Wonderfully delicious, almonds have long been revered as an epitome of wellness and health. The kernels are among the richest sources of health-benefiting nutrients essential for optimum health.
Botanically, they are the fruits obtained from medium size tree belonging to the family of Rosaceae, in the genus: Prunus. The plant is a deciduous tree, probably originated mineral-rich West-Asian mountain ranges that provide fertile conditions favorable for their growth. In recent years, its cultivation and processing spread across many regions of the world, including the USA, as a major commercial crop.
Scientific name: Prunus dulcis.
|Delicious nuts (kernels)-shelled.||Raw, green almond fruits.
(Photo courtesy : Stepheye)
During each spring season, an almond tree bears pinkish-white flowers that subsequently develop into fruits by autumn. In structure, the fruit is a "drupe" with centrally placed edible "almond nut" (kernel) enveloped inside a hard shell. Almond kernel features brown outer skin, oval to conical in shape, measures about 2 cm long and 1 cm wide, and weigh about 1 to 1.5 g.
Almond nuts are rich sources of vitamins, and minerals and packed with numerous health promoting phytochemicals. These nuts compose of well-balanced food principles that are essential for optimum health and wellness.
Almonds are one of the complete sources of energy as well as nutrients. The nuts, especially, are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic, and palmitoleic acids that help in lowering LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increasing HDL or "good cholesterol" in the human body. Research studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet which is excellent in monounsaturated fatty acids helps prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
The nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E; hold about 25 mg per 100 grams (about 170% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It protects and restores cell membrane integrity of mucosa and skin from harmful effects of oxygen free radicals.
Almonds are gluten free food items. For the same reason, they are one of the favorite ingredients in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations are, in fact, healthy alternatives for people suffering from gluten food allergy, and celiac disease.
The nuts packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. Altogether, these vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism inside the human body.
Furthermore, almonds are also an incredible source of minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Almond oil, extracted from the nuts, can be employed as an emollient. When applied regularly, it helps keep skin well protected from dryness. Additionally, the oil employed in cooking in Iran, and Turkey. It is also used as “carrier or base oil” in various traditional medicines, in aromatherapy, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries.
A handful of almonds a day provides much of recommended levels of minerals, vitamins, and protein. Besides, almond oil extracted from the nuts employed in cooking and medicine.
|Raw almonds unshelled. Note for the edible almond kernel inside.|
Almonds can be available in the markets' year around. In the stores, however, different forms of nuts are displayed for sale like shelled, unshelled (with outer shell), salted, sweetened, or powdered (almond flour/meal), etc. Try to buy completely shelled or unshelled raw nuts instead of processed ones.
While buying, look for kernels that feature bright brown color, compact and uniform in size, and feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks/cuts, mold, and spots, and rancid smell.
To store, place unshelled whole almonds in cold, dry place for several months. However, shelled kernels should be kept inside an airtight container, and stored in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
Raw whole nuts are cut open at processing units using large cracker machines. Smaller nut sheller equipment or handheld pliers usually suffice for domestic purposes.
Here are some serving tips:
Almonds can be enjoyed either raw, salted or sweetened.
Almonds are one of the most sought after among nuts employed in a variety of rice dishes, savory and sweet preparations in the Middle-East region.
Almond splits are often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream preparations.
They employed widely in the confectionery, as an addition to cookies, biscuits, sweets, energy bars, and cakes. In France, frangipane is a favorite cake made of almond meal.
Green, mature almonds are incredibly delicious! These edible, young, tender nuts, hit the farmer markets by late spring. Cut open its outer green shell using a paring knife and enjoy inner sweet, cream-white kernel!
Almond nut allergy, although not so common as other tree nut allergies like cashew, pistachio, etc., may often cause hypersensitivity cross-reactions in some people to food substances prepared using them. The type and severity of symptoms may vary and may include vomiting, diarrhea, pain abdomen, swelling of lips, and throat leading to breathing difficulty, and chest congestion. Therefore, caution should be exercised in those with nut allergic syndrome while consuming food items prepared almond nuts. (Disclaimer).
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2. The Almond Board of California.