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Almond Butter Tip

September 14, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I regularly post tips about how I promote wellness in my own life. When putting together my “tip tweets”, I try to share information that is practical in nature. One example is the way I sometimes use almond butter as a meal replacement.

I’ve noticed that many of my clients find it difficult to make time for breakfast. In certain instances, it’s a matter of lacking appetite so early in the day. For others, making a healthy breakfast just doesn’t fit into their morning routine. In any event, there is value in eating something nutritious at the start of the day, and a few tablespoons of almond butter is a simple option worthy of consideration.

There’s a multitude of information available about the health benefits and nutritional content of almonds. For starters, they’re a rich source of fiber, magnesium, potassium and protein. Like most other nuts, almonds are decidedly low in carbohydrates and boast a glycemic load of 0. What’s more, the unique composition of almonds make them a valuable resource for anyone interested in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If that’s not enough reason to eat more almonds, researchers have recently discovered that these delectable tree nuts are considerably lower in calories (-32%) than originally reported.

In fairness, it should be made clear that the vast majority of studies conducted on almonds have examined the effects of whole nuts rather than the butter or ground form. However, the two studies that have been published in peer-review, scientific journals report that almond butter is equally effective, and occasionally more so, as whole nuts in promoting fullness and stable blood sugar levels. Also noteworthy is that both raw and roasted almond butters appear to confer similar improvements in terms of lipoproteins such as HDL and LDL cholesterol.

If I don’t have time for a proper breakfast, I’ll frequently have a couple of tablespoons of almond butter along with a cup of unsweetened, vanilla coconut milk. Why this combination? Apart from the impressive nutritional content, this food pairing is particularly well suited to enhancing nutrient assimilation. And, since I always take a portion of my dietary supplements early in the day, this is an ideal time to optimize absorption. According to two recent studies, the predominant fatty acids in almonds (monounsaturated fats) and coconuts (medium chain triglycerides) may increase the uptake of fat soluble antioxidants (carotenoids) and nutrients such as Vitamin D. So, to summarize: almond butter and unsweetened coconut milk are low in carbohydrates, nutrient dense and provide an excellent accompaniment for supplements. The fact that this combination is both convenient and delicious is just an added bonus.

The tastiest almond butter and coconut milk I’ve tried are sold under the names: Barney Butter and So Delicious Sugar Free Vanilla Coconut Milk. They’re widely available in health food stores and natural markets throughout the United States.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Click on the following links to learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column:

Study 1 - Health Benefits of Almonds beyond Cholesterol Reduction (link)

Study 2 - The Effect of Almonds on Inflammation and Oxidative Stress (link)

Study 3 - Discrepancy Between the Atwater Factor Predicted and Empirically (link)

Study 4 - Acute and Second-Meal Effects of Almond Form in Impaired Glucose (link)

Study 5 - Effects of Plant-Based Diets High in Raw or Roasted Almonds(link)

Study 6 – Type of Dietary Fat Is Associated with the 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 (link)

Study 7 – Coconut Oil Enhances Tomato Carotenoid Tissue Accumulation (link)

Almond Butter (AB) Promotes Satiety (Hunger Satisfaction)

Source: Nutr Metab (Lond). 2011 Jan 28;8(1):6. (link)

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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Nutrition

7 Comments & Updates to “Almond Butter Tip”

  1. Joel Says:

    I saw a post about ‘refrigerator oatmeal’ (http://www.theyummylife.com/Refrigerator_Oatmeal) and tried a batch. I was surprised how good it was, as I long ago grew tired of cold, cooked steel cut oatmeal for a quick grab breakfast.

    For my quick and dirty trial version, I popped some almonds in the blender to grind them then added some water for “milk”. With a drop of stevia and vanilla, I added it to the oats then covered with greek yogurt and frozen blueberries. I forgot to add the chia seeds.

    Some Healthy Fellow variations would be interesting! ;-)

    Question: I keep organic unsweetened shredded coconut on hand and thought I could add that with the almonds for a richer “milk” on my oatmeal. Does using the coconut in this way (blended) provide the same benefit described here plus a bit more fiber? Would the same be true for the almonds, though not butter, since I am blending them? I suspect the difference between whole nut and butter is related to absorption?

    Thanks – Joel

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Joel,

    I think unsweeteneed (and unsulphured) shredded coconut is a healthy ingredient. It would make a fine substitute for the coconut milk – from a nutritional standpoint. However, coconut isn’t a great source of fiber … usually just a few grams of fiber per serving.

    Blending the almonds should provide similar health benefits as using almond butter. The primary reason I focused on almond butter is because of the convenience factor. Virtually any form of almond is health promoting.

    In terms of recipe variations, personally I wouldn’t use oatmeal. I think it’s an overrated food. There are more nutritious candidates which provide higher concentrations of fiber. Below, I’ll post a recipe which lists some of my favorites.

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/730/hot-spiced-cereal-recipe/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/500/chocolate-hazelnut-porridge/

    Be well!

    JP

  3. rob Says:

    Some good tips, I adore almond butter & eat a spoonful almost daily and I have purchased the So Delicious coconut milk, but just the plain one. It seems a bit watered down compared to ‘real’ coconut milk but I seem to tolerate better.

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Rob.

    I believe the So Delicious coconut milk is intentionally thinner than the traditional coconut milk sold in cans. IMO, So Delicious is attempting to make a coconut-based product with a consistency closer to cow’s milk. Also, canned coconut milk is much higher in fat and isn’t fortified with added nutrients. Both versions are good. They’re just somewhat different.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. ML Says:

    This is such a great post about almond butter and the healthy benefits of almonds. When researching this further, I found that Natural Standard has a whole monograph on almonds – they gave sweet almonds an efficacy grade of B in helping with high cholesterol. It is interesting because most of the studies found that almonds decreased the bad cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol), and some even demonstrated an improvement in good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). Almonds have also been studied to possibly help with anxiety in palliative care patients – however, the evidence is a little more conflicting on this topic. Thanks for the post!

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, ML. :) Almonds are a wonderfully nutritious and therapeutic food. In case you haven’t seen them already, here are a few previous columns I’ve devoted to them and other tree nuts:

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/783/best-of-nutrient-density/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/676/almond-cocoa-butter-recipe/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/690/best-of-almond-pecan-pancake-recipe/

    Be well!

    JP

  7. JP Says:

    Updated 08/20/15:

    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/08/12/jn.114.207944.abstract

    J Nutr. 2015 Aug 12.

    Dietary Almonds Increase Serum HDL Cholesterol in Coronary Artery Disease Patients in a Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: More than one-half of coronary artery disease (CAD) patients have low HDL cholesterol despite having well-managed LDL cholesterol. Almond supplementation has not been shown to elevate circulating HDL cholesterol concentrations in clinical trials, perhaps because the baseline HDL cholesterol of trial subjects was not low.

    OBJECTIVE: This clinical trial was designed to test the effect of almond supplementation on low HDL cholesterol in CAD patients.

    METHODS: A total of 150 CAD patients (50 per group), with serum LDL cholesterol ≤100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol ≤40 mg/dL in men and ≤50 mg/dL in women, were recruited from the Aga Khan University Hospital. After recording vital signs and completing a dietary and physical activity questionnaire, patients were randomly assigned to 1 of the following 3 groups: the no-intervention group (NI), the Pakistani almonds group (PA), and the American almonds group (AA). The respective almond varieties (10 g/d) were given to patients with instructions to soak them overnight, remove the skin, and eat them before breakfast. Blood samples for lipid profiling, body weight, and blood pressure were collected, and assessment of dietary patterns was done at baseline, week 6, and week 12.

    RESULTS: Almonds significantly increased HDL cholesterol. At weeks 6 and 12, HDL cholesterol was 12-14% and 14-16% higher, respectively, in the PA and AA than their respective baselines. In line with previous reports, serum concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol; total-to-HDL and LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratios, and atherogenic index were reduced in both the PA and AA at weeks 6 and 12 compared with baseline (P < 0.05). Effect on serum lipids did not differ between the 2 almond groups. Dietary patterns, body weight, and blood pressure did not change in any of the 3 groups during the trial.

    CONCLUSION: A low dose of almonds (10 g/d) consumed before breakfast can increase HDL cholesterol, in addition to improving other markers of lipid abnormality in CAD patients with low starting HDL cholesterol.

    Be well!

    JP

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