Almonds are the seeds of the fruits cultivated from the almond tree. The almond tree species is native to the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. A tall tree with pink and white flowers, it grows in warm and dry climates, which is why it spread through the Mediterranean region and became a staple in the diet there. The scientific name of these dry fruits is Prunus Dulcis.
They are now found in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. The taste of almonds ranges from sweet to bitter and both are readily available in markets.
Sweet almonds are edible, while bitter ones are used for making common oil that is used to add flavour to food. They are usually eaten raw, or toasted; they are available sliced, flaked, slivered, as flour or butter. 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 next morning. Crushed almonds are also a wonderful garnish for a number of dishes.
Almonds Nutrition Facts
Almond is a highly nutritional nut and a rich source of vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein, fibre, fat, carbohydrate, manganese and magnesium. It also contains zinc, selenium, copper, and niacin. Compared to all other nuts, they are richer in nutrients and beneficial components.
Health Benefits of Almonds
They are known to have great medicinal value and are good in taste. These are the main reasons why so many people proactively add them to their diet. Some of the researched and verified benefits of almonds are as underlisted.
Improve Your Brain Power
Scientific readings for almond benefits showed that they contain riboflavin and L-carnitine, nutrients that help in the growth of the brain cells, increasing brain activity, resulting in a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. Almonds also contain phenylalanine, a brain-boosting chemical that aids our cognitive functions. You can have five almonds soaked in water, first thing in the morning every day for maximum brain strength.
Many mothers give water-soaked almonds to their children every morning. Two or three seeds are enough for kids, and you can also remove the outer layer if it causes allergic reactions, as the majority of the nutrients are not held in it.
Regulate Cholesterol Level
Regular consumption helps to increase the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol levels and they reduce the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels. This balance is vital to a healthy cholesterol level, and a reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol is always a good thing.
Strengthen Bones and Teeth
Almonds are a good source of micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, which is a crucial nutrient for building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Almonds nutrition benefits include the ability to help prevent tooth decay, fight cavities, lower the risk for bone fractures and fight osteoporosis. Almonds also provide other nutrients that improve bone mineral density and strengthen the skeletal system.
Prevent Heart Diseases
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. They help to reduce the presence and impact of C-reactive proteins (CRP) which causes artery-damaging inflammation. They are also a great source of folic acid. Therefore, they help to reduce the level of homocysteine, which causes fatty plaque build-up in arteries. Furthermore, the flavonoids in the skin of almonds combine 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. Research has actually shown that people who ingest high levels of vitamin E are actually 30-40% less likely to contract heart diseases.
Strengthen Immune System
Your body has many components that add to overall health, including the alkalinity of the systems. Almonds are great sources of 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, they also have 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.
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. These fatty acids help to reduce inflammation all around the body, which is a general condition that many people suffer from.
Regulate Blood Pressure
The potassium present in almonds helps to regulate blood pressure, and low levels of sodium, help to control the fluctuating blood pressure. The other nutrients also keep the body balanced in terms of essential needs, which can prevent many deficiencies. Balanced vitamins and minerals are essential for a healthy lifestyle, but if certain elements are neglected, the entire body is affected, including anxiety, overall stress, and inevitably, increased blood pressure.
Boost Energy Production
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 these dry fruits can get you through the day without filling you up with calories or fat.
Improve Skin Health
Almond oil is a brilliant moisturizer as it contains olein glyceride linoleic acid. It works to prevent acne, blackheads, as well as arid and prickly skin. It also provides vitamin E needed for healthy skin. It helps to bring a glow to your skin and also acts as a mild disinfectant for wounds.
Foods rich in vitamin E act as a shield against sun exposure and minimize skin damage. Almond milk can be used to effectively treat sun burns and other skin problems.
It is also used as massage oil for growing children to aid in their muscle growth.
Help Control Blood Sugar Levels and Prevent 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 to regulate the absorption and processing of glucose, making the entire process much smoother, and subsequently safer.
Prevent Birth Defects
Almonds contain folic acid, which helps to 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 foetus. 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.
Effective for Weight Loss
Unsweetened almond milk can be used if you are attempting to lose weight. The mono-unsaturated fat contained in almonds satisfies the appetite and prevents over-eating. The dietary fibre in almonds also contributes to the sensation of feeling 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 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 fibre contributes to consistent bowel movements, which helps in weight loss and the general health of the body through the elimination of toxins.
Eating Almonds Reduces Hunger, Lowering Your Overall Calorie Intake
Almonds are low in carbs, and high in both protein and fibre. Both protein and fibre are known to increase satiety. They help people feel fuller, so they end up eating fewer calories.
Like most other fibre-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 fibre in 4 or 5 almonds is enough to keep your digestion and bowel movements regular.
Protect Cell Membranes from Damage
Vitamin E is the name for a group of fat soluble antioxidants. These antioxidants tend to build up in cell membranes in the body, protecting the cells from oxidative damage.
Remedy for Anaemia
Anaemia is caused when red blood cells carry less quantities of oxygen. Almonds contain copper, iron and vitamins, which work as a catalyst in the synthesizing of haemoglobin. Therefore, almonds can be used as a preventive measure for anaemia.
Increase Physical Alertness
Almond milk is rich in muscle building proteins. Proteins improve muscle health by repairing damaged ligaments and tissues. Thus, it is also a very valuable and nutritional drink for athletes. Improved muscle health reduces body fatigue to a large extent. Thus, almond milk increases the physical alertness of human body.
If you are suffering from high body temperature, then applying bitter almond oil essentials on the body can decrease the temperature quite a bit. Bitter almond is said to contain alkaline elements that have toxicity in them. This nature puts an obstacle in front of the fungus, viruses or bacteria to spread out fever in a human body.
As an Anaesthetic
When it comes to a minor stitching on your skin or plucking tooth, bitter almond oil can be used as an anaesthetic compound. The toxic component called glycoside amygdaline, which is present in essential bitter almond oil, has the capacity to turn the nerves insensitive temporarily so that you will be numb to the sense of pain. But, it must also be noted that you can use bitter almond oil as an anaesthetic compound only externally. Consuming it internally can bring upon a gamut of health hazards.
Promote Hair Growth
Almonds contain high amount of magnesium, which is an essential mineral for having healthy strands. Deficiency in magnesium is often linked to hair loss; therefore, consuming magnesium through almonds not only helps to maintain proper functioning of the body but also enables hair growth.
Potential Risks Associated with Almonds
Just like 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 having kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid eating almonds.
There are other potential risks associated with the consumption of almonds. Allergy to almonds is actually quite common. Symptoms of almond allergy can include:
stomach pain or cramps
nausea and vomiting
shortness of breath
If you are allergic to almonds, it's important to avoid any food products that may contain them. Almonds are used to make frangipane, marzipan, and praline. Almonds are also sometimes used in cakes, biscuits, bread, chocolates, ice cream, and certain liqueurs (such as Amandine).
Selection and Storage
Almonds are easily available all year round in many forms like shelled, unshelled, salted, sweetened and even powdered. If you find the shelled variety, shake it. If it rattles a lot, then there are high chances that it is aging or shrinking. Choose between shelled or unshelled almonds and avoid buying processed almonds. Buy almonds that are bright brown in colour, are uniform in size and feel heavy. It should be free from cracks and spots, and should not smell rancid.
Almonds often turn rancid with time. To check for rancidity, cut the almond in half and look at the white portion. If the inside part of almond is yellow or has a honeycomb texture, then it should be discarded.
Packaged almonds are best stored in a cool dark place where they can last easily for up to a year. You can even store it in the refrigerator. It will not alter its taste in any way. Almond paste can be stored in the refrigerator for over 2 months. You can also store almonds in the freezer to extend their shelf life. But seal the almonds properly to protect it from ice formation and moisture which can result in the growth of mould.
Once opened, store it in an airtight container or sealed baggie in a cool and dry place. Avoid exposing almonds to strong odours as they can easily absorb odour from other pungent materials if exposed for a prolonged period. Do protect it from insects and pests. Almonds should be kept away from humidity for maximum shelf life.
Healthy and Delicious Ways to Use Almonds
Almonds are one of the most versatile nuts in the whole world. You can add almonds to almost every meal and cuisine. Almonds are used in Mughlai cuisine and to prepare sweet dishes. Almonds have a nutty yet pleasantly sweet taste. They can be enjoyed in both salted and unsalted forms. Roasting almonds before serving them brings out their crunchy taste and their healthy oil. Place some almonds on your baking tray and roast for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for that delicious snack!
Sweetened almond drink is a very popular Indian beverage which is made by using almond milk. Blend almond milk, fruits, and frozen yogurt to make a delicious smoothie.
Almond skin is edible but has a bitter taste. If you do not like the bitter taste, then you can remove the skin. Purchase whole almonds and cut it just before using it. Blanched almond works well as an attractive garnish on cakes, cookies and other sweets. Almond paste is used in the preparation of soups or vinaigrettes to add body and nutrition.
Slivered blanched almonds are sprinkled over desserts, particularly sweet dish and ice cream.
Diced almonds work best for stuffing and coatings. Almond is also used to prepare almond butter, which tastes simply amazing.
Why Soaked Almonds are better Than Raw Almonds
If your mother pleaded with you every morning to eat your daily dose of soaked almonds, then she may have been right. Choosing between soaked almonds and raw almonds isn't just a matter of taste, it's about picking the healthier option.
Why soaked almonds are better - Firstly, the brown peel of almonds contains tannin which inhibits nutrient absorption. Once you soak almonds, the peel comes off easily and allows the nut to release all nutrients easily.
How to soak: Soak a handful of almonds in half a cup of water. Cover them and allow them to soak for 8 hours. Drain the water, peel off the skin and store them in plastic container. These soaked almonds will last you for about a week.
Almonds might be growing in popularity every year as research reveals more about almonds nutrition benefits, but almond consumption actually goes back thousands of years to around 4,000 B.C.
Don’t let the side effects scare you. Almonds nutrition is extremely beneficial for your health and there are so many uses for tasty treats and a healthy diet. Incorporate almonds nutrition into your diet today and see the benefits firsthand.