By keeping blood vessels healthy, eating almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease, scientists have found.

Adding weight to the theory that Mediterranean diets with lots of nuts have health benefits, researchers have found that almonds significantly increase the amount of antioxidants in the blood stream, reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow.

The study was led by Professor Helen Griffiths, Professor in Biomedical Sciences and Executive Dean of the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. The researchers tested the effects of a short-term almond-enriched diet on healthy young and middle-aged men as well as on a group of young men with cardiovascular risk factors including having high blood pressure or being overweight.

A control group ate what they normally would, while another group ate snacks of 50g of almonds (about a handful) a day for one month.

At the end of the study, the group eating an almond-enriched diet had higher levels of antioxidants in their blood stream, improved blood flow and lower blood pressure, potentially lowering their risk of heart disease.

Almonds contain many beneficial substances including vitamin E and healthy fats, fiber which increases the sense of fullness, and flavonoids which may have antioxidant properties. The researchers believe it’s likely a combination of all these nutrients working together to create the overall health benefits, rather than just one nutrient.

Said Professor Griffiths: “Our study confirms that almonds are a superfood. Previous studies have shown that they keep your heart healthy, but our research proves that it isn’t too late to introduce them into your diet – adding even a handful every day for a short period can help. You could replace a daytime snack with a bag of almonds or add them to your regular meals.”   6/30/14

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