THE FOOD SERIES: Almonds

Almonds have definitely increased in popularity over the years. What’s so good about them? Well let’s find out.

DESCRIPTION:

Almonds are technically the seed of the fruit from the almond tree, bearing very fragrant white and pink flowers. It is related to the peach, cherry, and apricot trees as it too bear fruits with stone-like seeds. This seed of the almond fruit is what we know to be the nut that we use and consume.

We are all familiar with the thin brown skin of the almond with an off-white colour inside. Almonds are categorized into sweet and bitter. Not surprisingly, sweet almonds are the ones that we consume. They are oval shaped, crunchy in texture and also somewhat buttery in taste. Bitter almonds are broader and shorter, and are more commonly used to make almond oil as flavouring agents for various foods and liqueurs. They naturally contain toxic substances that are removed prior to the manufacturing of almond oil.

Normally we see shelled almonds for purchase which means that the hard shell is removed revealing just the seed. Almonds can be found shelled or unshelled, and also blanched. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water in order to soften and easily remove the shell and skin to reveal the white seed that we see.

PRODUCTION:

Almonds are native to the Middle East, and were thought to have originated in the regions of western Asia and North Africa. Today the top producers of almonds include: United States, Spain, Australia, Iran, and Morocco. There are around 30 varieties of almonds but only 10 are used as production for consumption purposes.

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE:

10 raw almonds:

71.5 kcal
2.7 g carbs
1.5 g fiber
6.2 g fat
2.6 g protein
3.2 mg Vitamin E
0.1 mg Vitamin B2
0.3 mg manganese
0.1 mg copper

Vitamin E! Something we have yet to discuss within the Food Series posts. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. The primary function of vitamin E is that it is an antioxidant, helping us fight free radicals, specifically helping us stabilize cell membranes and protect our tissues of the skin such as in our eyes and liver. Vitamin E has anti-clotting properties which protects the membranes of our red blood cells from oxidative damage, helping to improve stamina and endurance. A deficiency in vitamin E may increase the risk of free radical damage, as well as a loss of red blood cells.

In terms of overall health benefits, almonds are found to help lower LDL cholesterol and thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Many people are convinced that all fat is bad fat but that is not the case. Almonds are high in monosaturated fats which are the type of fats associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Almonds have also been found to decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar which is super important in people with diabetes or suffering from cardiovascular disease, this is so because it is not only low in carbohydrates, but high in healthy fats, protein and fiber.

If that already did not convince you to incorporate more almonds into your diet:

  • Almonds can also boost your energy due to the presence of manganese, copper and riboflavin
  • Almonds can support the prevention of cancer due to the improvement of movement through the colon
  • Almonds is great for women who are pregnant because it contains folic acid which reduces the incident of birth defects in newborns. Additionally it supports health cell growth and tissue formation.

WAYS TO ENJOY

Almonds were probably my favourite nut to munch on growing up. Although I still love to eat them whole and raw as a snack, I don’t eat them as often as I used to. Instead, I more so consume almonds in the following ways:

Almond Milk

Of course I had to include this on the list. I’m sure if you have ever tried a plant-based milk, almond milk is probably the first on the list in terms of dairy alternatives. If you have a high-speed blender, almond milk is honestly super super easy to make. The only problem is that it only lasts for 3-5 days in the fridge, unless you freeze it. Therefore, if you do not use that much mylk, it may go to waste. Nevertheless, it is SO MUCH cheaper and doesn’t have all the preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients that are found in store-bought almond milk. Additionally, you can play around with different flavours and sweeteners, such as adding vanilla, cacao powder, dates, maple syrup, etc.
Once you have made almond milk the possibilities are endless! Use it to make baked good, in smoothies, in ice cream, pancakes, sauces, soups, etc!

Almond Butter

Instead of blending soaked almonds with water, blend them by itself and it will magically turn into almond butter! I know it’s ridiculous how simple and easy it is. It just requires slightly more effort and the necessary tools such as a blender or food processor to do the job. In terms of the usage of almond butter, it is amazing to eat on its own, such as a dip for fruits and veg, as a spread on top of toast or rice cakes, or used as a thickener in smoothies and other delicious treats.

Desserts

I know this is VERY broad and general, but almonds are great to use as cake bases, or crusts for tarts. Slice or up chop some almonds and sprinkle it on top of crumbles, add them in cookies, cakes, biscotti, brownies, bars… should I go on? Try some of these delicious vegan desserts using almonds: Raw Almond Butter Cups, Chocolate Avocado Pudding Pie, Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies, Unbaked Fudgy Brownies.

FUN FACTS

  • California is the only state in the US that produces almonds.
  • Almonds need wild bees and honey bees for pollination.
  • Green almonds are immature almonds which can be preserved and pickled.
  • India considers almonds as ‘brain food’ for children.
  • It takes 1000 pounds of almonds to make 1 pint of almond oil.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES 

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