Wonderfully delicious, almonds have long been revered as symbol of wellness and health. The nuts are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients that are essential for optimum health.
Botanically, they are the fruits from species of tree belonging to the family of Rosaceae, of Genus: Prunus. Scientific name: Prunus dulcis.
Almond tree is a small deciduous tree, native to mineral rich West-Asian mountain ranges that provide optimum environment for their growth. In recent years, it is being cultivated in many regions of the world as an important commercial crop.
During each spring season, the tree bears whitish-pink flowers that ultimately become fruits by autumn.
In structure; the fruit is a drupe; a single seed, known as ‘almond nut’ is actually enclosed inside the stony hard shell. Almonds feature oval to conical in shape, brown in color, measuring about 2 cm in length and 1 cm in breadth and weigh about 1 to 1.5 g.
Health benefits of Almonds
- Almond nuts are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and packed with numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals; the kind of well-balanced food ensure protection against diseases and cancers.
- These nuts are rich source of energy and nutrients. They are especially, rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids that help to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol.” Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- The nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E; contain about 25 g per100 g (about 170% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.
- Almonds are free in gluten and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten free food formulas. Such formula preparations are in fact healthy alternatives in people with wheat food allergy and celiac disease.
- These nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism.
- They are also rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
- The sweet almond oil is obtained from the nuts is an excellent emollient; helps to keep skin well protected from dryness. It has also been used in cooking, and as “carrier or base oil” in traditional medicines in aromatherapy, in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.
Just a hand full of these nuts a day provides enough recommended levels of minerals, vitamins, and protein. Besides, almond oil extracted from the nuts has been used in as base or carrier oil in medicine, aromatherapy and in pharmaceuticals.
Selection and storage
Almonds are available in the markets year around. In the stores, however, different forms of nuts are available such as shelled, un-shelled (without outer shell), salted, sweetened, or ground etc. Try to buy completely shelled or un-shelled raw nuts instead of processed ones.
While buying, look for the nuts that feature bright brown color; compact and uniform in size, and feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks/cuts, mold, and spots and free of rancid smell.
Shelled almonds can be placed in cool dry place for years. Store un-shelled nuts inside airtight container and place in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
Raw whole nuts are generally cut open at processing units using larger sheller machines. Smaller nut sheller equipment or hand held pliers usually are being used for domestic uses.
Here are some serving tips:
- Almonds can be enjoyed either on their own or salted or sweetened.
- They are nutty yet pleasantly sweet in taste. Sweetened almond milk is a quite popular drink in Indian and other south Asian countries.
- Most sought after among nuts in various rice dishes and curry preparations in Middle-East region.
- The nuts are often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based recipes.
- They are widely used in confectionery, as an addition to cookies, biscuits, sweets, and cakes.
- The nuts are also used to make almond-butter, which is popular in peanut allergy sufferers.
Almond nut allergy, although not so common as other tree nut allergies like cashew, pistachio etc, may cause hypersensitivity cross-reactions in some people to food substances prepared using the nuts. The type and severity of symptoms may vary and may include vomiting, diarrhea, pain abdomen, swelling of lips, and throat leading to breathing difficulty, and chest congestion. Therefore, caution should be exercised in those with nut allergic syndrome while using food preparations that contain nut products. (Disclaimer).
Almonds (Prunus dulcis), Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||49.42 g||165%|
|Dietary Fiber||12.20 g||30%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.47 mg||9%|
|Vitamin A||1 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0%|
|Vitamin E||26 mg||173%|