Like other nuts, almonds are the nutrient-dense seeds of the trees from which they come. Because they’re biologically designed to propagate new trees, almonds are highly concentrated in calories, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It's thought that eating a small amount of nuts every day as part of a healthy diet can help maintain cardiovascular health. While most nuts provide similar benefits, almonds are particularly high in protein, vitamin E and magnesium.
The established amount for a single serving of almonds is 1 ounce. This is also the standard size for individual portions of other nuts as well as seeds, which are nutritionally comparable. A 1-ounce serving of almonds amounts to 23 nuts, or whole kernels, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture. One cup of whole almonds contains about five 1-ounce servings, meaning a single serving of whole almonds is less than 1/4 cup by volume. A 1/3 cup of sliced almonds is approximately 1 ounce, while an ounce of slivered almonds is just slightly less than 1/4 cup.
A 1-ounce serving of whole almonds has 163 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of mostly monounsaturated fat and 6 grams of carbohydrates, of which 3.5 grams are fiber and 1 gram is sugar. An ounce of almonds supplies about 37 percent, 19 percent, 17 percent and 14 percent of the daily values for vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin and phosphorus, respectively, as well as 6 percent each of the daily values for iron, potassium and zinc. A single serving of almonds also provides appreciable amounts of several other important nutrients, including calcium and folate.
Because almonds are high in fat and calories and many people overestimate the size of an individual portion, both the American Heart Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggest defining a single serving as a small handful of nuts. The FDA interprets a small handful as a 1.5-ounce serving, which amounts to a little more than 1/3 cup of whole almonds. The American Heart Association recommends consuming a small handful of plain, raw or dry-roasted nuts four times a week to promote heart health, while the FDA suggests that eating a small handful of nuts every day might reduce the risk of heart disease.
A study conducted by USDA food scientists and published in the August 2012 edition of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that almonds actually provide approximately 20 percent fewer calories than indicated by previous calculations. The study showed some of the fat in almonds is eliminated through waste rather than absorbed for use. While this study concluded the caloric values for all nuts might be significantly lower than their stated values, the recommended size of an individual serving of nuts, including almonds, remained unchanged as of August 2012.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nuts, Almonds
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
- MayoClinic.com: Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts For Heart Health
- American Heart Association: Be Nutty (But Just a Little)
- NPR: If Almonds Bring You Joy, Enjoy More For Fewer Calories
- Wellness Foods A to Z; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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