Health Crossings Magazine

Almonds and Cancer

almondsMany people wonder about the possible
cancer-preventing characteristics of almonds, mainly due to misconceptions about laetrile, which was heavily promoted as a cancer cure in the 1970s and 1980s, and still sold over the internet, despite being ineffective. Raw almonds do not have strong, specific cancer
preventative or curative characteristics, although they do have general health benefits. Two small studies conducted at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto suggest that almonds may have a positive role in preventing heart disease. It is possible to plan a diet with a registered dietitian that substitutes almonds and almond milk as healthier alternatives to foods containing saturated fats and cholesterol. Such a diet may reduce the probability of your developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Before making changes to your diet, consult with a health-care provider.

Nutritional Characteristics of Almonds

One ounce of raw almonds contains 164 calories, of which 130 are from fat; more than 90 percent of these fat calories are the good or unsaturated type. Raw almonds have no cholesterol and very little sodium. One ounce of almonds also contains 3g of fiber and 6.2g of protein as well as 23 percent of your dietary requirement of vitamin E and several important trace minerals. Despite their high caloric and fat content, raw almonds, in moderate quantities, are a healthy and nutritious component of a well-balanced diet.

Almonds also contain many phytochemicals, which are being studied for their possible health-promoting benefits. Some studies indicate that quercetin, one of the phytochemicals in almonds, may have a role in preventing cancers, but the evidence is not, at this time, conclusive.

Causes of Cancer

It’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty who will and who won’t get cancer. Genetic predisposition, environment and lifestyle are all factors. Your food and lifestyle choices can increase or decrease your cancer risk, but won’t make it disappear entirely. According to the National Cancer Institute, the main factors that increase your risk of cancer are age, specifically being over 65; tobacco; ultraviolet radiation, including sunlight; ionizing radiation; certain chemicals; some viruses and bacteria; certain hormones; genetic predisposition; alcohol; poor diet; lack of physical activity; and being overweight.

Laetrile: Ineffective and Sometimes Poisonous

The almonds you normally buy in the grocery store are the nut of the sweet almond tree. Another type of almond is the nut of the bitter almond tree. Bitter almond nuts and apricot kernels contain amygdalin; laetrile, a synthetic form of amygdalin, was heavily marketed in the 1970s and 1980s as a miracle cure for cancer. Not only is laetrile ineffective for cancer, but it can cause cyanide poisoning. If you have concerns about cancer, you should consult a licensed health-care provider rather than relying on unproven remedies.

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