By Hara Estroff Marano - last reviewed on May 11, 2009
Some foods pack a big nutritional wallop into a little space. Almonds must be close to the top of the list.
Particularly nutrient dense, almonds contain a variety of goodies long known to be critical to mental health. Among them are the B vitamin folate and the amino acid tyrosine, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Then there's magnesium, which contributes to many enzymes that power the brain's intense metabolic activity. Have we mentioned antioxidants, such as quercetin, which protect brain cells from oxidative damage?
Now comes news that almonds protect against heart disease. And they do it not just among the general population. They actually lower cholesterol levels to a significant degree in people who are at special risk for heart disease because of elevated cholesterol levels. They reduce levels of the bad (LDL) cholesterol. But even more, they create a favorable change in the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.
Here's an important point to remember. As a general rule, what keeps the heart healthy also keeps the brain and mind operating smoothly.
Although almonds, like other nuts, have a high fat content, the fats they contain are mostly monounsaturated, the kind found also in avocados and olive oil. In fact, 65% of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat. The high monounsaturated fat content of almonds not only reduces bad cholesterol and improves the bad/good cholesterol ratio. It favorably changes other blood fats that are normally resistant to change either by drugs or diet.
Here's a rundown of the nutrients in almonds that make them healthy and satisfying. In addition to an array of macro- and micronutrients, almonds contain a significant amount of dietary fiber-more, in fact, than any other nut or seed.
Among the macronutrients:
Among the micronutrients:
Of course, the fat content of almonds carries calories. So when adding almonds to your diet be sure to subtract some calories elsewhere. You'll be doing your heart and mind a favor. To say nothing of your waistline.