- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Almonds are the new broccoli. The tree nut has cancer-fighting antioxidants in levels comparable to those of broccoli — and the much-ballyhooed green tea — says a study to be released tomorrow by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

A fistful of the blanched variety found at weddings or upon a poached Dover sole will not do the trick, though. Researchers say the almond’s brown skin contains much of the beneficial catechin, epicatechin and kaempferol — three powerful flavonoids, or antioxidant compounds, that protect cells from damage and inflammation, and ultimately cancer, heart disease and stroke.

A 1-ounce serving of almonds — a scant one-quarter cup — provides as much disease-fighting power as a serving of broccoli or a cup of brewed green or black tea, the research found.

“This analysis of almond skin antioxidants sheds more light on all the nutrients in almonds that may provide a health benefit,” said study author Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the center.

At 160 calories a serving, almonds also supply vitamin E, magnesium, protein, fiber and heart-friendly monounsaturated fat, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and iron, Mr. Blumberg said. His study will be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Almonds have received consistent accolades from other researchers. The University of Toronto has determined that almonds reduce the risk of both diabetes and high cholesterol. A daily 1-ounce serving lowered the risk of heart disease by 10 percent, without significant weight gain among study participants, the Toronto study found.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a guarded approval of almonds in 2003, noting, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

The easily absorbed vitamin E in almonds was cited by a 2004 University of Texas study to “significantly” reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer.

Such news has done wonders to raise the nation’s almond consciousness. Almond consumption has doubled in the past decade — each American munches a pound a year. The nation annually produces more than 1 billion pounds a year — up 12 percent from 2005 , according to the Almond Board of California, an industry group.

California growers produce 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds, but maybe not for long.

A British farmer has planted that country’s first small grove of olive trees, the Independent reported yesterday, with an eventual crop of almonds in the planning stage. Grower Mark Diacono calls his enterprise a “climate-change farm,” saying global warming has raised Britain’s temperatures enough to warrant a spectrum of Mediterranean cash crops.

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