Almonds are not only a tasty snack but they are also precious allies for the health of our muscles! This emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition by a group of American scientists from Appalachian State University (Nieman et al, Frontiers in Nutrition, 2023).
Almonds, properties and benefits
Almonds are a truly unique concentrate of nutrients. In fact, almonds provide proteins, unsaturated fats, carbohydrates and therefore energy, fibers, but also vitamin E, magnesium, manganese and copper. In addition to this, almonds have an interesting antioxidant power, thanks to the substances they contain such as quercetin, kaempferol, catechins and phenols. The intake of almonds has been shown, based on previous studies, to reduce insulin resistance, the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and inflammation. Thanks to these characteristics, the researchers of the study we are talking about today wondered if almonds could also help protect muscles and ensure faster recovery after physical activity.
Because muscles need to regenerate after physical activity
Physical activity is beneficial but, immediately after exercise and up to a couple of days later, the muscles are affected by damage, caused by an increase in inflammation, with symptoms such as pains and stiffness, which surely we all got to experience. A faster recovery means allowing the muscle to regenerate quickly and the possibility of resuming with beneficial physical activity, as well as reducing the risk of falls and trauma, especially in older age. Foods containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances can help in this regard, but let's see what the research has observed.
Almonds protect muscles, the study
Scientists recruited 38 men and 26 women, all aged between 35 and 65 and not regular sportsmen. Half of the volunteers were asked to take two handfuls of almonds a day, about 50 grams, for one month. Then, all study participants were asked to undergo a session of intense physical activity, 90 minutes in which participants competed in running with repeated accelerations, jumps and weight lifting. What emerged was that those who had consumed almonds had, after exercise, a lower degree of inflammation, less pain, less fatigue and less stiffness and greater strength in their legs. The explanation of what has been observed can be traced back to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances present in the almonds and to the results of medical examinations and visits to which all the volunteers were subjected. In particular, those who had consumed the almonds had an almost 70% increase in a substance called 12,13-diHOME compared to those who had not eaten almonds. This substance is a hormone with a beneficial effect on the metabolism, since it regulates energy expenditure and improves the ability of muscles to use glucose.
The study examined a significant quantity of almonds, about 50 grams, but also analyzed what happens after intense physical activity which is difficult for an averagely active person to undergo. This means that, for the purposes of muscle protection, for metabolism but also to fill up on vitamins, mineral salts and antioxidants, adding a handful of almonds, without excesses, to your daily diet is certainly a good choice. Instead, as indicated by the authors of the study, drinking almond milk may not bring the same benefits, as for the realization of this product the peel of the almonds is generally removed, which is also where most of the beneficial substances are concentrated.