Almonds (or Badam -Persian for Almond), the nuts which Romans believed would bring good luck are highly nutritious, extremely beneficial, wonderfully flavored and fortunately available the whole year round (though freshest in mid-summer). Almonds are off-white in color, with a thin brownish skin, and encased in a hard shell.The almond, native to the Middle East and South Asia, was spread by humans in the ancient times to Africa, Europe and the USA (mainly California). The almond is technically the seed of the almond tree fruit and not a nut as we refer to it. The almond tree is a medium-sized tree bearing fragrant white and pink flowers. The fruit of the almond tree contain stone-like seeds within it, which we refer to as the almond nut. There are two varieties of almonds, sweet and bitter. Sweet almonds are the ones we eat. They are oval and available shelled or unshelled. Bitter almonds are used to make almond oil. They are not edible since they naturally contain toxic substances.
In comparison to all nuts, almonds are the most packed with nutrients and beneficial components. A raw almond contains approximately 7 calories. Raw almonds are rich in proteins and fibers. Roasting almonds decreases their vitamin B content, while other nutrient contents remain similar to those of raw almonds.
Quarter cup (34.5 g) of almonds contains manganese - 45%; vitamin E - 44.8%; magnesium – 24.6%; tryptophan – 21.8%; copper - 20%; vitamin B2 – 17.6%;phosphorus – 16.8%.
Almonds are extremely beneficial, helping in obtaining relief from respiratory disorders, skin problems, dental issues, heart disorders and anemia to name a few. The many minerals found in almonds including magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc makes it a must-have food.
- The high content of monounsaturated fats of almond are associated with reduced risk of heart diseases.
- Magnesium in almonds help veins and arteries relax, thus improving the blood, oxygen and nutrient flow through the body. Also, the magnesium helps regulate blood sugar, which in turn helps reduce food cravings and aids weight loss.
- Potassium, found in almonds helps maintain normal blood pressure and good heart health.
- There are around twenty potent antioxidants identified in almond skins which contribute to good health.
- Almonds are a good source of manganese and copper, two trace minerals which are essential to keep our energy flowing.
- They help in preventing gallbladder disease.
- Phytochemicals found in almonds help lower risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
- Rich in vitamin E, almonds act as a fat-soluble antioxidant.
- Folic acid in almonds makes it beneficial to pregnant women. It helps fetal development. Folic acid also reduces risk of cervical cancer.
- Almond oil can be used to treat dry hair and stop hair fall.
Shelled almonds have the longest shelf life. While purchasing, make sure that the shells are not split or stained. In case of purchasing bulk bins, check to ensure freshness by smelling – in case of a sharp or bitter odor, avoid since they might be rancid; they should smell sweet and nutty. It is recommended to store them in an air-tight container, away from sunlight. Storing in refrigerator or freezer will prolong their life and freshness. While purchasing roasted, flavored almonds, make sure that they have been dry roasted and check to ensure that additional ingredients have not been added.
HOW TO CONSUME
Since almonds are high in calories and fat, the recommended serving is not more than 1 oz.
Use sliced almonds to garnishing dishes and desserts. Crushed almonds are popularly used to make a candy base called marzipan which can be molded into various shapes for desserts.
Sprinkle a handful of almonds over cereals, salads, yoghurt and vegetables. Lightly roast almonds (at about 75°C in an oven for 15-20 minutes; this preserves the healthy oils) and enjoy as a snack.
Combine almonds and apple slices for a power snack.
Almonds are the base ingredients of pasanda-style curries of Indian and Pakistani cuisine.
Badam halva is a sweet made from almonds.
Almond flakes are added to many sweets.
Almond flour can be used as an alternative to wheat flour in cooking and baking. Almonds are processed into almond milk (a milk substitute), ideal for lactose intolerant people.
Eating small quantities of almonds is fine, though eating too many almonds might cause some side effects - They are high calorie foods and could trigger weight gain. Their high manganese content might cause high levels of manganese in the blood which could interfere with some drugs including blood pressure medications and certain antibiotics. Too much of almonds might cause constipation and abdominal bloating. It is advisable to drink plenty of water if you consume too many almonds, in order to help the body manage the high fiber intake. Too much vitamin E (almonds are high in this) might cause lethargy, headaches, flatulence and diarrhea. Almonds may cause allergy.