Just a handful of almonds a day may help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.


"Research shows that a diet high in heart-healthy foods like almonds can reduce cholesterol levels as much as statin drugs, such as lovastatin and mevastatin," said Susan Mills-Gray, a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.


Just a handful of almonds a day may help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

"Research shows that a diet high in heart-healthy foods like almonds can reduce cholesterol levels as much as statin drugs, such as lovastatin and mevastatin," said Susan Mills-Gray, a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

In addition to helping with cholesterol levels, almonds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. Almonds are a rich source of riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and copper.

A study published in 2005 in the Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming whole almonds, including the skin, doubles the antioxidant intake. A 2010 study suggests that almonds may also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Just one ounce - about 22 almonds - packs more protein than an egg and contains more than three grams of dietary fiber, according to Mills-Gray.  

"The high protein content staves off hunger," she said.

Shelled almonds may be whole, sliced or slivered with skin on, or blanched with the skin removed. But almonds are high in calories, so eat in moderation, says Mills-Gray.

Toss them in salad, mix them in cereal, bake with them, sprinkle them on desserts or simply eat them alone as a snack. You can also roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for four minutes on a cookie sheet until they are golden brown.

"Look for dry-roasted almonds that contain no additional ingredients like sugar or preservatives," she said. Also avoid almonds tossed in sea salt if you are looking to cut down on sodium.

Store almonds in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place to prevent them from going rancid and absorbing odors of other foods. Refrigerated almonds will last several months. Frozen almonds will keep for up to a year.