Almond joy

Nuts found to promote cardiovascular health

If sometimes you feel like a nut, go ahead and have a handful of almonds. A study co-authored by Jeffrey B. Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, bolsters the almond’s reputation as a heart-healthy snack.

Almonds have long been known to be a rich source of antioxidant vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids and plant sterols—nutrients all related to cardiovascular health. Blumberg, in his new study published in the Journal of Nutrition in collaboration with the Almond Board of California, was the first to characterize some 20 different flavonoids in almonds’ thin brown skin. Also found in wine, tea and fruits and vegetables, flavonoids are antioxidant phytonutrients that protect cells from damage and also prevent LDL—low density lipoprotein, or the so-called “bad” cholesterol—from oxidizing, a chemical process that makes the cholesterol stickier and more likely to clog arteries.

Once the researchers isolated the almond skin flavonoids, they tested their antioxidant activity in hamsters, first alone, then in combination with low doses of vitamin E. The nutrients in combination seemed to amplify each other’s effect, resulting in twice the expected protective benefit. “This synergy between the natural antioxidants in almonds and likely other whole foods should be the focus of new research to better understand their potential for promoting health,” Blumberg said.