Antioxidant-rich nuts eliminate sugar spikes; finding holds implications for diabetes and heart health
by Craig Weatherby
Almonds are already proven to help people lose weight and eat more healthfully.
And new findings from Canada may explain why almonds curb appetites, at least in part.
A team at the University of Toronto reports that eating almonds can blunt people's glycemic (blood-sugar) and insulin responses to high-carbohydrate meals (Jenkins DJ et al 2006).
As study co-author Cyril Kendall said, “Almonds have already been found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and contain a variety of important nutrients. This new research shows that incorporating almonds in the diet may help in the management of blood glucose levels and the onset of such illnesses as diabetes, while promoting a healthy heart.”
The researchers recruited 15 healthy volunteers (seven men, eight women) and tested the effects of five meals, eaten on five different occasions, on the levels of glucose, insulin and antioxidants in their blood.
The subjects ate two control meals that included bread, and three test meals: almonds and bread; parboiled rice; and instant mashed potatoes. All the meals were made equal in terms of carbohydrate, fat, and protein content, using butter and cheese to adjust the proportions of each.
The almonds and bread meal included 60 grams (two ounces) of almonds.
As expected, the glycemic indices (rises in blood sugar) following the rice meals and almonds-added meals were much lower than after the potato meal: glycemic indices of 38 and 55 versus 94, respectively.
And the almonds also reduced markers of oxidative (free radical) damage in the volunteers' blood when the meal included almonds, thanks no doubt to the very high antioxidant content of almond skins.
As the authors wrote, “These actions may relate to mechanisms by which nuts are associated with a decreased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease].”
It isn't practical to consume two ounces of almonds with every high-carb meal, but that isn't the point. Instead, the purpose of the study was to see whether almonds are anti-glycemic, and they certainly proved to be that.
So add a few almonds to the dietary picture when you can. One tasty way is to serve green beans almondine, with sliced or chopped almonds.
And since holiday meals and party fare are often rich in carbs, put out some almonds before the serious eating begins … you may spare yourself and your guests some undesirable physiological consequences while keeping them fully satisfied.
The study was co-funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Research Chair Endowment of the Federal Government of Canada, and (as most such studies are) by a nut trade group: in this case, the Almond Board of California.
- Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Josse AR, Salvatore S, Brighenti F, Augustin LS, Ellis PR, Vidgen E, Rao AV. Almonds decrease postprandial glycemia, insulinemia, and oxidative damage in healthy individuals. J Nutr. 2006 Dec;136(12):2987-92.
- Chen CY, Milbury PE, Lapsley K, Blumberg JB. Flavonoids from almond skins are bioavailable and act synergistically with vitamins C and E to enhance hamster and human LDL resistance to oxidation. J Nutr. 2005 Jun;135(6):1366-73.
- Wien MA, Sabate JM, Ikle DN, Cole SE, Kandeel FR. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72.
- Jaceldo-Siegl K, Sabate J, Rajaram S, Fraser GE. Long-term almond supplementation without advice on food replacement induces favourable nutrient modifications to the habitual diets of free-living individuals. Br J Nutr. 2004 Sep;92(3):533-40.