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Almonds

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Almonds are a surprisingly decent source of calcium: Although you would have to consume 330 calories' worth of almonds to get a significant quantity of this bone-building mineral, almonds contain more calcium than any other nut. Almonds are also a significant source of magnesium, which contributes to strong bones as well, and they supply a healthy amount of vitamin E. These sweet, versatile nuts have the highest dietary fiber content of any nut or seed, supplying more than 3 grams of fiber per ounce; like all nuts, almonds are a good source of protein, although they are lacking the essential amino acid, lysine. (However, that problem is easily solved by combining almonds with legumes that are high in lysine).

More than 65% of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated, which can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Almonds also contain the phytochemicals quercetin and kaempferol, both of which may be protective against cancer.

Varieties

There are two types of almonds, bitter and sweet. Sweet almonds are the kind used in cooking and baking, whereas bitter almonds (whose sale is prohibited in this country) are used primarily to make almond extract. There are also Chinese almonds, but these are actually apricot kernels.

Sweet almonds are sold in a number of forms, in shell and out. Whole, shelled almonds are sold "natural" (with their brown skin on) and blanched (with the skin removed); almonds are also sold sliced or slivered (natural or blanched).

Almonds are sold roasted and dry-roasted. Roasted almonds (as with any "roasted" nut) are oil-roasted, which is akin to being deep-fried, and the fat used is often highly saturated coconut oil. The process adds about 10 calories per ounce of nuts, or a little more than a gram of fat (mostly saturated fat, if coconut oil is used).

Dry-roasted almonds are not cooked in oil, so they are slightly lower in calories and fat than oil-roasted nuts. However, they may be salted or contain other ingredients, such as corn syrup, sugar, starch, MSG, and preservatives.

Almonds are also sold in the form of almond butter (a delicious alternative to peanut butter), almond paste (ground almonds combined with sugar, to use in desserts), and almond oil (for baking and flavoring).

Availability

Packaged almonds are widely available all year round. Fresh almonds in their shells are easiest to find in fall and early winter.

Shopping

For the sake of freshness, buy almonds in sealed packages when possible. When buying from a bulk source, choose a store where there's a rapid turnover and where the bulk foods are kept in covered containers. Smell the almonds to be sure that they're fresh and sweet--beware of any musty or rancid odor.

Storage

Like all nuts, almonds have a high fat content that makes them susceptible to spoilage. To keep them fresh if not using right away, freeze the nuts in their original unopened package or in a tightly covered jar or a zip-seal plastic bag. It's not necessary to thaw them before using. Almonds keep better in their shells, if you don't mind the work of shelling them.

Preparation

To enhance the flavor of natural almonds, toast them in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the almonds from the pan immediately or they're likely to scorch.

You can also toast almonds in a shallow baking pan in a 350°F oven for 7 to 10 minutes (slivered and sliced almonds will take a shorter time than whole almonds).

To finely chop almonds, place in a food processor and pulse on and off until finely ground, being careful not to overprocess or the nuts will turn oily and pasty. If almonds are to be ground for a cake, process with a small amount of the flour called for.

Nutrition Chart

Almonds/1 ounce

167
Total fat (g)
15
Saturated fat (g)
1.4
Monounsaturated fat (g)
9.6
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
3.1
Dietary fiber (g)
3.1
6
Carbohydrate (g)
6
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
3
Vitamin E (mg)
6.8
Manganese (mg)
0.6
Magnesium (mg)
84
Phosphorus (mg)
147


Date Published: 04/19/2005
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