By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What They Are
They come raw or roasted, sweet or salty, sprouted or unsprouted but they're always crunchy and satisfying. Today, almonds are the star of the Nut Show. They come in lots of varieties, and they’re classified by their color, shape and size. The land of Hollywood superstars, California, grows and produces the most almonds worldwide. We may call it a nut, but almonds are actually the seed of a tree. Like any good actor, they can play a number of roles in your diet. You may see them starring on your plate as protein in the form of almond butter. They can also be used as the fat you toss into your salad to keep you satisfied longer. Finally, you may see them in your afternoon snack as energy-laden fuel to rocket you through until dinnertime. So roll out the red carpet, because regardless of the role they’re playing in your diet, almonds are award-winners in the categories of both taste and health benefits.
The Dirty Deets
Should you be concerned that “nuts are fattening”? Not really. Almonds are one of those foods that are loaded with nutrition, and few people find themselves overweight or in poor health from chowing down on too many almonds. Still, it is possible to overdo it and undermine your best weight management intentions. An ounce of almonds -- that’s 24 little seeds -- packs 180 calories, 6 grams of satisfying protein and 14 grams of heart-healthy fat. Restraint is required, but since these little nutrition nuggets are super satisfying, a little goes a long way. Pre-portioning is really helpful, so make yourself some snack baggies.
- Almonds help your ticker stay healthy. They lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and are packed with vitamin E, magnesium and potassium, which helps oxygen and nutrients flow more freely through the blood. We know hearts represent love, so show your ticker some lovin’ with almonds.
- Almonds are a bone-building food. That 1-ounce serving has as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. On top of that, they’re loaded with phosphorus to keep your skeleton and chompers healthy and strong, which will lower your risk of fractures and breaks.
How To Chow Down
Thanks to modern technology, you can drink, bake and spread your almonds. If you want to reap the benefits of these nuts, try these options:
- Almonds are a great dairy alternative. You will find almond milk and almond yogurt right next to the dairy versions. Pour it over your cereal, add it to your coffee or drink it straight. You can replace your regular yogurt for the antioxidant-rich alternative and use it as a snack, in a parfait or dip for your crudités. (As upwave review-board member David Katz, MD, notes, almond milks vary in quality and may contain added sugar; also, they don't provide all of the nutrients of the nut.)
- Almond butter is one of those brilliant inventions that was once confined to health food stores, but now we find it everywhere we turn. Use it as you would peanut butter: on a sandwich, with celery sticks and apple slices and stirred into your oatmeal. Be on the lookout for squeeze packs that you can toss into your purse, desk or car for a portable, stable snack on the go.
- Of course, there is no shortage of almond recipes out there -- but if you like them seasoned and snackable, they’ll store for a couple of weeks, so they make a great homemade holiday gift. If you want to make them savory, think cayenne, salt and Tabasco. If you like ‘em sweet, bake ‘em up with some sugar and spice and everything nice.
In The Know
Almonds can even help you in bed. First, crunching almonds can help you relieve aggression, making it easier for your body to rest and relax. The selenium in them fights depression and anxiety, which is essential for good shuteye. Want a homeopathic remedy for upping your man’s libido? The fatty acids in almonds are essential to the production of male hormones that regulate sex drive. Finally, eating almonds before bed can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, thanks to the magnesium and protein they contain. So eat some before light’s out. Sleep tight!