The Health Nut

Long ago, traders and explorers crisscrossed the tough terrains of Central Asia to exchange silk and horses. These roadways and waterways later came to be known as the Silk Routes. These were one of the first cross-cultural exchange between the two worlds, the East and West. Considering the long, arduous terrain these travellers had to come up with one of the most kickass trail mixes ever! Since every gram counted, they only preferred the super-nutritious rich long-lasting foods. And one of these foods were “drop shaped pearls”.

So well-known were the nutri-miracles of this nut that, its fame spread far and wide. Right up to the Nile in Egypt, the Pharaohs looked forward to a few sprinkles of these crushed nuts on their bread. Soon the people of the Mediterranean started planting these trees. And some of the first to do this were the Spanish and the Italians. The Romans showered newlyweds with these nuts as a fertility charm.

A deciduous tree with spear-shaped leaves and pink flowers are borne in early spring. But though this tree was closely linked to that of cherry, plums and peach rarely was anyone interested in these fruits. The most prized part of this tree was what lay hidden within its hard seed. The Nut. The Latin had a term to describe the shape of this nut. They referred to it as Amygdalus or the “tonsil plum”. The French word derived from the Latin root is Amande or Almond.

Over the years hundreds of these trees were planted and varieties were developed. Some of the most well known among them are the Mamra Almonds, Sweet Almonds of Spain, Jordan, and Valencia.

Sometime during the mid-1700’s the Spanish took their Almonds to America. They tried planting these trees along the coasts but little did they know that these trees weren’t beach fans. It was only when these trees started to be planted inland that they started to thrive in the region. By the 1870s research and crossbreeding led to the development of the several varieties that exist today. By the 20th century, the Almonds industry was firmly established in the great Central Valley.

Almonds are a Powerhouse of Nutrition.

A small handful/ ounce contains:

  • Fiber: 3.5 gms or 4% of the RDA·
  • Protein: 6 gms or 12 % of the RDA
  • Fat: 14 gms (9 of which are monounsaturated)
  • Vitamin E: 37% of the RDA
  • Manganese: 32% of the RDA
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDA.

These nuts also contain a decent amount of copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus.

An Antioxidant Abode

Besides just being super nutritious, almonds are loaded with a whole bunch of antioxidants. These are concentrated on the thin brown layer of skin. So blanched or skinned out almonds are not really the best move from the health nut perspective.

Almonds are one of the preferred sources of Vitamin E. With just one ounce satisfying 37% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin E is not just good for your skin, hair, and eyes but for your heart as well! It is a powerful antioxidant, preventing free radical damage to specific fats in the body & in effect reducing ageing. It also plays an important role in the functions of various organ systems, enzymes, and neurological processes.

Another thing that sets Almonds apart is the remarkably high amounts of magnesium and manganese. Manganese is one of the minerals that is quietly working behind the screens all the time. It is usually found concentrated in the mitochondria or the powerhouse of the cell. It is a catalyst for a number of metabolic enzymes and particularly in the synthesis of cartilage within the body.  

Another thing that sets almonds apart, is their remarkably high amount of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral involved in more than 300 bodily processes, including blood sugar control. The current recommended intake of magnesium is 310-420 mg. It turns out that 25-38% of type 2 diabetics are deficient in magnesium. Increasing the magnesium intake is one of the factors that could help prevent and improve the function of insulin in the body. A majority of US adults do not meet the dietary recommendations for magnesium. The addition of almonds to the diet could have a huge impact.

Three Reasons to make Almonds a part of your daily routine:

1. Diabetic friendly Snack

Almond, like all other nuts, is low on carbs and high on healthy fats, proteins, and fibre. So these are pretty low on the GI index ie they don’t gush your blood with simple sugars. This makes it a perfectly healthy snack even for a diabetic.

2. Balance them Fats to perfection

Studies show that Almonds changed fatty acid profiles for the be super effective in managing lipid the profiles. It was found that int LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). All this within a span of a few weeks. And this showed to significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

3. Staying high on the Satiety scale

Research shows that the high protein and fat content in these nuts are super effective at satiating hunger. All this, without hitting the bar too high on the calorie scale. So whenever you feel hungry and want to chow down on something to kill that hunger, with zero compromises on nutrition, think almonds!

Almonds make a great topping to a number of dishes, especially sweet ones. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavoured rice pudding with a hidden almond inside is custom during Christmas! Just sprinkle some finely chopped or grated almonds on your favourite dessert to add that crunch & flavour! The most healthy way to consume almonds undoubtedly would be to eat them plain. Soak a few almonds overnight in a cup of water and munch into them delicious beans in the morning.

Did you know Almond milk is a great substitute for Cow’s milk? It is one of the best vegan alternatives to milk and a super option for anyone who is lactose intolerant. This milk contains neither cholesterol nor lactose. And guess what? You can make this right at home! All you need is some good almonds, a blender, a strainer and some water!

1. Soak: To make almond milk, soak the almonds in a bowl, covered with about an inch water for about two days. You could keep this covered with a thin muslin cloth at the kitchen counter or refrigerate it. The longer you soak them, the creamier the milk.

2. Drain: Drain the water, rinse the beans and grind them with fresh water. The almonds would feel squishy at this point. It is best to discard this water because the almonds release some of the phytic acids which inhibit the body to absorb certain nutrients.

3. Grind: Grinding one cup of soaked almonds with 2 cups of water in a blender would make a consistency of the about 2% milk. You could alternatively use a food processor instead of a blender. Pulse the blender a few times to break the almonds and then run it at the highest speed for 2 full minutes. The water at this point would start turning opaque and milky.

4. Strain & Squeeze: Line the strainer with a cheesecloth and place it over a vessel. Pour the mixture into the strainer. Squeeze out all the milk with a tight close twist. You should get about 2 cupfuls of milk.

5. Sweeten: You could sweeten the milk with any of the natural sweeteners like dates or palm sugar.

Unlike the nuts themselves, almond milk has a short shelf life. This milk lasts only for about 2 days in the refrigerator but is best used fresh. Since it is so easy to make it is best to make a fresh batch each time you want to use it.  

All things considered, Almond milk or the nuts them themselves, these are as close to perfect as a food can get!

Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thyrve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.