Commonly referred to as nuts, almonds are technically the seeds of the fruit of the almond tree which is closely related to the peach and apricot trees. But unlike peaches and apricots, which yield fruits with a sweet fleshy pulp around their stone-like seeds, almonds develop a hard leathery shell. It's the hard brown-skinned pit beneath this shell that we enjoy as the almond nut.
Almonds are loaded with essential nutrients. They are high in monounsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy fats good for lowering high-density lipoproteins and stabilizing cholesterol levels. Better still, almonds are one of the only alkaline nuts, and have a relatively large protein content of almost 20%. Did you know that ¼ cup of raw almonds contains more protein than an egg?
Raw almonds are a fantastic energy booster, and have been shown to lower the glycemic index of other foods when eaten together, and can therefore be helpful in lowering blood sugar levels and controlling diabetes. They have also been linked to gall bladder and colon health too. Almonds are also a good source of B2, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and an excellent source of Vitamin E for healthy skin.
Almonds are loaded with antioxidants to help offset free radical damage. They have immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Almonds come in sweet and bitter varieties. Bitter almonds are used to make amaretto, but are not eaten raw as they contain cyanide and other toxins which must be processed for human consumption.
Sweet almonds can be purchased complete in their outer shells, or shelled, which is the most common way to purchase them.
Shelled almonds are sold raw, roasted or blanched. Blanched almonds have been treated with hot water to remove the thin brown-skinned coating to reveal the creamy flesh. Blanched almonds are sold whole, sliced or slithered.
Enjoy almonds as snack on their own or in trail mixes; toss them with yogurt and fruit; I munch on them raw as a quick snack; make almond milk and almond butter; throw them into smoothies; process with dates to make crusts and desserts; or grind to make almond flour in baked goods.
Grind raw almonds with flax seeds and sunflower seeds to make the liver-cleansing condiment, LSA.
Blend blanched almonds into soups and sauces to bring a creamy texture.
Cold-pressed, sweet almond oil is a fantastic natural skin moisturizer.
I always purchase and consume my almonds raw, in order to get the maximum nutritional benefit without any carcinogens. Choose fresh, good quality organic almonds from a health food store with a high turn over to ensure maximum freshness. I like places that keep their nuts in the fridge. Almonds that are still in the shells have the longest shelf life, and would be preferably stored in hermetically sealed containers. Choose shells that are not split or stained. They should smell sweet and nutty. If they smell bitter, they are rancid.
Almonds are really susceptible to rancidity because of their high fat content, so always store them in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. Then they will keep for a few months. You can freeze almonds for up to a year, but they don’t even last a week in my house! Almonds that have been broken up have an even shorter shelf life.
For this reason, if I need to use blanched almonds for a recipe, I prefer to blanch my own. Just plunge in boiling water for a few minutes until the thin brown skin starts to swell. Rinse them under cold water and then rub in a tea towel, or with your bare hands. The skins should slide right off.
Roasted almonds are delicious and make a popular snack. But I never eat roasted nuts, as roasting at such high heat destroys the delicate health-promoting oils and produce carcinogens that create toxins in the body.
Almonds contain enzyme inhibitors that can cause digestive issues.
Always soak almonds prior to eating.
Almonds are high on the allergen list and should be avoided by people with nut allergies. However, individuals should be tested for each nut.