Almonds have always been considered to be extremely important for your health, especially when it comes to diabetes and heart health. Now, researchers have also concluded that almonds are good for managing your diabetes, and having some almonds before meals will prevent sudden blood sugar spikes.
Health benefits of almonds
Seema Gulati, head, Nutrition Research Group, Center for Nutrition & Metabolic Research (C-NET) and National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC), explains that almonds are considered good for diabetics, as they are a rich source of dietary fibre, healthy fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), vegetable protein and minerals.
Dr Anusha Nadig, associate consultant, endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru, explains almond intake has been associated with improvement in conditions like obesity, hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels in the blood), hypertension and high glucose levels.
Mumbai-based nutritionist Nidhi Joshi ensures to incorporate almonds in the diet plan of her clients who are obese or diabetic. She explains almonds can improve cardiac health in people with diabetes and reduce the risk of heart conditions by improving cholesterol levels.
Gulati explains almonds are more beneficial compared to other nuts (like pistachios or walnuts), as they have the lowest carbohydrate content (10.5 grams per 100 grams).
The fat content of almonds may play a role in slowing down gastric emptying and delaying glucose absorption, she adds.
A recent research published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN reported that consuming 20 grams of almonds, 30 minutes before the main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) leads to a significant reduction of postprandial hyperglycemia and serum insulin levels.
Gulati adds, if a diabetic is recommended 20 grams of almonds before major meals, then the portion size (of the meal) should be reduced. “Almonds can be substituted for a portion of carbohydrates in the diet. One can replace a chapati or a serving of rice with almonds,” she explains.
The calorie intake is decided as per the age, height and activity level of an individual. In general, 50-55 percent of the total calories should come from complex carbohydrates.
How almonds reduce blood sugar levels
Gulati explains that almonds benefit people with diabetes and prediabetes, as their high fibre content slows down the absorption of nutrients from food and prevents sudden spikes in blood glucose levels. Most Indian diets are filled with carbohydrates, which get converted into glucose after consumption.
“Almonds also have high zinc and magnesium content, which can stimulate different enzymatic pathways, thereby improving insulin sensitivity,” explains Gulati.
Magnesium is an important co-factor in numerous enzymatic reactions and is involved in the regulation of insulin signalling. “Chronic magnesium deficiency may disturb insulin signalling,” she adds.
These nutritious nuts, which are rich in healthy fatty acids, can also improve insulin sensitivity.
According to Gulati, consumption of almonds also leads to a reduction in hunger pangs, and all these mechanisms may work in combination to benefit glucose-insulin metabolism.
Dr Nadig adds that almonds may also reduce inflammatory markers in the body. It can improve both fasting and post-prandial blood sugar levels.
According to her, almond intake has also been associated with lowering total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels.
Including almonds in a diabetes diet
Dr Nadig suggests that almonds can be a healthy alternative snack for diabetic and obese people instead of those made from refined food, which unfavourably affects metabolic health.
Joshi says soaking the almonds helps remove phytic acid, which would otherwise hinder absorption of nutrients. Powdered almond can be added to salads, soups and even buttermilk. “It also works well with overnight soaked oats,” explains Joshi.
“While overconsumption of almonds might not raise blood glucose levels, it can cause kidney stones,” cautions Dr Nadig.
She explains, “Some people may opt for almond milk or almond butter, but one should check their nutrition labels and the amount of sugar they contain before using it.” It is best to have soaked almonds or make almond milk at home.
- Almonds are beneficial for people with diabetes, as they are rich in dietary fibre, healthy fatty acids, vegetable protein and minerals.
- Almonds can be consumed in several ways, including adding them in salads and soups, soaking them in water and combining them with overnight soaked oats.