Almonds are commonly referred to as nuts, but (like most tree “nuts”) they’re actually the seed of a drupe—a stone fruit. They grow inside the almond fruit until ripe, then their seed emerges into the sunlight like the majestic monarch butterfly. Originally from the Middle East and North Africa, they thrive in Mediterranean climates. Today, 62% of the world’s almonds are grown in California.
The almond seed is turned into almond flour by blanching the almonds to remove their skin and grit and to preserve their color, then milling them into a grain-like consistency…and that’s it—just almonds.
Siete was founded to create food that’s both accessible and delicious. Using almond flour in our tortillas, then, became a logical choice. Almonds contain a wide panel of minerals and enzymes and are particularly rich in monounsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium, copper, α-tocopherol, antioxidants (particularly vitamin E) in the skin, and phytonutrients1. One specific benefit of these properties–the reduction of cholesterol and promotion of heart health–will be discussed further down the page, and almonds are also an ideal food to treat chronic, inflammation-based illnesses.
While grains like corn and flour (wheat) have been linked to inflammatory proteins2, almonds have been clinically proven to reduce the presence of inflammation markers in the gut. Their proteins inhibit the expression of a number of pro-inflammatory genes and keep the body functioning smoothly3.
And converting almonds into almond flour dramatically increases the scale of these effects. A recent study showed that the seed’s nutrients were much more accessible in flour form than whole (42% vs. 6% pre-intestinal bioaccessibility)4. The early absorption of lipids likely further reduces inflammation, as the body is more easily able to digest the nut and synthesize its nutrients.
Almonds And The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet is, as a rule, high in fat (lipids) and low in carbohydrates. While there are a number of benefits that this confers, one of the drawbacks is that consuming a greater amount of fat may place additional strain on your heart. Almonds offer an easy solution. In a recent study, almonds–as a dietary supplement–were shown to maintain levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, while reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol5.
If you want to know how this happens, allow us to put on our science lab goggles (if you don’t–good call! (no prob)–head on over to the next paragraph). Basically, to get LDL cholesterol to stop building up inside the blood, your body has to create more receptors for LDL cholesterol to bind to in the gene. The production of messenger RNA’s LDL receptors is controlled by the body’s need for cholesterol. So, to get more LDL to bind to the gene, you need to decrease the availability of LDL cholesterol. One of the ways that this is done is by inhibiting “de novo cholesterol synthesis”. It is annoying that people still use latin, but de novo synthesis basically means cholesterol produced by the body. Almonds are one of nature’s best inhibitors of LDL de novo synthesis and, thus, limit the availability of free LDL6.
Consuming almonds also partially restored vascular reactivity in the aorta. Vascular reactivity is essentially your body’s ability to regulate blood flow and arterial diameter to respond to things that you are putting in it. If you have good vascular reactivity, your body can respond to stressors–like running a marathon–and prevent strain on the heart. Poor vascular reactivity, on the other hand, can lead to hypertension and heart disease. Eating almonds, especially on a high fat diet, is a smart way to make sure that when you bench press 100 pounds…
Oh, sorry, you bench 250? Wow.
Anyway, they’ll make it so that when you bench press 250, your heart is still doing a leisurely jog.
We’re big fans of the paleo diet at Siete, so we know that eating the diet right is incredibly important. Consuming regulatory foods like almonds is like installing traffic lights for the body; it gives us a way to naturally regulate our lipid intake, integrate beneficial proteins and minerals, and put order to chaos.
- Kamil & Chen, 2012. Health benefits of almonds beyond cholesterol reduction. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry
- Masters, Liese, Haffner, Wagenknecht & Hanley, 2010. Whole and Refined Grain Intakes Are Related to Inflammatory Protein Concentrations in Human Plasma Journal of Nutrition.
- Udenigwe, Je, Cho & Yada, 2013. Almond protein hydrolysate fraction modulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and enzymes in activated macrophages. Food & Function.
- Grassby, 2014. Modelling of nutrient bioaccessibility in almond seeds based on the fracture properties of their cell walls. Food & Function
- Jamshed & Gilani, 2014. Almonds inhibit dyslipidemia and vascular dysfunction in rats through multiple pathways. Journal of Nutrition.