Almonds Have Heart
Almonds heart-smart benefits are good news for just about everyone; especially since cardiovascular disease holds the spot as the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S.
- California almonds are cholesterol-free, have only 1 gram of saturated fat, and have 13 grams of unsaturated fat per one-ounce serving.
- Consumers have a little more help in the grocery aisles because the American Heart Association® has certified whole almonds to display the sought-after Heart-Check mark. Now it’s easy for everyone out there to identify almonds as a heart-smart option.i
- But there’s more, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that the majority of your fat intake be unsaturated. One serving of almonds (28 grams, or about 23 almonds) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat.
- A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ate almonds as part of a heart-healthyi diet significantly improved certain factors associated with heart disease risk.1 Those who increased their daily almond intake by 30 grams (approximately 1 ounce) during the study are estimated to reduce their coronary heart disease risk score by 3.5 percent in the next 10 years.1
- The Study: The study was a randomized, controlled clinical trial that evaluated the effects of almond consumption on serum fatty acid composition and estimated 10-year risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Study participants were 27 adult men and women (mean age: 64 years) with elevated LDL cholesterol (mean 167 mg/dL) but were otherwise healthy. For four weeks, subjects consumed a National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step 2 diet along with 50 – 100 g/day (approximately 2-4 oz.) of almonds (full-almond dose); 100 to 200 g/day of muffins (control); or 25 to 50 g (~1-2 oz.) of almonds plus 50-100 g/day of muffins (half-almond dose). The muffins were formulated to have a similar nutritional composition as the almonds with the exception of carbohydrates and fat, as the muffins’ carbohydrate content was increased to balance the calories from monounsaturated fatty acids in the almonds. Almond and muffin intake amounts were based on estimated energy requirements of each subject, and provided an average of 423 calories per day. The study was crossover in design, with each subject completing all three four-week dietary treatments in random order, with a washout period of at least two weeks in between. The primary objective of the study was to assess the effects of almonds on blood lipids, which have been previously published; these results are secondary analyses. Limitations: 10-year risks of CHD were estimated indirectly based on the Framingham equation. Each dietary intervention period was relatively short at four weeks, and there was a relatively high drop-out rate. 37.2% of the subjects who were randomized did not complete the entire study, and therefore were not included in the final analysis. In addition, almond consumption was associated with an increase in fecal excretion of MUFAs (unpublished data reported by the authors); thus, the effects may be confounded by differences between the dietary intervention periods in the actual amounts of nutrients and energy that were absorbed.
- A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed individuals who consumed one ounce of nuts seven or more times per week had a 20 percent lower death rate.i2
- The Study: An epidemiologic study examined the effect of nut consumption on total and cause-specific mortality. To evaluate the effect, 76,464 female registered nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,498 male health professionals in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were tracked for 30 and 24 years, respectively. Nut consumption was assessed at baseline and updated every two to four years with validated food frequency questionnaires that asked whether participants had consumed a serving of nuts (one ounce) the preceding year. The primary endpoint of the study was death from any cause. Limitations: This study was an observational, epidemiologic study, and therefore shows correlation, not causation. The study population was limited to nurses and other health professionals, and findings were based on self-reported data from questionnaires. Additionally, participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, or stroke at baseline were excluded, and dietary data from participants who reported a diagnosis of stroke, heart disease, angina, or cancer were not included in the analysis. Finally, because researchers lacked data on how nuts were prepared (for example, salted, spiced, roasted or raw), they were unable to examine the influence of preparation method on mortality.
More recent research updates can be found here:
i All certified nuts, including salted varieties, must meet the American Heart Association’s® nutritional requirements which include a limit of 140mg or less of sodium per label serving size. Please note that the Heart-Check Food Certification does not apply to hyperlinks, recipes, or research unless expressly stated. For more information, see the American Heart Association’s® nutrition guidelines at heartcheck.org. American Heart Association® and the Heart-Check Mark are registered trademarks of the American Heart Association®.
1. Nishi S, Kendall CW, Gascoyne AM, et al. Effect of almond consumption on the serum fatty acid profile: a dose response study. British Journal of Nutrition 2014.
2. Bao Y, Han J, Hu FB, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Fuchs CS. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med 2013;369:2001-11.