Almonds: Nuts for Health

With a close connection with the heart, almonds are nutritious nuts, healthy for the mind and the body.

Fresh and healthy almonds

Almonds, also known as badam in India, are nature’s ancient nutritious food. February 16 is recognised as a National Almond Day due to the nut’s close connection with the heart. The fear that always tends to haunt us is their fat content. Ironical but true, almonds are high-fat foods but still, they can do wonders for your health.

Why eat almonds

Though almonds are high in fat, the percentage of saturated and trans fats is low, making the fat composition perfect for your heart health. What’s even better is that almonds are absolutely cholesterol-free.

It is packed with minerals such as calcium and phosphorus that can contribute to strong bones and dental health. A great snack for women who are expecting or breastfeeding.

With its generous supply of Vitamin E, dietary fibre and anti-oxidants [agents that protect body cells against damage daily], almonds have been found to have cancer-preventive effect, especially colon cancer. Recent studies have also linked the lowering of prostate cancer risk with the boron content in almonds.

Researchers believe that a daily helping of a handful of almonds helps in lowering LDL cholesterol [bad cholesterol that tends to increase fat accumulation in the body], thus improving the cholesterol profile and reducing the risk of heart attack [effects similar to statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs].

Want to lose weight? Eat almonds.

Nuts are usually associated with weight gain and so, they are also avoided. However, almonds are rich in fibre. Fibre creates a feeling of fullness, thus reducing hunger. It also has the miraculous quality of blocking fat and carbohydrate absorption which makes it favourable not only for weight loss but also for diabetics [it helps to stabilise blood sugar]. It’s worth remembering here that almonds should be consumed with the outer skin to preserve the fibre content. The combination of protein and fibre works well for those on a maintenance diet.

Keep your blood pressure in check with almonds. They contain a relatively good content of magnesium and potassium. Magnesium helps to ensure regular blood flow to the heart, aids in maintaining blood pressure and potassium regulates the normal functioning of muscles. Next time you experience muscle cramps, you might want to think about adding some almonds in your diet.

Boost your brain activity with almonds. They contain brain-boosting elements which support brain functioning and aid in steadying mood swings.

Sweet almond oil, when consumed orally, can relieve constipation [should be consumed as prescribed by the physician]. But, this is not recommended for children, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.

Almonds form good snacks while travelling, picnics and you could also store them in air-tight containers in your vehicle. It’s a ready-to-eat snack especially when stuck in traffic or stranded in rains.

Storage Tips

Natural almonds can be stored well for as long as two years, if refrigerated in air-tight containers. Preferably choose almonds with shells, as they have a longer shelf life. In case you purchase them roasted, go for almonds with no oil, salt, honey or sugar.

Did you know?

Almonds in even numbers of three, five or seven are considered tokens of good fortune and happiness for wedding and religious ceremonies.

Beauty secrets

Almond oil is a combination of sweet and bitter almonds. It is commonly used as massage oil, perfect for aromatherapy. It is a great moisturiser too. It softens and conditions the skin and leaves you with a younger complexion. This oil is a must for chapped hands and feet. It also works well to relieve skin irritation. You can use it to remove make-up too. It is highly recommended for cabin crew due to their exposure to extreme dry conditions on flights. Massaging the scalp with almond oil reduces hair loss.

Here are some simple home-made packs with almond to brighten the complexion and get rid of blemishes:

  • A paste of almonds and curd will exfoliate skin.
  • Mix one tbsp of honey and half tsp of lime juice with ground almonds, use it as a scrub.
  • Grind almonds with rose petals to make a good face pack for dry skin.
  • A mixture of ground almonds, walnuts and peanuts mixed with milk exfoliates skin.

For your waistline

Make almonds a part of your daily diet. Almonds can be a tasty, healthy, natural and valuable addition in your menu. Some suggestions are:

  • Begin your day with a wholesome breakfast; add almonds to cornflakes or oats.
  • Add ground almonds to crisp veggies to make tasty salads.
  • Eat nutritious snacks; mix roasted almonds to poha, upma, chaats and noodles.
  • Almonds make great chicken stuffing.
  • Saute pasta with corn, crisp veggies and chopped almonds.
  • Make a quick nutritious snack with sliced almonds and apples.
  • Pureed and blanched almonds can be used to make nutritious gravies.
  • Stir fried vegetables or chicken or seafood with almonds.
  • Blanched and ground almonds can be added to wheat flour.
  • Blanched and ground almonds mixed with water make “almond milk”, a good option for lactose intolerant patients.

However, let’s not forget, getting over-ambitious in eating can reverse the benefits of any food. The recommended intake is 15-20 almonds daily [approximately providing 130 calories, 4 g protein and 12 g fat]. The best way to keep control is to keep 20 almonds daily in zip-lock bags or air-tight containers.

A word of caution

  • Not advisable for patients with kidney stone or gall bladder problem [due to high oxalate content in almonds].
  • Almond protein [amandin] can cause allergic reactions [though not very common].
  • Bitter almonds should not be eaten raw as they contain hydrocyanic acid and prussic acid [cyanide] that are highly toxic.

So, be careful while eating almonds. Nevertheless, they are nutritious and healthy nuts. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a handful for a healthy body and mind.

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Payal Ahuja
Payal Ahuja is a Mumbai-based dietician and consultant. She conducts workshops on lifestyle management and weight management programmes on TV. Ahuja is also IPC-certified auditor for ISO-9001:2000, and author of the book, Combating Childhood Obesity.


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