- Why is it worth eating sweet almonds?
- The use of almonds in natural skin, hair and nail care
Almonds are sometimes classified as nuts, but this is a mistake, because they really are almonds are seeds. They are extremely popular all over the world. The high nutritional values and numerous health-promoting properties of sweet almonds make it worth eating them as often as possible. Almonds have a beneficial effect, among others: on intestinal function, cardiovascular system and body appearance. Check why it is worth eating almonds and learn more about the uses of inedible bitter almonds.
What are almonds?
The common almond tree is a perennial plant from Asia. It is a deciduous tree from the rose family, which grows up to 10 meters high and has rich symbolism. References to the almond tree can be found, among others, in: in the Bible.
Inside the greenish almond fruit there is an almond surrounded by a hard shell, which is a seed. Sweet almonds can be eaten raw. They are a healthy and tasty snack and are used, among others, for: in confectionery – e.g. marzipan is made from almonds. Bitter almonds are poisonous in their raw state, but in small quantities they are used as a spice or dietary supplement. Thanks to appropriate processing, it is possible to obtain almond oil from bitter almonds, which is used in the food industry. After removing toxic amygdalin from bitter almonds, it produces, among others: intense almond aroma. Almond oil from bitter almonds is also used in the production of liqueurs and soap.
Bitter and sweet almonds differ slightly in terms of active compounds that affect, among others: on their smell and possibilities of use. Sweet almonds contain less essential oils, which means that they emit an intense scent only for a short time after being picked. However, they have a delicate, sweet taste and are not harmful to health. Bitter almonds smell very intensely and have more compounds, including: with anti-inflammatory properties, which makes the oil obtained from them widely used in cosmetics. There is a lot of controversy over the use of, among others, in the treatment of cancer, amygdalin obtained from bitter almonds and other seeds is called vitamin B17.
Using bitter almonds for therapeutic purposes is very risky. We can eat sweet almonds in reasonable quantities without any worries. It is important to remember that even healthy food products are harmful if we consume them in excess. Excess almonds in the diet may cause, for example, constipation.
It is worth knowing that almonds quite often cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of almond allergy concern both the mucous membranes of the mouth and skin (e.g. swelling, itching, redness, rash, annoying burning sensation) and the digestive system (e.g. vomiting). Sometimes an almond allergy causes symptoms in the respiratory system (e.g. watery runny nose, sneezing, dry cough). It happens that the consumption of almonds causes life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Nutritional values and health properties of almonds
Almonds have high nutritional values and are famous for their numerous health properties. They are rich in protein and exogenous amino acids, healthy unsaturated fats (e.g. Omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, vitamins (e.g. vitamin E, which is called the vitamin of youth, B vitamins, folic acid) and minerals (potassium , magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium) and flavonoids. Almonds are considered one of the healthiest seeds. Their regular consumption has a positive effect, among others: on:
cardiovascular system – almonds lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, prevent the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque and reduce the risk of developing heart diseases related to atherosclerosis;
nervous system – almonds provide minerals and vitamins that are necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system. They have antidepressant properties, improve memory and concentration, reduce stress, prevent muscle cramps and have a beneficial effect on brain function, preventing the so-called brain fog;
blood sugar level – almonds have a low glycemic index and can be eaten by diabetics. Studies have proven that eating almonds helps maintain appropriate blood glucose levels and protects against sudden changes in insulin levels.
Almonds are considered a natural aphrodisiac and are used to naturally support the treatment of erectile dysfunction – they help to relax blood vessels, improving blood circulation. The positive effect of almonds on male sexual performance means that they are often used as an ingredient of supplements that increase libido.
Due to their strong antioxidant properties, almonds effectively reduce oxidative stress, protecting against the harmful effects of free oxygen radicals. Moreover, the properties of almonds help to improve the functioning of the digestive tract – dietary fiber reduces constipation and reduces the risk of diseases such as: for colon cancer.
Why is it worth eating sweet almonds?
Sweet almonds are a source of many valuable vitamins and minerals and reduce various health ailments. Thanks to them, you can alleviate, among others: symptoms of heartburn, which are caused by stomach acid refluxing into the esophagus. Almonds stand out from other seeds and nuts because of their exceptional nutritional values, which make them an excellent complement to the daily diet, helping to reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Due to the high content of folic acid, they can be consumed by women planning pregnancy and women in the first trimester of pregnancy as a supplement to the diet preventing the development of neural tube defects.
Despite their high calorie content, almonds are recommended for people on a reducing diet who want to get rid of extra kilos. The positive effect of almonds on the health of people trying to lose weight is related not only to the high content of vitamins and minerals, but also to dietary fiber, which ensures a long feeling of satiety and prevents snacking between meals.
It is worth reaching for almonds in the autumn and winter because they have a beneficial effect on the immune system, providing our body with easily absorbable zinc and B vitamins.
It is best to eat almonds raw. Sweet almonds in chocolate and icing should not be eaten in large quantities because they are a source of unnecessary calories. Eating salted almonds is also harmful because they increase sodium levels in the body. The daily serving of almonds without additives is about 1/3 cup.
The use of almonds in natural skin, hair and nail care
Almonds are not only a tasty and healthy delicacy, but also a valuable raw material for the production of almond oil, which moisturizes and nourishes the skin and soothes irritations. Almond oil, used for face, body, hair and nail care, reduces free oxygen radicals, helps treat various dermatoses and slows down aging processes, which are related to, among others, with the adverse effects of UV radiation.
Almond oil can be used for the care of, among others: sensitive, dry and atopic skin. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, it supports wound healing, reduces redness and reduces bothersome itching and the unpleasant feeling of skin tightness. Almond oil proves to be very helpful in the fight against stretch marks, cellulite, wrinkles and discolorations that appear on the skin over the years. When used regularly, it smoothes and firms the skin, improving its elasticity and evens out its color.
The use of almond oil improves the structure of the hair and gives it softness, elasticity and a healthy shine. Almond oil can also be used on the scalp for, among others: dandruff reduction. Moreover, almonds have a beneficial effect on nails – applying almond oil to nails is recommended in case of excessive brittleness of the nail plate and damage associated with e.g. hybrid manicure.
Zbigniew Podbielkowski, Dictionary of useful plants, National Agricultural and Forestry Publishing House, Warsaw, 1980
Mirosława Jarosz, Ewa Rychlik, Katarzyna Stoś, Jadwiga Charzewska, Nutrition standards for the Polish population and their application, National Institute of Public Health – National Institute of Hygiene, 2020
Collective work, Tables of composition and nutritional value of food, Wydawnictwo Lekarskie PZWL, Warsaw 2017
Health benefits of almonds beyond cholesterol reduction, DOI: 10.1021/jf2044795
Almonds (Prunus Dulcis Mill. DA Webb): A Source of Nutrients and Health-Promoting Compounds, DOI: 10.3390/nu12030672