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Don’t forget that handful of almonds a day
Research shows nuts diminish inflammation and oxidative stress
By Yoon Ja-young
Snacking can be a healthy habit if you make informed choices. Scientists from Tufts University in the United States suggest that eating a handful of almonds a day can help you stay healthy by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
In a meeting with the media, Prof. Jeffrey Blumberg and Prof. Oliver Chen from Tufts University, who came to Seoul to attend the Korean Nutrition Society Annual Conference on Nov. 8, presented their research on the benefits of almonds as nutrients that can interfere with inflammation.
Koreans lack Vitamin E
Citing previous research, Prof. Blumberg pointed out “the intake of Vitamin E among Koreans is quite low relative to the recommended amount that they should be eating…Almost 94 percent of Koreans fail to get the recommended daily dose of Vitamin E in their diet.”
“In Korea you get most of your vitamin E from soy bean oil, red pepper powder, ‘ramyeon,’ spinach and eggs, but these foods are not very rich in vitamin E and you do not eat enough of them,” he said, adding that their total intake of vitamin E is about six milligrams while recommended amount is 11 milligrams.
Benefits of Vitamin E
Why should we care about the low Vitamin E intake? He pointed out that Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant. “One thing we have known for a long time is that bad cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein cholesterol, becomes oxidized and can lead to heart disease. We know that the intake of Vitamin E can increase the resistance of bad cholesterol to becoming oxidized.”
He added that more recent research has shown that Vitamin E is not only an antioxidant but also an anti inflammatory nutrient.
“Vitamin E can act as an anti-inflammatory agent by modulating the fire within us,” he said, comparing the inflammation to fever existing within the body without any signs of fever. This fever, or inflammation, is known to be the source of many diseases, inducing strokes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Stress, smoking, junk food such as fried chicken, and drinking can all cause inflammation in the body. “Chronic inflammation is another risk factor for heart disease. Vitamin E can act as an anti-inflammatory nutrient by reducing the number of inflammatory cells,” he said.
The professor cited a number of research papers in which people consuming more Vitamin E in their diet showed a lower risk of developing heart disease. One of them showed that women who consume greater quantities of vitamin E in their diet have a 24 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
Almonds, rich in Vitamin E
“When we look at different large population studies, we see that people who consume the most nuts have the lowest risk of heart disease…People who consume a large quantity of nuts in their diet can decrease their risk of heart disease by 30 to 60 percent,” he said, adding that people who eat nuts and seeds have the lowest level of inflammatory bio-marks.
“All tree nuts contain vitamin E but almonds are the richest in it, in a form most important to human beings, alpha tocopherol. Almonds contain 25.9 milligrams (of alpha tocopherol) per 100 grams, while other nuts contain substantially less,” he said.
Other than Vitamin E, he said that almonds have other good effects — they also contain a lot of important phytochemical and polyhenols. “We know there is dynamic interaction between vitamin E and these other antioxidants compounds in almonds that provide a synergetic effect,” he said.
He said that just a handful of almonds a day, or 28 grams or 23 pieces, will be enough, providing 73 percent of vitamin E recommended for Koreans.
Free from weight concern
How about diet? A handful of almonds is equivalent to 160 calories. However, the nutritionist said that tree nuts generally help dieting. “Nuts are satiating. You will feel fuller after eating nuts. If you have an ounce of almonds before lunch, you will eat less food.”
He added that research shows you don’t absorb all the calories and energies when you eat an ounce of almonds. You actually absorb 20 percent less calories when you eat almonds than the label suggests.
The nutritionist said that you can enjoy almonds as you prefer them, raw or roasted, but people with hypertension are advised to consume almonds without salts, he added.