Nuts are a part of a healthy diet for many people.
In general, nuts like almonds reduce inflammation, which is a key part of good health.
However, there are some situations where almonds can cause inflammation, leading to both short-term and long-term side effects.
We’ll look at the research supporting both cases to get a full picture of how almonds affect inflammation.
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Why Would Almonds Cause or Reduce Inflammation?
Almost every “whole food” has some aspects that are healthy.
Almonds are high in several nutrients, including:
- Monounsaturated fats
- Minerals (magnesium, copper)
- Antioxidants (e.g. vitamin E)
However, there are also a few reasons why almonds can trigger an inflammatory response:
- High in omega 6 fats
- Nut intolerances and allergies are relatively common
In other words, almonds contain some things that are pro-inflammatory, and some that are anti-inflammatory.
Whether or not almonds will make inflammation better or worse depends on the amount eaten and an individual’s response to them.
Almonds Reduce Inflammation…For Most People
Most scientific research focuses on the potential positive aspects that almonds can have.
To start with, the fiber and fat composition in almonds are linked to cholesterol reduction, which is typically a good thing (source).
Cholesterol, inflammation, and conditions like heart disease are all inter-related.
One study split 25 adults into 3 groups (no almonds, high almonds, some almonds) and rotated the groups after 4 week periods.
They measured several markers of inflammation and found that the groups that ate almonds saw a measurable improvement in certain markers:
In conclusion, consumption of almonds influenced a few but not all of the markers of inflammation and haemostasis
It’s just a single short-term study, but it showed some benefit from including some almonds in a diet.
Another study in patients with type 2 diabetes (who typically have high inflammation) had 56 grams of almonds per day and found a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress.
A reasonable serving of almonds per day is linked to less inflammation, especially in people with already high inflammation levels.
2 Ways Almonds Can Cause Inflammation
While the research above is promising, there are some obvious limitations, especially the study lengths and almond consumption dose.
It’s really not that hard to eat a few hundred grams of almonds, especially if they are in butter form or roasted and seasoned.
In addition, just because the average person benefits from eating almonds, doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions.
Let’s go over the 2 potential paths that almonds can lead to inflammation.
The most important polyunsaturated fats are omega 3 and omega 6 fats.
Omega 3 fats are considered “healthy” fats, while omega 6 fats are “unhealthy” in large amounts, which most people consume these days.
Almonds have a terrible ratio of omega 6 to 3 fats, even compared to the omega fat ratios of other nuts. In a 100 gram serving of almonds, there is:
- 0.052 grams of Omega 3 fats
- 14.5 grams of Omega 6 fats
That’s a ratio of about 279:1, and considering a healthy ratio is about 4:1 or lower, that’s not a good thing.
High levels of omega 6 fats are known to lead to inflammation, and they can also inhibit the anti-inflammatory effect of omega 3 fats (which is why the ratio is important).
You can get omega 3 fats from other foods or even a supplement to balance this out to some degree, but the high amount of omega 6 fats in almonds may be difficult to balance out.
If someone eats a lot of almonds on a regular basis, they are likely consuming too many omega 6 fats, which will lead to chronic inflammation.
Some People Have an Almond Intolerance
While you may not have an almond or nut allergy, it’s possible to have an almond intolerance.
An almond intolerance can lead to symptoms like:
- Stomach pain
Unlike allergies, which produce an immune response very quickly after exposure to the allergen, these symptoms can take several hours or even days to show up after consuming almonds, so it’s hard to pinpoint a food intolerance.
A food intolerance does not invoke an immune response, so it’s rarely life-threatening, but can still have uncomfortable side effects.
Summary: Are Nuts Inflammatory?
The research we’ve looked at showed that in the short-term, eating a reasonable serving of almonds on a regular basis is anti-inflammatory in most people.
However, there is a lack of long-term research and research on consuming a large amount of nuts.
Some people do have an almond intolerance and can experience inflammation as one potential symptom.
In addition, consuming a large amount of almonds means consuming a large amount of omega 6 fats, which overwhelming research shows is linked to inflammation.
If someone suspects that almonds are giving them inflammation, they should first rule out an intolerance with a food trial (i.e removing almonds, then introducing them in controlled amounts while observing results).
They should also use a tool like Cronometer to track their overall omega 3 and 6 fat intake to see if they have a healthy ratio or not, and how much is due to almonds.
If problems still persist, or are more serious than a mild inconvenience, it’s time to see a doctor.