Almonds are not only one of the healthiest foods available, but help control hypertension.

Almonds are among the few high-fat foods that are good for your health. They are high in health-promoting monounsaturated fats, which are also found in olive oil and have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. A group of researchers estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30 percent reduction in heart disease risk and a 45 percent risk reduction when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats ― found mainly in meat and dairy products.

Almonds are also rich in potassium, an important electrolyte involved in neural transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart. Potassium is also essential in maintaining normal blood pressure. Almonds therefore protect against hypertension and atherosclerosis by providing 257 mg of potassium and only 0.3 mg of sodium.

A study, published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, involved 65 overweight and obese adults. Half were put on an almond-enriched low calorie diet (high in monounsaturated fats) and the rest were on a low calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates. Both diets supplied the same number of calories and equivalent amounts of protein. After 6 months, those on the almond-enriched diet had greater reductions in weight (-18 vs. -11%), waistlines (-14 vs. -9%), body fat (-30 vs. -20%), total body water (-8 vs. -1%), and systolic blood pressure (-11 vs. 0%).

Here is one way healthy way to include almonds in a meal:

Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Almonds
This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make, cooks for 40 minutes, serves 6 and contains 250 calories per serving. It contains the following nutrients help in blood pressure control: 1mg Vitamin C, 21mg Magnesium, 260mg Potassium, and 37mg Calcium. The dried apricots, which are fat-free, are full of nutrients good blood pressure and cholesterol, and an excellent source of iron.

Ingredients

    • 12 dried apricot halves
    • 1 Tbsp. margarine
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 cup jasmine, white, or brown rice
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or: sauté 1 chopped green bell pepper along with the rice and onion and use 2 tsps. fresh thyme and 1 tsp. fresh rosemary)
    • Salt to taste
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper
    • 2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium
    • chicken or vegetable broth
    • 1/2 cup golden raisins
    • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
    • Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish
      (Use 1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans in place of the raisins, almonds, and apricots if preferred)

Method

    • Cut apricots with into small slivers (about 1/3 cup).
    • Melt margarine in large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion, rice, cardamom, salt, and pepper until rice is toasted, about 8 minutes.
    • Stir in broth, raisins, almonds, and apricots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

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