23 May, 2018 by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Almonds are a satisfying food with many potential health benefits.
The oil that comes from these delicious tree nuts is commonly used as a natural ingredient in skin and hair care, but few people realize that it may also be good for your health.
This article uncovers how almond oil may benefit your health and how it can be used as a multipurpose, non-toxic beauty treatment.
Almonds are the edible seeds of the Prunus dulcis tree, more commonly known as the almond tree.
Although almonds are commonly referred to as nuts, they’re actually the seeds found at the center of the almond fruit, which closely resembles a peach.
Almonds can be consumed whole, ground into flour and even made into non-dairy milk.
They are very rich in fat, making them a perfect source of oil.
Sweet almonds are the variety typically eaten and used to make foods, oils and cosmetics.
Meanwhile, bitter almonds are believed to have medicinal properties, though they can be toxic if they’re not properly processed. Moreover, they’re not widely available.
Refined vs Unrefined Almond Oil
After harvesting, almonds are hulled and dried before different methods are used to extract their oil.
Refined almond oil is extracted from almonds using high-heat processing and chemicals.
This method negatively affects the nutritional value of the oil, as many of the nutrients found in raw almond oil are destroyed during high-heat or chemical treatments (1).
While this method results in a less nutritious oil, refined almond oil can withstand much higher temperatures and is less expensive than the unrefined type, making it a more cost-effective option for consumers.
Unrefined almond oil is made by pressing raw almonds without the use of high heat or chemical agents.
This low-heat process helps almond oil retain much of its nutrient content, making unrefined almond oil a better choice for culinary uses.
Summary Almond oil is extracted from the seed of the almond fruit. The methods used to produce refined almond oil destroy certain nutrients. Thus, unrefined almond oil is a better choice for culinary purposes.
Although almond oil is not as rich in nutrients as whole almonds, it has nutritional benefits.
Below is the nutritional breakdown of 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of almond oil (2).
- Calories: 119
- Total fat: 13.5 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.1 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 9.4 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 2.3 grams
- Vitamin E: 26% of the RDI
- Phytosterols: 35.9 mg
Almond oil is an excellent source of vitamin E and contains a small amount of vitamin K.
Most of the health benefits related to almond oil stem from its high amount of healthy fats.
Fatty Acid Breakdown
Here are the proportions of fatty acids found in almond oil:
- Monounsaturated fat: 70%
- Polyunsaturated fat: 20%
- Saturated fat: 10%
In fact, a recent review of 24 studies including 1,460 people found that a diet high in monounsaturated fats was more effective than a high-carb diet for weight loss (9).
Summary Almond oil is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E and unsaturated fats. Diets rich in unsaturated fat may provide some health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and obesity, and they may aid weight loss.
Whole almonds are thought help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and aid in weight loss, and almond oil may be good for your health as well.
May Help Keep Your Heart Healthy
Almond oil consists of 70% monounsaturated fat, which has been researched for its effects on heart health.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
HDL is a type of protein that carries cholesterol away from the arteries and transports it to the liver, where it is broken down and excreted from the body. Healthy levels of HDL cholesterol have been shown to help protect against heart disease (13).
Both almonds and almond oil have also been shown to lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol (14).
High levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol are considered risk factors for heart disease. Lowering these levels can help keep the heart healthy.
In one small study, a diet rich in almond oil significantly lowered both LDL and total cholesterol levels, while raising HDL cholesterol by 6% (15).
High in Antioxidants
Almond oil is a great source of the potent antioxidant vitamin E.
In fact, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of this nutty oil delivers 26% of the recommended daily intake.
Vitamin E is a group of eight fat-soluble compounds that have antioxidant properties.
These compounds protect cells from harmful substances called free radicals.
While free radicals are necessary for health, they can cause damage if their numbers grow too high in the body.
Free radical overload leads to oxidative damage and has been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease (16).
May Be Beneficial for Blood Sugar Control
Adding almond oil to your diet may help keep your blood sugar stable.
This oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both of which have been shown to help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes (20).
In fact, replacing carbs with unsaturated fats has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance and levels of HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar control (21).
In one study, participants who consumed a breakfast with added almond oil had lower blood sugar, both after the meal and throughout the day, compared to participants who did not eat almond oil (22).
What’s more, the participants who consumed almond oil felt fuller after their meal, leading them to consume less throughout the day.
May Aid Weight Loss When Paired With a Reduced-Calorie Diet
A diet rich in healthy fats may help you lose weight.
Many people avoid fats when they’re trying to drop pounds, but consuming the right kinds of fats can be beneficial for weight loss.
A diet that includes a healthy amount of whole almonds has been shown to help people shed excess weight. Likewise, adding almond oil to your diet may help you lose fat.
Diets rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to decrease body fat and promote weight loss.
In one study, a diet high in monounsaturated fats improved weight loss and body composition in obese women (23).
Another large study including 7,447 people found that a diet high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats led to a greater reduction in body weight and belly fat, compared to a low-fat diet (24).
Summary Almond oil is rich in vitamin E and unsaturated fats. Adding almond oil to your diet may promote heart health, aid weight loss and keep blood sugar levels stable.
Almond oil is a popular ingredient in natural beauty products. This mild and soothing oil is beneficial for both the skin and hair.
This is partly thanks to its emollient properties, meaning it helps prevent water loss from the skin.
This quality makes almond oil an excellent choice to keep the skin, hair and scalp soft and hydrated (25).
The moisturizing effects of almond oil may be especially helpful for people who have dry or sensitive skin.
Almond oil is packed with vitamin E, which may help protect the skin from sun damage and premature aging.
Animal studies have shown that when applied to the skin, vitamin E may help protect cells from sun damage. It does this by reducing DNA damage and chemical and structural changes in the skin that have been caused by the sun’s rays (26, 27).
This makes using unrefined almond oil important in skin care as well, as unrefined oil is higher in vitamin E.
What’s more, this soothing oil may even help prevent the spread of stretch marks.
One study in 160 women found that the topical application of sweet almond oil reduced the spread of stretch marks in the abdominal area, as well as redness and itching (28).
This versatile oil makes a great choice for people looking for natural beauty products that have a limited number of ingredients and can be used in many ways.
It can function as a gentle makeup remover, a natural skin or hair moisturizer or a velvety massage oil.
Summary Almond oil may help protect the skin from sun damage and prevent stretch marks. It can be used in many ways, including as a moisturizer, massage oil or makeup remover.
Almond oil is a multipurpose product that can be used as both a food and natural skin and hair care product.
In the Kitchen
Almond oil is a mild, nutty-tasting oil that makes a great addition to many dishes.
Unrefined almond oil should not be used in cooking, as high temperatures can destroy its nutritional value.
Rather, this type of almond oil should be treated more as a finishing oil and added to foods after the cooking process is completed.
However, refined almond oil has a higher smoke point of 420°F (215°C) and can be used for cooking methods like roasting and sautéing.
It’s less expensive and more heat-tolerant than the unrefined kind, as the refinement process destroys much of the nutrients in unrefined almond oil.
Here are several ways to use unrefined almond oil:
- As a tasty salad dressing: Combine unrefined almond oil with apple cider vinegar and chopped herbs.
- To add a nutty flavor to meals: Drizzle almond oil over your favorite side dish to give it an extra kick.
- Over pasta: Add a bit of almond oil to your pasta to add a boost of healthy fats.
As Part of Your Beauty Routine
If you are looking to swap out some of your skin and hair products for more natural, non-toxic options, almond oil is a great way to go.
Almond oil is less expensive than most commercially made moisturizers and doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients.
Furthermore, it’s a multipurpose beauty product that can be used both on the skin and hair.
Below are some ways to add almond oil to your skin or hair care routine.
- As a moisturizer: Almond oil is a perfect moisturizer for sensitive skin.
- Apply it to extra-dry spots: Rub almond oil on the elbows, feet and any other areas that tend to get dry.
- To make a homemade hair mask: Make a hydrating hair mask by mixing almond oil with mashed avocado and then smoothing it on damp hair.
- Combine it with essential oils: Use almond oil as a carrier oil to dilute essential oils when you’re applying them to the skin.
Summary When using unrefined almond oil in the kitchen, don’t heat it. Instead, use it as a finishing oil. You can also use almond oil as a beauty product. It makes an excellent moisturizer for both the skin and hair.
Almond oil is a versatile fat that can be used as a food or natural beauty product.
Almond oil may promote heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels, prevent free radical damage and help you maintain a healthy weight.
What’s more, the oil makes an excellent moisturizer for both the skin and hair, and it may even help prevent stretch marks and protect your skin from sun damage.
Unrefined almond oil retains more nutrients than refined almond oil and is better for culinary uses. Just make sure you don’t heat it, as doing so will destroy some of its nutrients.
No matter how you choose to use this interesting oil, it makes an excellent addition to both your pantry and vanity.
An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.