After Valentine’s Day, there’s another delicious holiday to celebrate: National Almond Day. Every February 16, almonds are recognized as a versatile, healthy, and yummy treat. Whether you’re eating them by themselves (plain or roasted), using almond flour, milk, oil, butter, or meal – almonds deliver a delicious and distinct flavor along with many health benefits. It’s one of the most heart-healthy foods available on the market, packed with magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, riboflavin, and more. In short, they are good for you, and that’s why they deserve a day to be celebrated.
Reasons to Celebrate Almonds
When you feel that little pang of hunger, and it’s not even close to mealtime, you can be tempted to reach out for a convenient treat. But on National Almond Day (and for any day, for that matter), it’s better to keep a pack of almonds close to you, instead of a bag of chips or a stack of cookies. Here are some great reasons to celebrate almonds.
1. Almonds are full of healthy nutrients.
Almonds have an impressive nutrient profile. An ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) contains 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 160 calories. You may think twice because it contains 14 grams of fat, but much of that is monounsaturated, the good kind of fat that you can find in nuts. Almonds also contain essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, riboflavin, copper, and phosphorus.
2. Almonds are easy to enjoy.
You can pack a bag of almonds to curb an emergency snack craving anywhere you go. You can keep them at the office while you work, or close to you when you’re reading a book or watching TV. You can pack them in your kids’ lunch, and get them snacking on a healthy nut.
3. Almonds go with everything.
Raw almonds have a delicious flavor you can enjoy alone, but it also works well if you want to mix it up. You can combine almonds with berries and increase the antioxidant goodness you’re taking in. You can also mix it up with some raisins for a healthy energy boost. If you need more fiber, eating it with apples is a yummy way to go.
4. Almonds can fill you up.
Almonds might be small in size, but when it comes to nutrition and making you feel full, these nuts can pack a solid punch. The next time you’re craving for a snack, get two dozen almonds, and you will feel full and energized.
Popular Ways to Enjoy Almonds
To commemorate this remarkable nut, check out the popular ways on how to enjoy almonds:
Let’s start with the basics: the plain, simple almond. It doesn’t just add flavor and texture to snacks and recipes, and it’s also very tasty on its own. It’s a healthy snack to eat alone. Instead of chips, try munching on nuts like almonds, because they are a healthier option, and can make you feel fuller. A handful and a half of almonds are enough to supply your body with an abundance of protein, fiber, vitamin E, and more. If you’d rather snack on roasted almonds, you can either go salted or unsalted.
2. Flavored almonds
Almonds taste great by themselves, but they can also be exciting when they have an extra dose of flavor. Almonds can be sprinkled with seasonings, or coated with honey and sugar, or smothered with delicious cinnamon or cream. Whatever flavor that you like, you can find it in your grocery store.
3. Chocolate almonds
Chocolate and almonds are a perfect combination – most chocolate lovers know that. Almonds seamlessly combine with chocolate because the soft and sweet chocolate complements with the crunchy and salty almond. Chocolate-covered almonds are also yummy as a snack.
4. Jordan almonds
Jordan almond is a classic almond candy made from slightly roasted almonds covered in a sugar candy coating. They are often used as wedding favors, as the “bitter” almonds and “sweet sugar” symbolizes the bitterness of life and sweetness of love. Traditionally, Jordan almonds are given to guests in Italy and the Middle East. Five Jordan almonds are given to guests, as each signifies the following: happiness, health, wealth, long life, and fertility. Jordan almonds come in a variety of pretty colors, making them perfect for candy buffets and parties.
Culinary Uses of Almonds
While the almond is fine eaten on its own, it’s also a great addition to various dishes. Almonds are available whole or sliced. It yields an oil that can be made into almond butter or almond milk. Here are some culinary uses for almonds:
1. Baked goods and desserts
Like most nuts, almonds can be sprinkled over baked goods, pastries, and desserts. Almonds are used in cookies, cakes, biscuits, marzipan, nougat, and ice cream-based dishes. It adds a nutty flavor to any food while adding a healthy punch to it, too.
2. Breakfast meals
Almonds are a filling addition to your morning oats, mueslis, or smoothies.
3. Almond butter
Almond oil can be made into almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter. It has a naturally sweeter taste, and it’s popular with peanut allergy sufferers.
4. Almond milk
Almonds can be processed into milk substitutes, making it great milk of choice for vegans and lactose-intolerant people. Almond milk can be added to recipes that need milk.
5. Almond flour
Almond flour or ground almond meal is often used as a gluten-free, healthier alternative to wheat flour and refined flour. Almonds contain polyphenols that consist of flavonols, hydroxybenzoic acids, flavanones, and flavan-3-ols, which are similar to those found in some fruits and vegetables.
History of Almonds
Almonds have been existing for thousands of years. The almonds you eat as a midday snack has traveled a long way before settling in California, which is now the world’s largest almonds producer. Their exact ancestry is unknown, but almonds are believed to have originated in China and Central Asia.
Ancient civilizations have used almonds. By 4,000 BC, farmers were cultivating almond trees that blossomed well in the lands that surround the Mediterranean Sea. King Tutankhamen also bought almonds to his grave in 1352 BC to nourish himself on his journey to the afterlife.
Early references from Romania, Turkey, and the Baltic peninsula makes mention of the nut. The Bible also mentions almonds, and it refers to it as an object of value and symbol of hope. They are also a prized ingredient in bread served to the pharaohs in Egypt.
Wild almond trees grew near trade routes like the Silk Road that connected the Mediterranean and central China. Wild almonds grew on the route, and the nuts fall to the ground. This still happens to almonds today in central California, where wild almond trees are seen growing in roadways and ditches.
Explorers consume almonds while traveling to Asia and the Mediterranean. Before long, almond trees grew abundantly in the hillsides and areas of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, and Spain.
Almonds were brought to California from Spain by the mid-1700s by Franciscan friars and priests. However, the moist weather did not provide the optimum growing condition. In the 1800s, almond trees were successfully planted inland, and by the 1870s, cross-breeding has developed most of today’s popular almond varieties. By the 1900s, the almond industry was established in the San Joaquin and Sacramento areas of California’s great Central Valley. Today, California remains the biggest producer of almonds in the world, with Spain in second place.
Health Benefits of Almonds
Almonds are packed with nutrients that are helpful for the body. It also offers these fantastic benefits:
1. It’s a great source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help protect against stress, which can damage cells and contribute to aging, inflammation, and diseases like cancer. The antioxidants in almonds are mostly concentrated in the brown layer of the skin, and that’s why blanched almonds – those with skin removed – are not the healthiest choice.
The antioxidants in almonds are also found to have a cancer-fighting benefit. A study published in 2001 found that rats who ate almonds had fewer cancer cells in their colons.
2. It can help control blood sugar.
People with diabetes or those avoiding diabetes must snack on almonds regularly. Almonds are low in carbs but rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s high in magnesium, which helps control blood sugar. About 25 to 38 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency, and correcting this deficiency can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels.
A study conducted in 2006 looked at the link between almond consumption and diabetes risk. The participants were given controlled meals based on either rice, almonds, potatoes, or bread. Researchers found that the participants’ insulin and blood sugar decreased after eating an almond meal, but the same result wasn’t found with the others.
3. It’s an abundant source of vitamin E.
Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin E. Just an ounce of almond can provide you with 37% of the recommended daily intake. Eating foods rich in vitamin E is linked to lower heart disease rates, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Vitamin E is also known to protect the cells from damage.
4. It helps lower blood pressure levels.
Magnesium in almonds can also be helpful in lower blood pressure levels. Magnesium deficiency is linked to high blood pressure, which drives heart attacks, kidney failure, and stroke. Studies have also shown that correcting magnesium deficiency can lead to a reduction in blood pressure.
5. It can lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
A person’s diet has a major effect on LDL lipoproteins or bad cholesterol in the body. Studies have shown that almonds can effectively lower bad cholesterol in the blood. Researchers have found that adding almonds to a diet can lower LDL cholesterol levels in persons with pre-diabetes. Another study found that eating almonds every day can lower bad cholesterol while maintaining good cholesterol.
6. It can be effective for weight loss.
Since almonds are high in protein and fiber, which are both known to increase feelings of fullness, these nuts can help you eat fewer calories. Because of their satiating properties, almonds are a great addition to an effective weight loss diet. A human study supports this trait, as a low-calorie diet with 3 ounces of almonds increases weight loss by 62% compared to a diet of complex carbohydrates.
7. It’s a great source of energy.
Almonds contain riboflavin, manganese, and copper, which are all energy encouragers. Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin helps produce red blood cells and release energy from the carbs you eat. Meanwhile, manganese and copper are components of an enzyme that can stop free radicals in our cells’ energy production centers. This way, these minerals help maintain the body’s energy flow.
8. It can help prevent gallstones.
Almonds can also help keep your gallbladder and liver working smoothly, thanks to its fat and fiber content. A study showed that frequent nut consumers are 25% less likely to develop gallbladder complications that might need a cholecystectomy. Another 2004 study also showed that frequent almond consumers could see a 30% decrease in the risk of developing gallstone disease.