Focus on Prebiotics: Almond Joy!

Almonds have a long standing reputation for being a nutritious source of energy—as well as a delicious and easy snack. The exciting news is that scientists are starting to uncover the positive connection between prebiotic foods like almonds and vibrant health.

So, what exactly is an almond? It turns out that almonds aren’t actually nuts at all—they are the seeds of the almond fruit that grow on the almond tree, and they’re members of the prunus family, which also includes peaches. With a fleshy outer layer, almonds are technically a type of fruit called a drupe, but they are incredibly nutrient dense and one of the lowest calorie “nuts” around.

Discover the many ways almonds can give your gut and your wellness a powerful boost, one yummy handful at a time!

Understanding Prebiotics and Probiotics

If you’re not entirely clear about the distinction between probiotics and prebiotics, you’re not alone—it can get confusing since the terms sound so similar. Here’s a quick refresher: probiotics are the friendly bacteria inside you and on your skin that help keep all your mind and body systems functioning as they should. You can introduce a variety of probiotics to your body by eating cultured and fermented foods (such as kimchi, kefir, and miso), spending time in nature, or taking a high quality, time-released supplement like PRO-15.

Because probiotics are living organisms, they need to eat to stay alive and support your health, and that’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are plant-based foods that are naturally rich in a type of fiber that provides the perfect nutrition for your hungry probiotic community. You can get prebiotics from foods like almonds, broccoli, apples, walnuts, and asparagus—but because it’s sometimes challenging to get enough prebiotic fiber from diet alone, you may also want to supplement with an organic prebiotic powder.

It’s clear that prebiotics are crucial for optimal health, so let’s explore how eating prebiotic-rich almonds can help your mind, body, and microbes feel absolutely amazing.

Almonds and Your Gut: A Perfect Pair

Since almonds are an excellent source of prebiotic fiber, it just makes sense that eating them would have a positive effect on your gut microbiome—and that’s exactly what the latest research is showing. In one study, healthy adults who ate almonds daily for eight weeks experienced increased numbers of Bifidobacterium (which help to support healthy aging) and Lactobacillus (crucial for comfortable and efficient digestion). As if this wasn’t enough reason to break out the almonds and celebrate, the almond-eating study participants also experienced decreases in their numbers of certain unwanted bacteria.1

In another recent study, researchers examined whether eating almonds in a variety of forms (whole, whole roasted, chopped, and almond butter) would affect the microbiome differently, and it turns out that the amount of almond processing actually does matter when it comes to microbial health. Subjects who ate chopped almonds increased their populations of three helpful strains of bacteria: Lachnospira, Roseburia, and Oscillospira, all of which encourage metabolic and intestinal health.2,3,4,5 Whole natural and roasted almonds didn’t increase Oscillospira, and had less of a positive impact on Lachnospira and Roseburia. Eating almond butter didn’t produce any microbial changes at all.6

Why does this matter? The root of mind and body wellness begins in the gut, and when your microbiome is rich with diverse probiotic species, it has a profoundly positive effect on every aspect of your health.

The relationship between the amount of almond processing and the microbiome isn’t fully understood yet, but this new study opens up some fascinating questions about what might be the healthiest way to enjoy almonds. What we do know for sure is that eating natural almonds is good for your microbiome—and for now you might want to cover your bases by varying the way your almonds are prepared.

More Ways Almonds Support Joyful Health

In addition to their positive impact on the microbiome, almonds help keep you looking and feeling your best in all these wonderful ways:

• Solid nutrition: Almonds contain so many of the vital nutrients your body craves, such as protein, vitamin E, riboflavin, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, antioxidants, healthy fats—and of course, prebiotic fiber.
• Cardiovascular wellness: Research shows that eating almonds supports healthy cholesterol levels, and many of the nutrients in almonds are associated with overall heart health.7
• A lovely complexion: Almonds nourish the skin with vitamin E, catechins, and antioxidants including quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin to tame the oxidative effects of UV exposure, pollution, and the passage of time.8
• Your most beautiful body: Even though almonds are pretty calorie dense, the latest science shows that people who eat almonds (and other nuts) are more likely to maintain a healthy weight over the years than those who don’t eat nuts.9 This may be because the protein and healthy fat in almonds is so satisfying that it ends up reducing total calorie consumption over the course of the day.10
• Healthy blood sugar levels: Multiple studies have found that regular almond consumption supports healthy insulin response to help keep blood sugar levels from fluctuating unnecessarily.11,12
Cellular wellness: Almond antioxidants help keep cells functioning properly to support colon, prostate, and breast health.13
• Boosted brain power: Remembering to eat some almonds can help you remember, well, everything else! Research shows almonds and other nuts have a protective effect on memory and cognitive function as we get older.14,15 What kind of almonds are best for memory? Take your pick! It seems both intact almonds and almond paste both have a positive effect on memory.16,17

No matter how you slice, roast, or grind them, almonds do a body good! Just be sure to look for almond products that have no added oils, preservatives, sugar, or other additives. Whether you add them to smoothies, sprinkle them on oatmeal, turn them into delicious almond milk, or just eat them right out of the bag, including almonds in your wellness regimen will help you reveal vibrant health from the inside out.

Need some inspiration? Check out this scrumptious, all-natural almond joy recipe—we promise, you’ll hardly notice the difference!

Natural No-Bake Almond Joy

Ingredients for the filling:
• 1½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
• ⅓ cup coconut oil
• 1-2 tablespoons raw honey, based on preference

Ingredients for the chocolate layer:
• ½ cup raw or activated* almonds
• 1 cup dark chocolate chips
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil

* Activated almonds are almonds that have been soaked in water for 12-24 hours, then dehydrated (in an oven or dehydrator) on a low heat for several hours. This process reduces the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients in almonds that can impede digestion and nutrient absorption.

Instructions:
1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Heat honey and coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; stir frequently until well combined. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Add coconut flakes to melted coconut oil and honey mixture, and stir to combine.
4. Pour mixture into lined baking tray and press firmly into the bottom of the tray. Press almonds into coconut mixture every couple of inches.
5. Place tray in the freezer for five minutes to chill.
6. Melt chocolate over a double boiler, then stir in coconut oil until fully combined.
7. Remove coconut mixture from the freezer, and pour the melted chocolate over the top to fully coat.
8. Place back in the freezer for about 30-60 minutes, then remove, slice into squares, and serve!

References:

1. Liu, Z., Lin, X., Huang, G., Zhang, W., Rao, P., & Ni, L. (2014). Prebiotic effects of almonds and almond skins on intestinal microbiota in healthy adult humans. Anaerobe, 26, 1-6. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.11.007

2. Ryan KK, Tremaroli V, Clemmensen C, et al. (2014). FXR is a molecular target for the effects of vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Nature, 509(7499):183-8.

3. Meehan, C. J., & Beiko, R. G. (2014). A Phylogenomic View of Ecological Specialization in the Lachnospiraceae, a Family of Digestive Tract-Associated Bacteria. Genome Biology and Evolution, 6(3), 703-713. doi:10.1093/gbe/evu050

4. Fujio-Vejar, S., Vasquez, Y., Morales, P., Magne, F., Vera-Wolf, P., Ugalde, J. A., … Gotteland, M. (2017). The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Chilean Subjects Reveals a High Abundance of the Phylum Verrucomicrobia. Frontiers in Microbiology, 8. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.01221

5. Remely, M., Aumueller, E., Merold, C., Dworzak, S., Hippe, B., Zanner, J., … Haslberger, A. G. (2014). Effects of short chain fatty acid producing bacteria on epigenetic regulation of FFAR3 in type 2 diabetes and obesity. Gene, 537(1), 85-92. doi:10.1016/j.gene.2013.11.081

6. Holscher, H., Taylor, A., Swanson, K., Novotny, J., & Baer, D. (2018). Almond Consumption and Processing Affects the Composition of the Gastrointestinal Microbiota of Healthy Adult Men and Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 10(2), 126. doi:10.3390/nu10020126

7. Berryman, C. E., Preston, A. G., Karmally, W., Deckelbaum, R. J., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2011). Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions. Nutrition Reviews, 69(4), 171-185. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00383.x

8. Chen, C., Milbury, P. E., Lapsley, K., & Blumberg, J. B. (2005). Flavonoids from Almond Skins Are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation. The Journal of Nutrition, 135(6), 1366-1373. doi:10.1093/jn/135.6.1366

9. Wien, M. A., Sabaté, J. M., Iklé, D. N., & Kandeel, F. R. (2004). Erratum: Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. International Journal of Obesity, 28(3), 459-459. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802607

10. Tan, S. Y., & Mattes, R. D. (2013). Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(11), 1205-1214. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.184

11. Li, S., Liu, Y., Liu, J., Chang, W., Chen, C., & Chen, C. O. (2011). Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism, 60(4), 474-479. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2010.04.009

12. Wien, M., Bleich, D., Raghuwanshi, M., Gould-Forgerite, S., Gomes, J., Monahan-Couch, L., & Oda, K. (2010). Almond Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Adults with Prediabetes. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 29(3), 189-197. doi:10.1080/07315724.2010.10719833

13. Ros, E. (2010). Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), 652-682. doi:10.3390/nu2070652

14. Gorji, N., Moeini, R., & Memariani, Z. (2018). Almond, hazelnut and walnut, three nuts for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease: A neuropharmacological review of their bioactive constituents. Pharmacological Research, 129, 115-127. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2017.12.003

15. Batool, Z., Sadir, S., Liaquat, L., Tabassum, S., Madiha, S., Rafiq, S., … Haider, S. (2016). Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia. Brain Research Bulletin, 120, 63-74. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2015.11.001

16. Carey, A., Poulose, S., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2012). The beneficial effects of tree nuts on the aging brain. Retrieved from https://content.iospress.com/download/nutrition-and-aging/nua007?id=nutrition-and-aging/nua007

17. Batool Z, Agha F, Ahmad S, et al. (2017). Attenuation of cadmium-induced decline in spatial, habituation and recognition memory by long-term administration of almond and walnut supplementation: Role of cholinergic function. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Science., 30(1 Suppl):273-279.

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Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.

 

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