There have been multiple studies that have looked at the effect that almonds have on lipids, and the results appear promising. These studies have looked at a wide range of individuals - including those with high cholesterol, normal cholesterol levels, diabetes, and who are obese - consuming anywhere between 20 to 168 g of almonds a day for 4 to 16 weeks. This is roughly equivalent to 1 to 6 handfuls of almonds a day. In some studies, almonds replaced some of the fats consumed in the diet, whereas in other cases, almonds were added to a healthy diet.
Almonds used in these studies were either raw, roasted, or supplemented in other healthy foods.
To date, studies have found that:
Almonds reduce total cholesterol levels by 3% to 25%.
LDL cholesterol levels are reduced by 4% to 35%.
The effects of almonds on HDL cholesterol vary. While some studies have noted a slight increase in HDL of up to about 4%, other studies have seen no impact on HDL levels. In most studies, triglyceride levels also appear unaffected by almond consumption.
There is evidence that almonds can help lower total cholesterol levels, LDL, and raise HDL cholesterol. While it is not fully known how they affect cholesterol levels, it may have something to do with one of many nutrients contained in almonds.
Fiber, flavonoids, and unsaturated fats - all components in almonds - possess lipid-lowering properties. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration issued a qualified health claim for almonds and other nuts in 2003, allowing companies that manufacture nuts to label their products as “heart healthy.” This claim states, while it has not been proven, that evidence suggests that 1.5 ounces of nuts may reduce heart disease when used in conjunction with a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, more studies are needed to provide a direct link to almonds and improved cholesterol levels. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate almonds into your diet - especially if you are going to substitute them with more cholesterol-damaging snacks, such as chips and cookies. However, you should make sure that you don’t overdo it. Almonds, like any other food, have calories that can add to your waistline if too much of them are consumed.