Almonds are available all year and are among the world’s most versatile nuts, packed with nutrients and health benefits. We take a closer look into the nutritional benefits and facts about this tasty nut…
What are almonds?
They’re the edible seeds of the almond tree and they’re one of the world’s most important nut crops, with California producing 80% of the global harvest. You can buy them whole, halved, flaked, chopped and ground, and of course they’re marzipan’s major ingredient. Almond nut butter is also a great alternative to peanut butter.
- Including almonds in a healthy eating plan may have beneficial effects on blood-sugar levels and insulin response in people with type 2 diabetes,
- Positive effects on cholesterol levels – one study showed that eating almonds as part of a heart-healthy diet lowered ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol as effectively as statins.
- Recent research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 40g (11/2oz) almonds every day reduced physical hunger without increasing body weight.
- Almonds are higher in protein, fibre, calcium, vitamin E and the B vitamins ribofl avin and niacin than any other tree nut.
- They’re also a good source of monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats.
- Research suggests the ideal daily portion is 28g (1oz) – roughly a handful (23 if you like to count). This should provide round 160 kcal; however, a recent study found we actually absorb around 20% less energy from them – only around 130 kcal probably because the almond’s rigid cell structure is too tough for the human digestive system to completely break down.
How to store and cook with almonds
- Store almonds in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and preferably in an airtight container once you’ve opened the packet.
- Avoid exposure to strong smells, as almonds can absorb them, tainting their delicate flavour.
- Spice up whole almonds with a dusting of cayenne pepper, or a squeeze of lime and a pinch of cumin; or try them sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Flaked almonds are excellent for boosting the protein content of a vegetable stir-fry, curry, salad, porridge or low-fat yoghurt.
- Intensify their flavour by toasting chopped or flaked almonds either on a non-stick tray in the oven (preheated to 180°C/gas mark 4) for 5-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes to ensure they’re evenly done. Or in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan every 30 seconds to prevent burning. In either case, remove from the heat when their edges are browning.
- If you grow your own, use the flowers as a tasty, colourful salad garnish.
For more healthy and great tasting meal ideas, see our low calorie recipe section.