This nut is a protein-rich snack that boosts heart, gut and skin health

A handful of almonds has long been a go-to snack among health-conscious individuals. The nut does make for a crunchy and satisfying snack, but many people forget that almonds come in many forms, making them a versatile ingredient. Whether whole, sliced, roasted, blanched or ground into butter or flour they can be used in everything from salads to snacks to desserts.

Almonds may be tasty, but it's their nutritional profile that make them a must-eat. There’s an abundance of research on the benefits of the tree nut for your heart, blood sugar, muscles, gut and more. Yes, almonds are a food that is higher in fat and calories, but don't let that deter you from reaping the many benefits they have to offer.

Almond nutrition facts

One ounce of unsalted almonds has:

  • 160 calories

  • 6 grams protein

  • 14 grams fat

  • 6 grams carbohydrates

  • 4 grams fiber (14% daily value (DV))

  • 7 milligrams vitamin E (50% DV)

  • 77 milligrams of magnesium (20% DV)

How many almonds to eat per day?

One serving of almonds is about 23 nuts.

Almond benefits

Almonds have been extensively studied for their role in several conditions, like heart disease, prediabetes and gut health. Whereas saturated fat has been shown to increase cholesterol, unsaturated fat has a positive effect on cholesterol and other cardiovascular markers. A recent review of the research states that eating almonds reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol, two factors that decrease the risk of heart disease.

As a protein-rich snack, almonds have also been studied for their role in diabetes and insulin resistance. A 2023 randomized controlled trial found that eating just 20 grams (a little less than one ounce) of almonds before each meal of the day may help improve glycemic control in adults with prediabetes and obesity. In the study, about ¼ of the participants reversed their prediabetes and resumed normal blood-sugar regulation.

Other research suggests the beneficial nature of almonds on the gut. A 2022 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that gut microbes break down almonds to produce butyrate, a microbiota product associated with several health benefits including relieving gastrointestinal conditions and helping balance the immune system. In addition, the study showed that eating almonds increased stool output, suggesting that almonds may contribute to digestive regularity.

Almonds side effects and risks

Almonds have received scrutiny for the amount of water they require to grow. In the past, farmers used sprinklers or flooding systems to irrigate the crop. Yet, more recent practices include applying water directly to the trees’ roots, rather than across the field.

Between the 1990s and 2010s, almond farmers reduced the amount of water used to grow each pound of almonds by 33 percent. The California almond community (where 80% of the world’s almonds grow) has committed to reducing the amount of water needed to grow almonds by an additional 20 percent by 2025. It’s also worth noting that almonds don’t require any more water than walnuts or pistachios.

Another concern about eating almonds is the fat and calorie content. In reality, the unsaturated fat in almonds is the source of most of their health benefits. One ounce of almonds has the same calories as one ounce of pistachios and cashews and fewer calories than the same amount of Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts and pine nuts.

Fun facts about almonds

Almonds (and pistachios) have the most protein of any tree nuts

Although nuts are revered for their good fats, some have a substantial amount of protein. Almonds and pistachios contain 6 grams of protein per ounce, which is higher than any other tree nut. Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts and walnuts have 4 grams of protein per ounce, and other tree nuts have less. This small protein boost can help athletes and plant-based eaters achieve their daily protein needs.

Eating almonds is good for your skin

Almonds have the most vitamin E of any tree nut. This essential nutrient contributes to healthy skin. A 2021 randomized controlled trial in the journal Nutrients observed the effects of eating 2 ounces of almonds per day, as compared to a nut-free snack. The researchers found that eating almonds on a daily basis for 6 months reduced wrinkles by 16% and skin pigmentation by 20%. Rather than buy expensive creams, try incorporating a handful of almonds into your daily routine for skin health.

Almonds are a low-waste crop

Almonds grow on a tree, inside a shell that is protected by a hull. The inner almond is the only part of the nut that you buy from the store to snack on throughout the day. So what happens to the rest of the plant? The hulls become livestock feed, so there’s no need to use resources to grow other crops for the animals. And the shells become livestock bedding. No part of the almond plant goes to waste. As a matter of fact, the California almond community has committed to achieving zero waste in their orchards by 2025.

Healthy almond recipes

This selection of recipes features almonds on the ingredients list to add a dose of nutrition to satisfying and simple meals.

Coconut, Cherry and Almond Granola by Vallery Lomas

Gluten-Free Chicken Piccata by Kevin Curry

Quinoa Salad with Summer Squash, Scallions and Almonds by Lauren Salkeld

Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter, Almonds and Arugula by Melissa Clark

Salted Almond Butter Cups by Samah Dada

Creamy Broccoli Salad by Ali Rosen

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