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Friday Feature - Almonds

Almond butter is my happy place - anyone else?

In truth - Almonds feature pretty much every week in my cooking, they are so versatile and yummy.

The health benefits of almonds are extensive, and they are frequently used as a healthy solution for relief from heart and brain disorders, diabetes, constipation, respiratory disorders, coughs, anemia, and impotency. They also help keep your hair, skin and teeth healthy.

So what are almonds?

Almonds (scientifically termed Prunus dulcis) are actually very small stone fruits in the Amygdalus family and related to other fruits that contain hard pits, including cherries, plums and peaches. Almonds are a type of drupe nut, which means along with other nuts like macadamias, pecans and walnuts, they have multiple layers that enclose a single, hard seed in the center.

In the medical world, almonds nutrition is most praised due to the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins like riboflavin, and trace minerals such as magnesium. Although almonds are high in calories, as all nuts are, they provide a whole range of critical nutrients for our bodies.

¼ cup of almonds nutrition provides about:

207 calories

5 grams of protein

5 grams fibre

7 grams of carbohydrates

5 grams of sugar

16 milligrams vitamin E

0.4 milligrams riboflavin

0.8 milligrams manganese

97 milligrams magnesium

172 milligrams phosphorus

96 milligrams calcium

33 milligrams iron

Why is it important to incorporate almonds into our diet?

Help Prevent Heart Disease and Heart Attacks

Two of the star chemical compounds of almonds are healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (abbreviated as MUFAs, the same kind of beneficial fat found in olive oil) and antioxidants that support heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease. Almonds specifically supply antioxidant flavonoids which are plant-based compounds that work with vitamin E to improve artery health and reduce inflammation. Almonds also have key nutrients needed for good heart health, including arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium.

Studies show almonds have a consistent “bad” LDL cholesterol-lowering effect, especially in individuals with high cholesterol and diabetes. Almonds help prevent damage from forming within artery walls and protect against dangerous plaque buildup.

Support Healthy Brain Function

Almonds are often considered one of the best brain foods.

Almonds are somewhat unique in that they contain riboflavin and L-carnitine, two key nutrients capable of positively affecting neurological activity and preventing cognitive decline. This is one reason why adults, especially the elderly, are encouraged to eat nuts several times per week since they are associated with a reduction in the risk for inflammation that can cause brain disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Great for Glowing Skin

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E and other antioxidants that nourish the skin and reduce signs of aging. Research finds that almonds contains high concentrations of catechin, epicatechin and flavonol antioxidants, including quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin — compounds that fight skin cancer and damage by reversing oxidative stress from a poor diet, pollution and UV light exposure.

Help Control Blood Sugar Levels and Prevent Diabetes

Almonds rich supply of MUFAs helps slow the rate at which glucose (sugar) is released into the bloodstream. In addition to managing blood sugar and preventing insulin resistance (which can occur over time when the body becomes less reactive to insulin) almonds include the ability to lower other common diabetes risks: unhealthy body weight, inflammation and high levels of oxidative stress. A top tip - add a spoonful of almond butter to your smoothies to help slow down the glucose from the fruit - as if you needed another excuse to eat nut butter!

Help With Weight Loss and Prevent Overeating

Healthy fats and dietary fiber aid in weight loss because they help you feel full, which curbs overeating and unhealthy snacking. Although nuts are high in fat and calories, they prolong the feeling of satisfaction after you eat and keep your blood sugar more stable than low-fat meals do. Thus, you’re less likely to experience a roller-coaster of energy dips and food cravings.

Increase Nutrient Absorption

The body needs adequate amounts of fat in the diet in order to properly absorb “fat-soluble” nutrients, like vitamins A and D. Almonds are also considered one of the only nuts that help alkalize the digestive tract, reducing acid buildup and balancing the body’s pH. A healthy pH level is crucial for proper digestion, immunity and disease prevention. Additionally, the nutrients present in almonds may help regulate digestive enzymes that are involved in nutrient extraction, cholesterol synthesis and bile acid production.

Increase Digestive Health

In addition to healthy fats and alkaline-forming molecules, almonds (especially the skin of almonds) contain probiotic components that help with digestion, detoxification and healthy bacterial growth within the gut flora — a key to actually utilizing nutrients from food and preventing nutrient deficiencies. woooo healthy gut!

Studies suggest that almonds and almond skins may lead to an improvement in the “intestinal microbiota profile,” meaning the intestine’s bacterial activities improve and promote numerous health benefits due to the presence of prebiotic properties, the precursors for probiotics. A 2014 study by the Institute of Food Science & Technology in China found that when women ate a daily dose of 56 grams of almonds over an eight-week period, significant increases in the populations of healthy bacteria called Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus were observed.

Can Help Fight Cancer and Inflammation

Almonds contain gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E that acts as a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radical damage and oxidative stress that are linked to cancer. Many studies find a link between nut consumption and cancer prevention, including a reduced risk for colon, prostate and breast cancers.

Help Maintain Healthy teeth and bones

Almonds are a good source of trace minerals, including magnesium and phosphorus, which is a crucial nutrient for building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Almonds nutrition benefits include the ability to help prevent tooth decay, fight cavities, lower the risk for bone fractures and fight osteoporosis.

How to Buy and Use Almonds

Not all almonds are created equal however — you definitely want to avoid almonds and any nuts coated in sugar, hydrogenated oils and tons of sodium. Many nuts undergo processing that lower the nut’s health benefits. For example, by heating nuts to very high temperatures, some of their antioxidants can be destroyed

.As a rule of thumb, the less processing done to almonds the better. Pre-shelled and roasted almonds are likely less beneficial than raw almonds still found in their natural casing.One step that can actually increase the nutrient content of almonds is soaking and sprouting them. Soaking and sprouting almonds removes some of their naturally occurring anti nutrients that block the body from absorbing some minerals. I like to soak mine overnight for 12–24 hours in a big bowl, covering them with water and rinsing them the next morning.

How about almond butter or ground almonds?

Both are great options for adding more almonds nutrition into your diet. Almond butter is simply ground almonds, but look for butters that contain no added oils or sugar.

When it comes to ground almonds, or almond meal and almond flour - again look for simple and straightforward ingredients, usually just almonds. Use it to replace bread crumbs, and combine it with other gluten-free flours or coconut flour.

Keep your eyes on the blog for one of my Choc Chip Almond Butter cookies which are coming this weekend.....! YASS!

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