Although we think of the almond as a nut, it is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree – rather like the peach or apricot pip. While almond trees can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, virtually all commercial trees are grown in California.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats.
This is the same type of health promoting fats as are found in olive oil.
But don’t think that because of the presence of fats that snacking on almonds is going to make you put on weight (except if you eat a lot of sugared almonds of course!) Quite the opposite as these are monounsaturated fats "good fats".
There are so many benefits to eating almonds
• Reduced risk of heart disease.
• Reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.
• Rich in magnesium which is nature’s own calcium channel blocker.
• Rich in potassium to help protect against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
• Protects against diabetes by lessening “after meal” surges in blood sugar.
• Rich in flavonoids (found in the skin) and vitamin E (found in the meat) which together produces extra antioxidants.
• Ounce for ounce, almonds are the one of the most nutritionally dense nuts.
• If you are eating foods with a high glycemic index, adding almonds can help keep the blood sugar under control.
• Almonds help with weight loss because of their nutrient density. A body that is well nourished no longer craves food. The traditional US diet is so depleted of nutrients that the body continues to send out hunger signals. In response to these signals, more nutrient deficient food is eaten and more hunger signals are sent. This vicious cycle leads to a steady weight gain.
• Eating almonds or other nuts is one of the 4 top factors for extending longevity.
• Rich in laetrile or vitamin B17 which is thought to prevent cancer.
• Almonds have prebiotic properties, helping to improve our digestive health by increasing levels of beneficial gut bacteria.
And they taste good too!
Here are some ideas for getting the most out of almonds
• Enjoy a handful of almonds as a between meal snack.
• Spread a little almond butter on your toast or to be really healthy, down the centre of a stalk of celery.
• Add a handful of almonds to your salad.
• Use as a topping for pasta, steamed or sautéed vegetables.
• Almond extract can be used instead of vanilla extract for diabetic safe recipes.
• Sweet almonds can be roasted and turned into slivers or chunks for texture in ice cream or puddings.
• Almonds can also be processed into essential oils or extracts.
Always look for raw and organic almonds to get the full health benefits.
If almonds are not always available, there are other options you can use with great benefits too. Go for walnuts, pecans or chestnuts as these have the highest antioxidant content of all the tree nuts.
However, we are lucky as the delicately flavored and versatile almond is available throughout the year to make a healthy and tasty addition to both sweet and savory dishes. They are freshest in mid-summer which is when they are at the height of their season.