Healthy eating Nutrition Weight loss By Jim Dillan / June 7, 2013 Many people avoid nuts like almonds when they want to lose weight, thinking they are too high in calories. But nuts are little powerhouses of nutrition and getting a good variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients into your diet is precisely what is needed to help diminish the carbohydrate cravings that lead to tiredness and weight gain. Most nuts are also rich in healthy fats that provide high levels of satiety, that feeling of fullness that eliminates hunger and will keep you satisfied with what you’ve eaten for much longer than a grain-based ‘low-fat’ snack. Additionally, slow digesting nuts provide a much more sustained type of energy than the rush and fall of simple carbohydrate based energy. Here’s why adding more almonds to your diet, and particularly eating them in a certain way, can help you to lose weight rather than gain it and look and feel much better doing it. Almonds for Losing Weight While many nuts share similar nutritional benefits and healthy fats that fill you up, almonds are especially good to use for weight loss. Let’s have a look at the reasons for this. Almonds are a great source of heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, the same kind as those found in avocado and olive oil. Oleic acid is the primary monounsaturated fat in almonds and it has been associated with a reduction in unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease and breast cancer for women. They contain good levels of minerals such as manganese, copper and magnesium as well as B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin and biotin. These particular nutrients are integral to the cellular processes that activate energy production within your body. And anything that helps you to feel more active and energetic can only be a good thing for losing weight. Almonds are also particularly high in vitamin E for protecting your cardiovascular system from free radical damage and keeping your heart healthy and pumping. Studies like this one from the International Journal of Obesity have found that people in eating a restricted diet with added almonds loss considerably more weight than those on the same restricted diet with the same calories of added complex carbohydrates. This was despite the fact that the almond enhanced diet was 39% total fat (primarily monounsaturates) while the complex carbohydrate diet was only 18% total fat. So much for the old ‘a calorie is a calorie’ thinking. A handful of almonds is not only better for you and will fill you up for longer than grain-based foods (meaning overall you’ll eat less anyway), they seem to have a more pronounced effect on weight loss, even when calories are measured by scientists to be identical. Another nutritional factor that makes almonds so good for reducing body fat is their high levels of protein. Raising the levels of protein and healthy fats in your diet while diminishing processed carbohydrates make a big difference to your success in shedding the pounds. Much more on this in Why Bread Makes You Fat and High-Fat Foods Can Help You Lose Weight. Better Skin with Almonds While almond oil is a popular natural skin treatment, almonds also have some powerful skin benefits when you eat them regularly. Top of the list is their rich vitamin E content. Foods naturally high in vitamin E like almonds contain a mixture of tocopherols and tocotrienols which are the true form of vitamin E and is much more powerful than most regular supplements which only contain alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E is so beneficial for skin due to the way it protects the collagen and elastin proteins that ‘glue’ your skin cells together from free radical damage. Collagen and elastin are vital for firm and young looking skin. The more they break down, the more tired and dry your skin will look, eventually leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Eating almonds regularly can help provide protective vitamin E to your skin’s cells and keep it looking younger for longer. Perhaps think of a bag of them as a natural and tasty nutritional facelift. Almonds also have another secret weapon for facial protection in their thin brown skins. High levels of up to twenty different antioxidant flavonoids have been detected that work together with vitamin E to defend your skin against environmental damage. Many of the nutrients in almonds like oleic acid, vitamin E, copper, magnesium and manganese are also associated with healthy hair. Weight loss, good skin and better hair – almonds really do seem to be an exceptional food for improving your appearance. How to Eat Almonds for Weight Loss One of the best way to eat almonds if you are concerned about losing weight is to use them as a replacement snack food. The Ideal Meal Frequency for Weight Loss covered why smaller more regular meals are so beneficial in this regard. One of those smaller meals could be a handful of mixed nuts, with almonds as a good percentage of them. If you’ve never tried this before you’ll be surprised how well mixed nuts fill you up, especially if you chew them properly and really taste them. You can add a small apple, carrot or other healthy fruit or vegetable, but the key is to avoid bread or other grain foods at the same time. That way you don’t get high levels of insulin released into your blood that has you hungry again soon after and defeat any chance of accessing stored body fat as energy. Other good ways to add almonds to your diet include chopping them up in a food processor or crushing them on a chopping board in a bag with a heavy jar and sprinkling them on salads or into healthy stir fries. They are even good added to smoothies or topping off a tub of natural yogurt. With so many different uses for these healthy nuts it’s worth getting them in bulk and storing an extra bag in the fridge for a regular supply. Have you noticed a difference using almonds for weight loss or to improve your skin or energy levels? Are there other nuts you’d like to read about the health benefits of? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll see about getting those covered soon too.