MODESTO, Calif. — The biggest-ever almond harvest in California’s Central Valley has started amid yet more evidence that the nuts can help keep people healthy.

The study was published in the June issue of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases by Karen Jaceldo-Siegl of Loma Linda University and her colleagues.

A key point is that the study participants who boosted their almond intake “were not counseled to reduce their intake of other foods,” said Jenny Heap, manager of healthprofessional marketing for the Almond Board of California, in an e-mail Tuesday.

The Modesto, Calif.-based board urges people to eat an ounce of almonds a day — about 23 nuts. Its marketing efforts have helped boost consumption of a food that used to have a reputation as a fatty indulgence.

Many studies have suggested various health benefits for almonds and walnuts, both major crops in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

“The healthy choices made at each occasion, on each day, impact a person’s weight over time,” said Karen Lapsley, chief science officer for the Almond Board, in a news release. “For this reason, it is important that more long-term research be conducted to examine what those choices should be.”

California’s 2011 almond crop has been projected at 1.95 billion pounds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The state produces more than 80 percent of the world’s supply.

The estimate is 19 percent higher than the record harvest of 1.64 billion pounds last year. This year’s bumper crop has happened despite wet, cold weather during pollination in February and at later stages through spring.

The harvest is a little late but is going well, said Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers. The Sacramento-based cooperative has a processing plant in Salida, Calif.

He said the weather has been favorable for most of the summer, and there is no rain in the forecast as fall approaches.

“Hopefully, we’ll get them out of the field before we get into any inclement weather,” Baker said.