Almonds ~ Super Nuts & Seeds
Fortunately, this delicately flavored and versatile nut is available throughout the year to make a healthy and tasty addition to both sweet and savory dishes.
Although the packaged variety is available year round, they're the freshest in mid-summer, which is when they're at the height of their season.
The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the flowering tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers.
Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, these super nut trees, bear fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within.
The seed of the fruit is what we refer to as the nut.
Lower LDL-Cholesterol and Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
A high-fat food that's good for your health?
That's not an oxymoron, its this nut.
These super nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
In addition to their cholesterol-lowering effects, their ability to reduce heart disease risk may also be partly due to the antioxidant action of the vitamin-E found in this super nut, as well as to the LDL-lowering effect of their monounsaturated fats.
(LDL is the form of cholesterol that has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease).
When these nuts are substituted for more traditional fats in human feeding trials, LDL cholesterol can be reduced from 8 to 12%.
In addition to healthy fats and vitamin-E, a quarter-cup of these super nuts contains almost 99 mg of magnesium (that's 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), plus 257 mg of potassium.
Providing Double-Barreled Protection against Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease
Lessening after-meal surges in blood sugar helps protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease, most likely by lessening the increase in cholesterol-damaging free radicals that accompanies large elevations in blood sugar.
This is one reason why low-glycemic index diets result in lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Almonds appear to not only decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result.
Don't just enjoy these nutty morsels as a between-meal snack.
Spread a little almond butter on your toast or down the center of a stalk of celery.
Add a handful of lightly roasted nuts to your salad or chop and use as a topping for pasta, steamed or healthy sautéed vegetables.
When eating foods with a higher glycemic index, including these in the meal can help keep your blood sugar under control.
Whole (with Skins) Provide Most Heart Healthy Benefits
New research on these super nuts adds to the growing evidence that eating whole foods is the best way to promote optimal health.
The flavonoids found in i's skin team up with the vitamin-E found in their meat to more than double the antioxidant punch either delivers when administered separately, shows a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Twenty potent antioxidant flavonoids were identified in the skins in this study, some of which are well known as major contributors to the health benefits derived from other foods, such as the catechins found in green tea and naringenin, which is found in grapefruit.
The synergy between the flavonoids and vitamin-E in almonds demonstrates how the nutrients in whole foods such as almonds can impact health.
Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many of us avoid them for fear of weight gain.
A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless.
In fact, people who ate nuts at least twice a week were much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never ate nuts.
Don't let concerns about gaining weight prevent you from enjoying the delicious taste and many health benefits of nuts!
Spread some nut-butter on your morning toast or bagel.
Remember how many great childhood lunches involved a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
Upgrade that lunchbox favorite by spreading organic peanut butter and concord grape jelly on whole wheat bread.
Fill a celery stick with nut-butter for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your morning cereal, lunchtime salad, dinner's steamed vegetables.
Or just enjoy a handful of lightly roasted nuts as a healthy snack.
Help Prevent Gallstones
Twenty years of dietary data collected on over 80,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 oz. of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones.
Since 1 oz. is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 Tbs. of nut-butter, preventing gallbladder disease may be as easy as having a handful of these super nuts as an afternoon pick me up, tossing some on your oatmeal or salad or packing one almond-butter and jelly sandwich (be sure to use whole wheat bread for its fiber, vitamins and minerals) for lunch each week.
A Protein Powerhouse
These super nuts are concentrated in protein.
A quarter-cup contains 7.62 grams more protein than is provided by the typical egg, which contains 5.54 grams.
How to Select & Store
These nuts when still in their shells have the longest shelf life.
If purchasing these, look for shells that are not split, moldy or stained.
Shelled nuts that are stored in an hermetically sealed container will last longer than those that are sold in bulk bins since they're less exposed to heat, air and humidity.
If purchasing in bulk bins, make sure that the store has a quick turnover of inventory and that the bulk containers are sealed well in order to ensure maximum freshness.
Look for nuts that are uniform in color and not limp or shriveled.
In addition, smell them.
They should smell sweet and nutty; if their odor is sharp or bitter, they're rancid.
If you want them with a roasted flavor and texture, choose those that have been "dry roasted" as they're not cooked in oil like their regular roasted counterparts.
Yet, even when purchasing "dry roasted", it's important to read the label to be sure that no additional ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup or preservatives have been added.
Since these nuts have a high fat content, it's important to store them properly in order to protect them from becoming rancid.
Store shelled nuts in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place away from exposure to sunlight.
Keeping them cold will further protect them from rancidity and prolong their freshness.
Refrigerated, they'll keep for several months, while if stored in the freezer, they can be kept for up to a year.
Shelled pieces will become rancid more quickly than whole shelled nuts.
Almonds still in the shell have the longest shelf life.
How to Enjoy
In addition to being eaten raw, these super nuts are a wonderful addition to a variety of recipes from salads to baked goods.
Tips for Preparing:
Whole shelled nuts can be chopped by hand or can be placed in a food processor.
If using a food processor, it's best to pulse on and off a few times, instead of running the blade constantly, as this will help ensure that you end up with chopped nuts rather than butter.
If you want to remove the skin, blanch them for a few of minutes until you notice the skin beginning to swell.
Drain them and then rinse under cold water.
Pinch the cooled nuts between your thumb and index finger and the skin should slide right off the almond meat.
To roast almonds at home, do so gently, in a 160-170°F (about 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes, to preserve the healthy oils.
A few quick serving ideas:
Add a punch to plain yogurt by mixing in some chopped almonds and dried fruit.
Enhance a healthy sauté of curried vegetables with sliced almonds.
Add some almond-butter to a breakfast shake to boost its taste and protein content.
Almonds and apple slices make a wonderfully simple, on-the-go power snack.
Make a delightful cold rice salad with almonds, fresh garden peas and currants.
Add them sliced to chicken salad.
And, if you're wondering what to have for dinner this evening, might we suggest;
Crunchy Almond-Crusted Chicken
This recipe is proof, it doesn't take a long list of ingredients to make a healthy, mouthwatering dinner.
• 2 - 5 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 2 Tbs. cornstarch
• 1/2 c. fat-free egg substitute
• 4 Tbs. finely chopped almonds
1. Sprinkle each side of the chicken breast with cornstarch.
Dip it into the egg substitute, then sprinkle with almonds.
2. Coat a small, nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
Cook the chicken 5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees F.
43 g. Protein,
10 g. Carbohydrates,
1 g. Fiber,
10 g. Fat,
204 mg. Sodium
Make It a Meal!
Serve with 1/4 c. nonfat cottage cheese and 1 c. grape tomatoes for an additional 70 calories.
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