Antioxidant-rich almonds on a par with fruit and vegetables.

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Almonds Atherosclerosis

According to recent research, antioxidant-rich almonds could be the
smart choice for manufacturers trying to reach a health-conscious
market.

The nut has always been popular with bakery manufacturers, according to Mintel's Global New Product Database (GNPD)​ last year UK chain Sainsbury's and global manufacturers Nestlé each launched five new almond-containing products in Europe.

At present the majority of almond products from the bakery industry are perceived as luxury items - in March, Sainsbury's launched new chocolate and almond biscuits in its 'Taste the Difference' premium range, priced at £1.99 (€2.92) while rival company Tesco incorporated continental almond thins into its 'Tescos Finest' brand retailing at £1.49 (€2.16) for a 175g pack.

But the health implications of almonds could introduce them to a different type of consumer and allow the nut products to be marketed from a health platform in the future.

In a new study published today, almonds, in common with fruit and vegetables, have been found to contain high levels of antioxidants.

Antioxidants deactivate free radicals - cell-destroying compounds in the body that can cause heart disease, cancer and strokes.

While almonds have long been recognized as an excellent source of magnesium and vitamin E, comprehensive work had yet to be done on the quantity and quality of their antioxidant content.

One of the authors of the study and director of the Antioxidant Research Laboratory at Tufts University, Jeffrey Blumberg, said: " These new findings, coupled with past results, lay the groundwork for future clinical trials that examine a link between whole almond consumption and the reduced risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions."

By testing the eight most common varieties of California almonds, researchers at Tufts University in California, discovered that the nuts contained the antioxidants catechin, epicatechin and kaempferol, which are particularly important in fighting the cell damage that can lead to serious illnesses.

The study also claims that one serving of the nut contains the same amount of the antioxidant flavenoid as an equivalent portion of broccoli.

The next stage of the research will focus on determining how the human body extracts and absorbs the beneficial compounds.

In addition to their high antioxidant content, many health experts extol the virtues of almonds as an effective means of lowering cholesterol.

Previous research has found that the antioxidants and vitamin E in almonds work in tandem - and are more effective when taken in conjunction with each other - to prevent the oxidization of LDL, 'bad' cholesterol. According to the Almond Board of California, around a handful of the nut reduces LDL cholesterol by 4.4% from baseline.

A single ounce of almonds contains 160 calories, calcium, potassium and iron as well as being a good source of protein and fibre.

Today's research was partly funded by the Almond Board of California and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD)

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