How Snacking on Almonds Can Potentially Boost Gut Health
By Michelle Pugle on October 24, 2022 — Fact checked by Maria Gifford
- Experts say gut health is a key component of a person’s overall health.
- In a new study, researchers say snacking on almonds can boost gut health by increasing the production of an important short-chain fatty acid.
- Experts say almonds are a good source of fiber as well as a way to curb your appetite.
Eating a handful of almonds a day may significantly improve your gut health.
According to a new study funded by the Almond Board of California and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when we digest almonds, it increases the production of a short-chain fatty acid known as butyrate.
Butyrate provides fuel for cells in the colon lining. This promotes gut health.
Kevin Whelan, Ph.D., the lead study author, professor, and department head of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, said in a press release that beyond fueling the cells in the colon, butyrate also regulates the absorption of other nutrients in the gut and helps balance the immune system.
“These findings suggest almond consumption may benefit bacterial metabolism in a way that has the potential to influence human health,” he said.
The health benefits of almonds
The researchers looked at the benefits of eating almonds over 4 weeks in 87 people between the ages of 18 and 45 who were already eating less than the recommended daily amount of fiber and who were snacking on nutritionally deficient snacks such as potato chips or muffins about twice a day.
Researchers split the study participants into three snack groups:
- Group 1: Whole almonds, 56 grams a day (roughly 2 ounces a day)
- Group 2: Ground almonds, 56 grams a day
- Control group: Muffin (2 muffins per day)
The researchers reported that eating almonds in any form improved people’s gut health due to the increase in important nutrients compared to the control group.
The improvements were found in monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and potassium levels.
They noted that almonds are also a good source of niacin or vitamin B, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and copper.
What experts have to say about almonds
Nutrition experts who spoke with Healthline agreed that eating almonds is a smart choice for improving gut health because of fiber.
Dr. Amy Sapola, PharmD, a certified wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and the director of Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden, explained that it’s actually the prebiotic fiber in almonds that start the process of increasing butyrate and similar gut-nourishing molecules.
“As microbes digest prebiotic fibers, they produce beneficial compounds called short-chain fatty acids (like butyrate), which help provide energy for the cells lining the large intestine and support immune health,” she told Healthline.
Colette Heimowitz, MSc, author of The New Atkins: For a New You Cookbook and “Why You Should Eat More Almonds,” and vice president of nutrition communication and education at Atkins, said the fiber content in almonds offers significant benefits to your health, “from controlling your appetite and regulating blood sugar to helping your digestion.”
“Fiber also helps you feel full longer, resulting in fewer food cravings,” she told Healthline.
She added that fewer food cravings may make it easier to avoid nutritionally-deficient snacks and choose healthier options more often.
Preventing complications with better gut health
Quoting Hippocrates, Sapola says, “all disease begins in the gut and over the past 2,400 years, this statement remains true.”
Improving gut health is foundational to a person’s overall well-being because, without properly a functioning digestive system, you aren’t fully absorbing nutrients. At that point, Sapola explains, you could be eating nourishing food without reaping full health benefits.
A well-functioning digestive system will break down food into components the body can absorb. Then, it will use those components to carry out the many metabolic functions, including growth and repair that are constantly occurring, explained Sapola.
When digestion is suboptimal this can affect every cell in the body, Sapola says, often leading to:
- lack of necessary nutrients
- brain fog
How long until you see the benefits of gut health?
If you’re curious about trying almonds for gut health, know that some effects may be felt immediately and others may take weeks to months.
“It really depends on how far along the disease path an individual has traveled,” said Heimowitz.
Sapola agrees, saying the time necessary to see results all depends on the extent of the health changes being made.
Some people may experience having more energy, better mood, and less gas and bloating rather quickly, she said.
“Most individuals will feel benefits within the first few weeks,” added Heimowitz.
“Longer-term effects such as improved blood pressure or cholesterol could take weeks to months,” noted Sapola.
“Blood test improvements can take 6 months to a year as long as you are consistent with your new healthy eating style,” says Heimowitz.
“Although lifestyle changes are not always the quickest, they are by far the most effective way to improve long-term health,” Sapola added.