The mighty almond features great nutritional value in a small package. One of the many tree nuts that can help improve your health, almonds often come up in relation to better heart health. But they also may be able to improve your cognitive health.
Most experts believe that is because almonds contain Vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Vitamin E protects cells from damage associated with oxidative stress, something that the brain is particularly susceptible to and which increases during aging. Oxidative stress is considered a major contributor to neurodegeneration.
Recent research shows that almonds may directly help improve memory and help slow cognitive decline in older people. It’s one of the many benefits of getting nuts in your diet.
Almonds and Heart Health
Most people associate almonds with improved heart health, as well they should. Originating in the Mediterranean climate, almonds often feature in heart-healthy diet plans. While high in fat, that fat is unsaturated, which is heart healthy in moderation. Most measure a serving of almonds at about 23 almonds, which is about a quarter cup.
A recent study from researchers in India is the latest to show that almonds can lower the levels of LDL cholesterol (known as the “bad cholesterol”) in your bloodstream, as well as triglyceride levels. High LDL and triglycerides levels are known risk factors for heart disease.
The researchers also reported that consumption of almonds helped maintain or even increase levels of HDL, the “good cholesterol.”
Other cardiovascular benefits of almonds include lowering inflammation, improving the health of arterial walls, and reducing the risk of developing blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks.
Helping maintain good blood circulation also helps the brain, which is the main reason regular exercise is so food for brain function. But it turns out almonds may have a more direct impact on cognitive health.
Almonds, Vitamin E and Cognitive Health
Almonds contain high levels of many healthy substances. They include Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, plant sterols, and L-arginine (a substance which may help improve artery wall health and make you less prone to blood clots).
Almonds also have a high level of Vitamin E, which can help stop plaque development in your arteries. Plaque can narrow the arteries, leading to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
But almond and Vitamin E may also directly impact brain function. In a recent study published in Current Developments in Nutrition, researchers looked at the impact of eating almonds on cognition in elderly adults. They found that after six months, study participants who ate three ounces of almonds per day showed “significant improvements in visuospatial working memory, visual memory and learning and spatial planning and working memory.”
An earlier study from Pakistan looked at the potential for almonds in memory retention in rats. The animals were given 400 mg every day for four weeks. After 28 days, the rats demonstrated significantly improved memory retention.
Studies have also shown that Vitamin E has the potential to help prevent the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A review of clinical studies published in the journal Nutrients reported that researchers have demonstrated Vitamin E can significantly delay the clinical progression of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in patients with mild to moderate cases.
Moderation Is The Key With Almonds
They key to both almonds and Vitamin E is moderation. Almonds can cause weight gain if large amounts are eaten, while studies have shown that too much Vitamin E can cause nausea, diarrhea and some types of cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But getting Vitamin E through almonds is safe if you stick to recommended amounts. The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of nuts per week, and one serving of almonds is 23 pieces. Those with concerns about potential health consequences should consult their physician.
Almonds can make a great addition to a heart-healthy and brain-healthy diet. Coupled with other smart habits that promote cognitive health, almonds can help maintain your brain function and prolong your healthspan.