Native to the Mediterranean region, almonds are not technically a nut, but rather a seed encased in a tough outer shell, much like other stone fruits such as peaches and apricots.
Almonds are an excellent source of good fats, fiber and vitamin E, and contain important minerals such as magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Some studies have linked vitamin E to lower rates of heart disease, and almonds have indeed been linked to reduced heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and studies have shown that general nut consumption may reduce insulin resistance. There may even be a link between the magnesium in almonds and a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes.
Despite being calorie-dense, nut intake is not linked to increased weight gain. To the contrary it is linked to lowered risks of obesity, possibly due to the fiber content leading to feeling satisfied and full.
Almonds are available raw, blanched or roasted, with or without added salt. They can be bought chopped, slivered, or whole. Also look out for products such as almond milk, almond butter and almond flour!