Buying almonds used to be simple as walking into a dry fruit shop and asking for ‘badam’. Nowadays, market aisles and online stores offer you so many varieties ranging from Sonora almonds to Nonpareil, Texas, and Mamra almonds. It does get rather confusing to choose the right one!

Almonds are one of the oldest and most widely-used nuts in the world. Native to the current Middle East and parts of the Indian subcontinent, almonds have been a part of cultures and healing practices all over the world. Today, however, most almond cultivation takes place in the USA (1, 2, 3).

When it comes to taste, almonds have only two types: bitter and sweet. However, there are more than 50 varieties of almonds grown all over the world. They vary significantly in their shape, size, colour, and shell strength. The most popular varieties include California, Mamra, and Sonora Almonds.

Different Varieties of Almonds: Origin, Nutrients, and Benefits

Almonds are, undisputedly, the best nut when it comes to nutritional value. They contain significant amounts of fiber and protein, naturally lower levels of sugar, and have one of the lowest calories among nuts as well.

Just a handful of almonds can prove to be a rich source of essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats (4).

A single serving of 28 grams of almonds has almost 13 grams of “good” unsaturated fats and just 1 gram of saturated fat. The nutritional values of almonds may vary slightly depending on the type of almond and where it has been grown.

Californian Almonds

The famous California almonds comprise almost 80% of the world’s almonds and are the most widely-available variety in the world. These almonds have a sweet and rich flavour and are mostly grown in the Central Valley region in the state of California.

There are many types of California almonds available, with the most popular ones being Butte, Carmel, Fritz, Mission, Monterey, Nonpareil, and Sonora.

california almonds loose

Origin of Californian Almonds :

Almonds are not indigenous to California and were brought over from Spain in the 1700s. The region’s temperature is conducive for the plant to flourish, and cross-breeding in the 1870s resulted in the emergence of many popular varieties we consume today.

Over the next century, almond cultivation grew many times over, and almonds became a valuable food commodity. 

Nutrients in Californian Almonds:

As per the FDA, one-fourth cup of California almonds (28.5 g), or one ounce, contains 164 calories, of which nearly 126 are from fat. Californian almonds are usually sweeter than other types and also contain higher amounts of protein and vitamins, in addition to having lower carbohydrates, sugar, and fats.

However, since Californian almonds are processed using chemicals, they are not the first choice for people who consume only organic and natural foods (5, 6, 7).

Mamra Almonds

mamra almonds in a white bowl

Mamra almonds, or mamro, is a lesser-known variety grown in select regions of Iran and Afghanistan and constitutes about 3-5% of the global almond production.

They are usually more expensive and crunchy than other types but are not as sweet. Their higher price is due to the lower production, exclusivity, and the fact that they are mostly cultivated using traditional methods with fewer chemicals.

Origin of Mamra Almonds:

Since almonds are native to Iran, the Iranian Mamra can be considered one of the most natural and authentic varieties of almonds. Mamra almonds are grown in Afghanistan, India, and a few other Middle Eastern countries as well.

Their distinct taste, smaller size, and shape (concave with a cavity in the front) make them a premium almond variety, and the Iranian Mamra is considered one of the best in the world due to the higher content of fat and oil. Indian Mamra, on the other hand, is best suited for making almond milk.

Nutrients in Mamra Almonds:

Different almond varieties vary slightly in their nutritional values; for instance, the Mamra has higher fat and nutrition as compared to other almond varieties.

A one-fourth cup, or around 28.5 grams, of Mamra almonds, contains more fat and carbohydrates than their Californian counterparts.

Since Californian almonds are produced, pasteurized, and processed using machines and chemicals, Mamra almonds are usually considered to retain more nutritional value.


Sonora almond is one of the most popular and in-demand types of California almond varieties. However, they constitute only about 2-3% of the total almonds grown in California and are generally more expensive than other types.

sonora almonds in a bowl

Origin of Sonora Almonds:

Like other varieties, Sonora almonds are believed to have been native to Central Asia and thrive in the Mediterranean climate. With thin paper shells that are dark brown in colour and have a rough surface, these almonds are actually long and narrow with a light colour and smooth surface.

Sonora almonds have a shorter shelf life as compared to other almond varieties. These almonds are in high demand due to their quality and low net yield.

Nutrients in Sonora Almonds:

Sonora almonds are considered to be some of the more nutritious almond variants. In addition to having higher protein and fat content than other popular Californian almonds, they also have lower sugars and higher mineral amounts.

They have a sweet and woody flavour. They are similar in shape and colour to the more widely-consumed premium variant Californian Nonpareil almonds (8).

Health Benefits of Almonds

Irrespective of their variety or type, almonds offer you an amazing array of health benefits. Owing to the fact that the almond is a powerhouse that contains healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, they have several health benefits as well. Here are some of the top benefits of almonds, as verified by research:

  • For blood pressure: The magnesium found in almonds is known to help regulate blood pressure and can be beneficial for people with high blood pressure levels ( 9, 10).
  • Slows down symptoms of aging: Packed with several nutrients, almonds provide the body with antioxidants and prevent inflammation and aging. Not only can they lead to an overall improvement in your health, but even undo some of the damage done by unhealthy habits and lifestyles ( 11, 12).
  • May help control blood sugar levels: The magnesium in almonds can help diabetic patients lower blood sugar levels. Furthermore, owing to its low carbohydrate content, it can be eaten by people with metabolic syndromes especially diabetes (13, 14).
  • Reducing cholesterol levels: People with high levels of LDL (or bad cholesterol) can benefit from eating almonds regularly. In addition to lowering LDL levels, almonds may also prevent its oxidation and reduce the chances of cardiac diseases (15, 16).
  • Boosts weight loss efforts: By helping you reduce your calorie intake and boosting your metabolism, almonds have been shown to help people shed weight. Many dieticians and health experts recommend replacing packaged snacks with almonds to lose weight as well (17, 18).

The Final Note

The fact that almonds have continued to be a popular food all across the world for centuries now is a testament to its versatility, benefits, and significance in our lives.

Over the last few decades, owing to advances in research and technology and a rise in veganism has led to record almond cultivation as well.

Depending on your budget, requirement, and flavour preference, you can choose between the almond types discussed above. Be sure to include this wonderfully wholesome nut in your diet, as it is one of nature’s most valuable gifts to us.