Super foods, the ultimate health foods – Almonds

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 26 February 2009.
Tagged: #activatedalmonds, antioxidants, calcium, fats, fibre, health, nuts, oil, super foods, superfoods

Super foods, the ultimate health foods –  Almonds

All nuts are packed with nutrition, but almonds stand out as a super nut! Eat a handful regularly and you’ll make a good investment in your heart’s health. Plus there's heaps more great reasons to munch on almonds from their fibre content to their bonus of vitamins for good health. Oh and did I mention how great they taste?

 

Heart healthy

Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats (like those found in olive oil). They help keep levels of bad LDL-cholesterol down.

Plus, they boast good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E and an amino acid arginine, both of which work to keep blood vessels clear of fatty plaques that may otherwise cause blockages. Almonds are also a good source of magnesium, zinc and potassium which make blood vessels more elastic and help control blood pressure.

Whole almonds are best

Eating almonds whole (including the skin) is the ideal way to get the full super food benefit. Research shows almond skin is an excellent source of a large number of antioxidants known as flavonoids (like those found in tea). These antioxidants work together with the vitamin E in almonds to give even greater protection to your heart and blood vessels.

Weight loss benefits too!

Probably one of the greatest advantages of eating a regular handful of almonds (30g, which is about 20 to 25 almonds) is that they won’t automatically cause you to gain weight. If you are following a low kilojoule diet or other weight loss regime, they can actually make it easier to lose weight. One US study using meal replacements revealed that dieters who included almonds every day shed over 50 per cent more body fat than those who didn’t.

History and usage

Almonds have been cultivated since ancient times and are a close relative of the plum and peach. They are available whole, split, slivered, chopped and ground (also known as almond meal), and feature in confectionery, cakes and pastries, particularly those of European origin. Marzipan is a blend of ground almonds and sugar.

What’s in almonds?

A small handful (around 30g or 20 to 25 whole almonds) contains 16g of fat and 700 kJ.

Like all nuts, almonds contain around half their weight as fat, which gives them a high kilojoule count. Of this total, some 66 per cent is monounsaturated, 23 per cent polyunsaturated and only 7 per cent saturated.

Top class nutrition

They provide a combination of 28 essential nutrients embracing vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre and protein. Top of the list is natural Vitamin E, a well-established antioxidant that’s an ingredient in many anti-wrinkle creams. There are good amounts of fibre and protein as well as smaller quantities of B vitamins and minerals.

A good source of calcium

Almonds are also a surprisingly good source of the mineral calcium. One handful has 75mg calcium, as much as in 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese.

Toasted almonds

 I love toasted almonds and find they make an easy garnish for salads, pilafs or fruit dishes. Toasting brings out a lovely flavour and adds crunch – a little goes a long way. Here's how:


To toast, spread whole, chopped or slivered almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking tray. Bake at 180°C/360°F for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven to cool but note that they may continue to brown slightly. Take care not to burn. You can also toast them in a non-stick frypan, shaking frequently to prevent burning.

Nutrition stats

Per serve:

A handful or 1/4 cup (30g) whole natural almonds supplies: 5g protein, 16g fat, 1g sugar, no starch, 4g dietary fibre and 700 kilojoules (167 calories).

Per 100g:

17 per cent protein, 54 per cent fat, 4 per cent sugars, no starch, 14 per cent dietary fibre and 2335 kilojoules (556 calories).

 

Easy ways to enjoy almonds (without overloading yourself)

  • Sprinkle chopped almonds onto your breakfast cereal, yoghurt or fruit salad
  • Portion raw almonds into plastic bags or packs and grab one when you need a quick healthy snack
  • Jazz up a tossed green salad by sprinkling over toasted almonds slivers with the dressing
  • Make a delicious crumble topping for apples or rhubarb by mixing together crushed almonds, oats and flour
  • Use flaked almonds to decorate the top of biscuits and muffins