Almonds, the health nut
Throughout history, the almond has left a legacy of natural nutritious gifts to those who know its delightful existence. Native to the Mediterranean, these nuts date back to the diets of the ancient Egyptians and Indian populations where they were considered to have lasting effects when it came to brain power and intellectual ability. The almond is a scrumptious snack, and is quite talented in the nutrition department as well. Since 1980, the almond has gained such extensive popularity (demand increase of 400%!) that it’s considered to be the most beloved nut in the United States, which we can’t really argue with.
ALMOND: PRUNIS DULCIS
The almond is actually a nut of its tree, Prunis dulcis, and there are a whopping 30 different varieties. From an almond-kissed latte down to a sweet indulgence at the local confectionary, almonds are known to appease in more ways than one. We know far too well of its tasty delights, but the almond has plenty of other addictions in its natural state that we can benefit from a health standpoint. It’s nutritional profile includes vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese, magnesium, and protein -- one half cup of almonds will give a pretty good serving of all of the above, and that’s just to start! Like any typical nut, its fat content is on the higher end of the scale, but the good kind of fat, we promise! About ⅓ of its content is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and is labeled as one of the healthiest foods out there for consumption. Although a lovely addition to any meal or snack, we also wanted to highlight some of the more important nutritious values this earth-toned treat can bring to our lives.
The heart is one of our greatest assets. Without it we can’t survive, so we should always go that extra mile to take special care of it. Almonds have been studied extensively when it comes to our heart health, and one of it’s most important attributes is the positive effects it has on the blood pumping organ that keeps us alive.
“The unique nutrient combination of almonds -- plant-based protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats, plus key nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium -- help make them a heart-healthy snack” says Jenny Heap, a registered dietician from The Almond Board of California.
When it comes to a complete balanced diet, if almonds aren’t on that health-conscious checklist, then it might need some tweaking. Some research has actually shown that adding almonds into a diet can significantly increase the antioxidant levels in your blood and promote a more healthy blood flow. This would also reduce blood pressure, and in return would keep your blood vessels in premium shape and reduce the risk of heart disease down the road.
Just like our products are created here at Balm, the best way to add this into any diet is in its purest raw form. The skin of the almond is also known to provide high antioxidant levels, so make sure the almonds are unblanched. Some research suggests that almond skin has been associated with 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids which can impact inflammation levels, cholesterol and overall cardiovascular diseases. Another published study from Harvard Medical School showed that incorporating almonds into diets actually decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels and reduce high cholesterol, and ultimately heart attacks. An easy way to incorporate almonds into any diet is by itself in whole raw form, or start cooking with these yummy ingredients like almond butter, almond milk, or almond flower! These are a few popular items we tend to incorporate into our diets, so make sure to add these to the grocery list for the next trip to the health store.
Despite having a higher caloric content (14 grams per one-ounce serving), the almond has actually been a driver in many weight loss strategies over the years. According to this published study, when consuming almonds as a snack, it decreased the appetite in individuals throughout the day, and lead to a decrease in weight gain. A more recent study in 2015 from the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that daily intake of almonds in substitution of other carbohydrates with the same caloric value had a positive impact. Although it didn’t show specific weight loss, it did show a reduction in abdominal fat, waist perimeter and leg fat. On top of that, improved LDL levels (which mentioned above, is great to have on your side in relation to preventative measures for heart disease). The ayurvedic practitioners must have stumbled upon a goldmine, because its trickling nutritious effects have landed into the minds and hearts of many over the centuries, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their nutritious addition in our lives.
Almonds have been known to provide a longer lasting effect when it comes to energy throughout the day. Riboflavin, manganese and copper is the triple-threat here, and have been known to encourage that energetic flow. Riboflavin is full of vitamin B-12, so we are in good hands already! B-12 delivers more energy by promoting red blood cell production, and releases energy from the carbohydrates and protein we ingest. Riboflavin is an important vitamin that isn’t stored in the body and therefore needs to be replenished everyday. Manganese and copper are teamed up to assist in stopping free radicals in mitochondria, which will lead to a more healthy flow of energy as well. Nothing is worse than that mid-afternoon crash from a busy day at work. Instead of reaching for that espresso, try reaching for that bag of delicious almonds instead. Not only will that post-caffeine crash thank you, but the stomach as well.
SOAKING AND SPROUTING
THE IMPORTANCE OF SOAKING NUTS
Getting the best out of nuts and all their nutritional powers can be tricky, and sometimes going that extra mile needs to be considered before ingestion in the body (as grains, and raw whole nuts can have an inhibiting effect on enzymes in the body). Naturally, nuts contain moderate levels of phytic acid, which are vital to their growth as a plant, but will typically cause issues in the human body (especially with younger children where they don't have a mature digestive track yet). These acids tend to bind to other enzymes and minerals in the body which could stop nutrients from being absorbed, and potentially inhibit digestion.
Moral of the story? Although many things have a a great nutritional source, that doesn’t always mean that our bodies can absorb them efficiently. The importance of soaking nuts, due to the above, comes into powerful play here as we incorporate them into our lives to maintain their positive health benefits. Soaking nuts will help break down the phytic acid of the nut, and help your body absorb all its wonders.
ONE STEP FURTHER: SPROUTING
Soaking nuts to prevent any negative effects in the body is vital, but there is an added action item to consider. Sprouting is known to further reduce enzyme inhibitors and significantly increase enzymatic activity. This process ensures that we are consuming LIVE food because it activates the germination process of a plant (the time when energy exchange is the greatest). The process is simple, but time consuming, as you follow the same steps for soaking, but continue to soak/rinse while incorporating some fresh air for germination to take place.
HOW TO SOAK SEEDS AND NUTS
-2 cups of raw, organic nuts or seeds (best to soak each variety at a time)
-3-4 cups of warm filtered water (to cover nuts)
-1 tablespoon of salt
There are two main parts to soaking seeds and nuts, warm water and salt. This combo makes it super easy as a DIY, while still reaping all of nature’s bountiful treats.
Place the warm water in a medium bowl or jar (½ gallon +). Add the salt to the mix, and let it dissolve.
Add the nuts or seeds, but make sure they are completely submerged in the water.
Leave the mix uncovered for at least 7 hours (easiest done overnight) in room temperature.
Rinse in a colander then spread on a baking sheet. Bake around 150 F (low temperature) or dehydrate until nuts and/or seeds is completely dry and all moisture is gone (super important step, prevents mold).
Dehydrating time can often take up to 24 hours, so unless you have additional leisure time, this step simplifies the process but it isn’t a necessary step to include. If you are venturing into the highly enjoyable homemade almond milk, this is the optimal time for the seed as they are already softened to make a more creamy milk. Enjoy, tribe.