The almond is a tree nut native to the Mediterranean region. Historically, almond trees grew there wild and were later cultivated as early as 3000 BC. Almonds are even referenced in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, as a prized food given as gifts. The edible part of the almond is actually a seed from a drupe, a fruit in which the outer shell and hull layers are typically not eaten. After extracting the almond seed, the shells and hulls are often used for livestock feed and bedding.
Almonds have been suggested to reduce heart disease risk by lowering total and LDL cholesterol, and exerting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Plant sterols as found in almonds may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol and bile acid, and the high amount of unsaturated fat in almonds favors an improved lipid profile, especially when this food replaces other foods high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrate. Almonds also contain phytonutrients that support the growth of beneficial gut microbes. Controlled trials have shown that general nut intake can decrease inflammation, promote healthy blood vessels, and reduce insulin resistance.