It has been said that beauty is
only skin deep. But for almonds, the skin is as deep as you may need to go to
get a real antioxidant punch. In a study, published in this month's Journal
of Nutrition, the antioxidants in almond skins and the vitamin E in almonds
were shown to work together as an antioxidant team. The study was co-authored
by researchers at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human
Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the Almond Board of
Researchers tested the brown skins of almonds to determine their
antioxidant content. Almond skins have been known to contain antioxidants
called flavonoids, which are a large group of plant nutrients found in wine,
tea, fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids can act as antioxidants in the body
protecting cells from damage. They also can protect LDL, the "bad"
cholesterol, from being attacked by oxygen or oxidized, which makes LDL
stickier and more likely to clog arteries. Additionally, these plant
nutrients are thought to protect the body from the effects of aging.
Almonds contain a unique combination of antioxidants. Some of the 20
flavonoids identified in this analysis have been detected in other foods, such
the catechins found in green tea, and naringenin, found in citrus fruit. "We
have identified a unique combination of flavonoids in almonds," said Jeffrey
Blumberg, Ph.D., senior scientist and director of the Antioxidants Research
Laboratory at Tufts University. "Further blood tests demonstrated that eating
almonds with their skins significantly increases both flavonoids and vitamin E
in the body. This could have significant health implications, especially as
Almond antioxidants really make a heart healthy difference. It is one
thing for a food to contain antioxidants but do they actually do anything in
the body? The team at Tufts was able to test the flavonoids alone and then in
combination with vitamin E, also naturally found in almonds, in the blood.
The results suggest that vitamin E and the flavonoids in almond skins work
synergistically to prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized. In fact,
together vitamin E and almond flavonoids were more than twice as effective as
when they were administered separately.
"The synergy between the flavonoids and vitamin E in almonds demonstrates
how the nutrients in whole foods such as almonds can impact health," says Dr.
Blumberg. "Given that almonds are among the richest sources of vitamin E in
the diet and also provide an array of flavonoids, more research should be done
to understand the healthful interaction of these plant nutrients in the human
body and the role of almonds in aging."
Almonds have long been lauded for their heart health benefit. A recent
study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 2005)
found that eating almonds as part of a diet rich in heart healthy foods such
as soy, viscous fiber and plant sterols can significantly reduce cholesterol
levels as much as first generation statin drugs. And a study published this
month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that almonds, as
part of that same heart healthy eating plan, can significantly reduce artery-
damaging inflammation similar to statin drugs. The Food and Drug
Administration recognizes the heart healthy benefit of almonds as well with a
qualified health claim.
Almonds are nutritionally dense -- a quality emphasized in the
government's latest Dietary Guidelines. Ounce for ounce, almonds are the most
nutritionally dense nut. The recently released Dietary Guidelines for
Americans 2005 encourage Americans to choose nutritionally dense foods -- that
is, to get the most nutrition possible out of the calories you eat. In
addition to its flavonoids, a one-ounce, 164-calorie serving of almonds, or
about a handful, is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, and a good
source of protein and fiber. It also offers heart-healthy monounsaturated
fat, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, and iron.
Almonds Pack an Antioxidant Punch (press release)
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