I Can Have Nuts!But do I have to start with Almonds?
Almonds are brown skinned oval shaped nuts with a white center and crunchy texture. Gram for gram, it’s the most concentrated food source for a plethora of vitamins and minerals. And as an added bonus, it’s the easiest nut for the body to digest :-D No wonder why they’re deemed the King of Nuts! Now that I think about it, “Almond, The Nut King” does have a nice ring to it lol These little royal powerhouses (especially when soaked, with a taste similar to coconut) help with digestion, weight loss, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and blood pressure to name a few.
Technically speaking, though, almonds are not true nuts at all. The edible part that we call a nut is actually a seed, and almonds themselves are drupes, according to the University of California Riverside’s botany department. Sometimes called “stone fruits,” drupes are characterized by a tough rind surrounding a shell that holds a seed. Peaches and apricots, close cousins to the almond, are common examples of drupes. Like these relatives, almonds grow on beautiful, flowering trees and thrive in warm, dry climates.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that almonds pack the biggest nutritional punch if eaten whole, with their brown skins on (unblanched), rather than with their skins steamed off (blanched). The study identified 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skin. Combined with the high vitamin E content in the meat of the almond, these flavonoids endow almonds with a unique nutritional package that may have implications for cholesterol levels, inflammation and more.
Here are the nutrition facts for almonds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food labeling through the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act:
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
|Amt per Serving||%DV*||Amt per Serving||%DV*|
|Total Fat 14g||22%||Total Carbohydrate 6g||2%|
|Cholesterol 0mg||0%||Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Sodium 8mg||0%||Sugars 1g|
And now for some visual almond stimuli to introduce to the wonderful world of almonds! You can also view the downloadable PDF for offline access :-)
- They contain more calcium than any other nut, which helps to build strong bones and teeth. Did you know that just 20 to 25 almonds contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk?
- Almonds are 13% protein.
- They contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which help to regulate book pressure and fight inflammation.
- They are a cholesterol-free snack and are moderately low in calories.
- They are rich in fiber, which aids in digestion.
- They contain Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps to fight inflammation.
- They contain other minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorous, iron and B vitamins.
- They help to alkalize the body (super important for maintaining a healthy inner-ecosystem).
- They help to lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
Both sweet and bitter almonds are readily available. Traditionally, sweet almonds are edible, while bitter almonds are used to make almond oil, a common oil that is used to add flavor to food. Almonds are usually eaten raw, but many people also add them as ingredients in salads, casseroles, and other dishes. Almond milk is also a delicious beverage, and an alternative to less nutritious cow’s milk.You can eat almonds directly, preferably on an empty stomach to increase and speed up the absorption of their nutrients. You can soak them in water overnight so you can eat them the morning. Crushed almonds are also a wonderful garnish for a number of dishes.
Almonds are known to have great medicinal value, which, along with their good taste, is the main reason that so many people proactively add almonds to their diet. Some of the researched and verified benefits of almonds are given below.
Many mothers give almonds soaked in water to their children every morning. Two or three pieces of soaked almonds are enough, and you can also remove the outer shell if it causes allergic reactions, as the majority of the nutrients are not held in the shell.
Regulation of cholesterol
Regular consumption of almonds helps to increase the level of high density lipoproteins (HDL) and they reduce the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL). This balance is vital to a healthy cholesterol level, and a reduction of LDL (bad cholesterol) is always a good thing.
Almonds are a fantastic source of many vitamins and minerals, and phosphorous is definitely counted among them! Phosphorous can have a considerable impact on the strength and durability of bones and teeth, while also preventing the onset of age-related conditions like osteoporosis.
Good for your heart
The mono-unsaturated fats, protein and potassium contained in almonds are all instrumental in heart health. Vitamin E is an effective antioxidant and also reduces the risk of heart diseases, while the presence of magnesium in almonds can help avoid heart attacks. Almonds help reduce the presence and impact of C-reactive proteins which causes artery-damaging inflammation. Almonds are also a great source of folic acid. Therefore, they help to reduce the level of homocysteine, which causes fatty plaque buildup in arteries. Furthermore, the flavonoids in the skin of almonds combines with Vitamin E to form a powerful shield against artery wall damage. Research suggests that short-term almond-enriched diet may improve vascular function in asymptomatic healthy men aged between 20 and 70 years without any effect on markers of oxidative stress.
Immune System Strength
Your body has many components that add to overall health, including the alkalinity of the systems. Almonds are great sources for alkali materials, and this is known to benefit the strength of the immune system, as well as increase the ability to stave off diseases and various health conditions. Along with almonds’ contribution to alkaline levels, it also has a high content of Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. It seeks out all the damaging free radicals in the body and eliminates them, because they actually promote chronic diseases and can be horribly hazardous to the body’s organ systems. Antioxidants like the Vitamin E found in almonds affect all major diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Research has actually shown that people who ingest high levels of Vitamin E are actually 30-40% less likely to contract heart disease.
The benefits of almonds in regards to skin health are well known, and almond oil massages are often recommended for newborn babies. Almond milk is also added to some soaps, because of almonds well-established reputation of improving the complexion of skin.
Many people think that the word “fat” means something negative, but in fact, certain fatty acids are essential, and can be very beneficial for overall health. The body can’t create its own fatty acids, which is why we need to get them from dietary sources. Almonds have two very important fatty acids, both linoleic and linolenic acids. Those fatty acids help to reduce inflammation all around the body, which is a general condition that many people suffer from. The fatty acids also help to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), and they promote healthy skin and hair! All in all, almonds pack a powerful, healthy punch.
Regulation of blood pressure
The potassium present in almonds helps to regulates blood pressure, and almonds are very low in sodium, which helps to control fluctuating blood pressure. The other nutrients also keep the body balanced in terms of other essential needs, which can prevents any other deficiencies. Balanced vitamins and minerals are essential for a healthy lifestyle, but if certain elements are neglected, the entire body can be affected, including anxiety, overall stress, and inevitably, increased blood pressure.
The presence of manganese, copper and Riboflavin in almonds helps in energy production and metabolic rate. If you are on the go, a handful of almonds can get you through the day without filling you up with calories or fat.
Prevention of cancer
Almonds improve the movement of food through the colon, thereby preventing build-up and subsequent colon cancer. The National Cancer Center has done extensive research on the link between high-fiber diets and a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Protection against diabetes
Almonds also help to reduce the reactionary rise in glucose and insulin levels after meals. This modulation offers protection from the dangerous spikes in blood sugar which diabetics often suffer from following a large meal, or a meal with an unexpectedly high level of sugar in it. Almonds help regulate the abrosption and processing of glucose, making the entire process much smoother, and subsequently safer.
Good for pregnancy
Almonds contain folic acid, which helps reduce the incidence of birth defects in newborn babies. It also stimulates healthy cell growth and tissue formation. Neural tube defects are conditions where the neural tube is either underdeveloped or is partially missing in the fetus. Doctors regularly prescribe folic acid supplements to pregnant women to ensure proper development of the tube, and almonds have enough folic acid to keep mothers and their babies healthy.
Unsweetened almond milk can be used if you are attempting to lose weight. The mono-unsaturated fat contained in almonds satisfies appetite and prevents over-eating. The dietary fiber in almonds also contributes to the sensation of being full, despite eating only a small amount. Studies have revealed that an almond-rich, low calorie diet is good for obese people to assist in shedding their excess weight. Studies have shown that those people who regularly consume almonds (at least twice a week) are far more likely to remain at their ideal weight, rather than those who rarely or never consume almonds and suffer from weight fluctuations. Finally, the fiber contributes to consistent bowel movements, which helps in weight loss and the general health of the body through the elimination of toxins.
Prevention of constipation
Almonds are rich in fiber, and like most other fiber-rich foods, almonds help prevent constipation. However, it is also important to drink a significant amount of water when eating almonds to speed up the digestive process and beneficial effects of the nut. You don’t even need to eat an excessive amount, the amount of fiber in 4 or 5 almonds is enough to keep your digestion and bowel movements regular.
People can even reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by consuming almonds, because they have been known to have such a positive effect on neural activity. Stimulating new neural passageways and connections can keep Alzheimer’s disease and neural degeneration from developing.
However, just like almost any other food, almonds have their downside. They do contain oxalates, and excessive oxalates can cause crystallization, which can lead to a host of different issues. People that have kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid eating almonds.
More fun facts about almonds
- The Romans considered almonds a fertility charm and gave them to newlyweds.
- There are more than 30 varieties of almonds.
- Many almond trees are not self-pollinating and depend on bees to carry pollen to one another.
- The United States — primarily California — produces 83 percent of the world’s almonds, followed by Australia (7 percent), European Union (5 percent), and Iran, Turkey and Tunisia (all 1 percent).
- The Almond Board of California’s forecast for the 2014-2015 growing season is 2.1 billion lbs. (952 metric tons) of almonds.
- Almonds should be stored in cool, dry conditions, away from direct sunlight and away from other foods with strong odors, which almonds can absorb.