To understand why an almond is a great snack, you must first understand exactly what an almond is.
So, what is an almond, exactly?
An almond is a nut. A seed for an almond tree. Now, when you think of an almond, like most people, you probably think "nut". But a better way to think of it would be to think "seed". As in, a seed that contains all the nutrients needed to make that seed grow into a healthy tree.
Almonds are some of the healthiest nuts in the world. They contain lots of protein, potassium, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, iron and manganese. All of that, and the serving size is only a quarter of a cup.
There is a catch - almonds have a high amount of fat. But, again, an entire serving is only a quarter of a cup. So, you don't need to eat very many.
In fact, that's precisely why almonds are so good as a snack! You literally only need to eat 4 or 5 and you will feel full. That's because the amounts of fat, protein, and fiber all contribute to your satiety. They even taste surprisingly good (the fat) for a small, plain nut. Plus, because they are a dry food (ex. they don't contain water, as an apple would) you'll likely get thirsty and have some water with them - filling your stomach and contributing even more to your satiety.
Another reason that almonds are an ideal snack is because almonds do not contain simple carbohydrates. They have a little fiber, but they do not have enough carbohydrates to cause a spike in your blood sugar and the subsequent insulin response from your body. This is important because if you eat enough sugar or carbohydrates (and you normally do with most snacks, even healthier ones), you'll trigger that insulin response from your body. That means that it will pull the carbs out of your system, store them as body fat, and leave you hungry again in 2 or 3 hours. So, eating a snack made up of carbohydrates really will only help for a short amount of time. Eating a snack like almonds will help train your body to burn fat as energy, as opposed to carbs. That means, eating almonds can contribute to not needing snacks to make it through the day in the future!
Now, when you're at the grocery store, shopping for your newest snack, there are some basic things you need to know in order to get yourself the healthiest snack possible:
- Look for whole, natural, and raw almonds. Roasted and salted may taste better, but they keep well naturally and you don't need the additional sodium. The cooking process also changes the nutrients and the composition of the nut.
- Look for reusuable packaging. I prefer a resealable zip-style bag. This is important, because you're only eating a few at a time - they will last for a long time and need to be kept fresh.
- Almonds are fairly expensive. Expect to pay 4 or 5 dollars (USD) for a 12-16 oz. bag. But again, depending on how often you eat them, one bag can last for months.
So, if you're hungry and looking for an alternative to the vending machine, grab 4 or 5 almonds and be amazed at how good you feel afterwards. You won't be hungry and you can smile knowing that you're doing something good for your body.