Though there are two main kinds of almonds that create almond oil, the one used for most homeopathic and cosmetic purposes is sweet almond oil. Don’t let the name fool you, though: Sweet almond oil is a dynamic substance that’s anything but sweet. In fact, it helps address bad cholesterol, dry skin and cardiovascular disease — which is, of course, really great news!
Almond oil presents not only a variety of benefits, but also some fascinating history and unconventional uses. For example, did you know that it has been presented as an alternative, renewable biofuel source? (1) Or that your pets can benefit from almond oil, too? It’s even been shown to prevent diabetes and cancer, in addition to its skin care support!
You’ll have to keep reading to find out how … but let’s just say for now that sweet almond oil is no wimp when it comes to health, beauty and life in general.
Where Did Almond Oil Come From?
The almond, or Prunus dulcis (also known as Amygdalus communis L.), originated in southwest Asia and the Middle East, as far as the Indus River in Pakistan. Prunus dulcis and its synonyms officially refer to the tree from which the edible almond seeds are cultivated.
Although commonly grouped with other tree nuts like nutritious cashews, what you know as an almond is actually a “drupe,” a fruit with an outer hull encasing a shell with the seed inside.
Almond domestication started when, centuries ago, farmers began to identify and pick the sweet type of almond, although the history is fuzzy on how man was able to correctly select the sweet almond over its bitter brother. Bitter almonds are occasionally used in oil form, but it’s widely understood that bitter almond is toxic in even some small doses as it contains cyanide. In the U.S., all commercially grown and distributed almonds are sweet almonds.
Interestingly, there are some uses of bitter almond oil that may be undertaken with a doctor’s supervision. When the cyanide has been extracted from bitter almond oil, it has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-itch, antifungal and antispasmodic properties.
As with most foods, almonds have varieties within their general categories. While the typical sweet almond varieties available in the U.S. are grown in California, popularity is growing for Marcona almonds, a special product harvested exclusively in Spain. For cooking purposes, Marcona almonds are even sweeter than standard almonds, plumper and have a “wet” texture. When oil is extracted, the different varieties of sweet almond oil can be subtly noticed, but all sweet almonds have basically the same nutritional value.
Almond Oil Nutrition Facts
Research proves that the healthy fats (unsaturated) in almonds, along with fiber and various minerals, make them cholesterol-lowering and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Almonds are also used in body weight reduction and glucose management, and are known to have antiinflammatory and antioxidative properties. (2)
One hundred grams of almond oil contains 60 international units of vitamin E, 200 percent of the daily recommended amount. Other than a small amount of vitamin K, other vitamins and minerals are found in only negligible amounts in almond oil. Generally, its benefits are found in incredibly dense amounts of unsaturated fat.
Almond Oil Benefits
1. Regulates Cholesterol
One of the most widely known benefits of almond oil is its ability to regulate cholesterol. Regular consumption of almond oil raises HDL cholesterol (known as “good” cholesterol), lowers LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and generally lowers overall cholesterol levels naturally. (3)
Between the high unsaturated fat content (which is already really good for your cholesterol levels) and vitamin E, almond oil allows oxygen and nutrients to flow freely through your blood, meaning that your heart will thank you for gifting it with almond oil.
2. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Not only can you expect better cholesterol levels with almond oil as a regular part of your diet, but you can also look forward to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. (4) Heart disease, like high cholesterol and many other conditions, is often caused by chronic inflammation. Real foods with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, therefore, generally reduce your risk for many common health conditions.
If you are already at risk for coronary heart disease, I highly recommend adding regular almond oil consumption to your diet. This, in conjunction with eating good sulfur-containing superfoods (such as eggs or kale) and getting good omega-3 fatty acids, should help you to reduce inflammation in your body and keep your heart healthy.
3. Protects Against Diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar becomes elevated due to your pancreas or cells being unable to produce insulin properly. Almonds and almond oil have been proven to both help regulate blood sugar levels and even prevent diabetes!
In a Purdue University study, researchers found consuming almonds at breakfast (in the form of whole almonds, almond butter, almond flour and almond oil) decreased blood sugar levels and made participants feel more full, avoiding the second-meal dip that many diabetic patients or patients in the prediabetes stage experience. In fact, in that particular study, almond oil performed as well as whole almonds at encouraging insulin production after the first meal (and even better than almond flour and almond butter!). (5)
Another trial conducted by the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto suggested that almonds, combined with foods high in carbohydrates (meaning foods with a high glycemic index), may actually decrease the glycemic level of an overall meal, again helping those with insulin resistance or at risk for diabetes to regulate their blood sugar levels. (6)
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