Health Benefits of Almonds
How To Incorporate Them Into Your Diet
What Are Almonds?
Almonds are tree nuts native to the Mediterranean and are one of the most ancient cultivated nuts its in history, as they were first cultivated in 3000 BC and were also mentioned in the Bible as a fine, prized food, often reserved as gifts (which is why they are often candied and gifted as almond dragees/jordan almonds during baptisms).
Similar to other common nuts, the edible almond is actually a seed from the almond fruit, and can be harvested at many stages of its life: many Mediterranean countries harvest almonds early in their younger stage when still green, plump, watery and soft to eat. Once the fruit ages, the hull and shell harden, rendering them inedible while the seed hardens and becomes the almond we commonly find in supermarkets. Almond crops are one of the most profitable as the fruit can be harvested at many stages, and all by-products are used: from almond oil extraction to using hardened hulls and shells as livestock feed and bedding, nothing goes to waste.
Nutritional Benefits of Almonds in Your Diet
Almonds are high in “good” fats: unsaturated fats – the kind that improve blood cholesterol, regulate heart rhythms and help reduce inflammation – as well as provide additional fibre and healthy sugars to our diet!
Almonds are high in vitamins and minerals, particularly in vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) and magnesium. Because of their high magnesium content, almonds are considered to be one of the best foods to eat if struggling with stress and anxiety: 12 nuts (about half of the daily recommendation) account for 19% of the daily recommended value of magnesium, a stress-busting mineral which helps to relax your muscles.
Almonds: Raw, Roasted or Sprouted?
Almonds are crunchy, slightly sweet and aromatic in flavour when consumed raw, and develop a savoury nutty flavour when roasted. Either way, they make a great addition to many dishes, and they can be prepared in different ways: they can be eaten raw, toasted/roasted, or even sprouted – no matter what preparation they go through, almonds keep their nutritional content (except for salted almonds – read on for more information).
Sprouted almonds are almonds that have been soaked until they are much softer in texture. The benefits of soaking or sprouting almonds (or other nuts) is to enhance their nutritional contents: sprouting nuts neutralises enzyme inhibitors and any built-in toxins while promoting colon health by making them more bioavailable and easier to digest by our stomachs. This is done by increasing the nuts’ protein and amino acid rates, which means we absorb a lot more of those nutrients than we usually would if the nuts were consumed raw or roasted.
Healthiest Ways To Eat Almonds
Just like all nuts, it can be difficult to stop snacking once you start; however, due to their high caloric value, it is important to consume them in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain. The daily recommendation is 30 grams of almonds per day, which yields to about 23 almonds.
The easiest ways to add almonds to your diet are to:
- eating them whole: either raw, roasted or sprouted;
- blended into a nut butter: substitute the peanut butter in your PB&J with 1 tbsp of natural almond butter;
- roasted chopped into a salad;
- blended in smoothies;
- blended into nut milk: blend 1 cup of sprouted almonds with 1L of water and strain to remove all the almond pulp.
Be wary of salted almonds – these almonds are fried in vegetable oil and absorb a lot of that unhealthy fat, which increases their caloric value and your sodium intake. Salted almonds are not recommended if you are struggling with high blood cholesterol or need to be careful about how much salt you are consuming.