Updated: Jan 21
A new study has found that eating half a cup (57 g) of almonds every day reduces muscle damage and fatigue from intense exercise, retains post-exercise strength and improves mood during the first day of recovery. Healthy adult volunteers ate ¼ of a cup of almonds in the morning and ¼ of a cup in the evening for 4 weeks, with a control group eating a cereal bar matched for calories. Tests were conducted every day for 4 days after a 90 minute bout of eccentric exercise .
The positive effects in the almond-eating group were likely due to the combination of phenols (natural compounds made by plants), fibre, essential vitamins and nutrients that are present in almonds.
Almond skin contains quercetin and many other polyphenols that have demonstrated health benefits, and previous studies have reported the anti-inflammatory effects of almond consumption . Almonds are also a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper and branched chain amino acids.1 This complex composition promotes healthy gut bacteria that produce additional compounds that reduce inflammation.
An increase in health promoting oxylipins and decrease in inflammatory oxylipins was also observed in the plasma (blood samples) of the almond-eating group immediately after exercise . Oxylipins (also called eicosanoids) are thought to regulate post exercise inflammation and the resolution of damage. They are made by the body from polyunsaturated fatty acids by COX, LOX and cytochrome P450 enzymes, and have important roles in cell signalling, increasing or inhibiting inflammation, fever, pain and immune system function. The more important oxylipins include prostaglandins, leukotrienes, lipoxins and resolvins.
It’s widely thought that the oxylipins derived from omega 6 fatty acids (present in animal fats, for example) are pro-inflammatory - examples include prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which have important roles in increasing the production of inflammatory cytokines, activation of immune cells and pain . The omega 3 fatty acids from fish and some plants are the building blocks of anti-inflammatory oxylipins, for example, resolvins and protectins, which inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines and immune cell chemotaxis .
It seems likely that eating fresh raw almonds with skin will be more beneficial than eating roasted and salted almonds. Generally speaking, the less processed that food is, the more beneficial it is to health.
Nieman, D. C. et al. Almond intake alters the acute plasma dihydroxy-octadecenoic acid (DiHOME) response to eccentric exercise. Frontiers in Nutrition 9, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.1042719 (2023).
Vella, L. et al. Intramuscular inflammatory and resolving lipid profile responses to an acute bout of resistance exercise in men. Physiol Rep 7, e14108, doi:10.14814/phy2.14108 (2019).