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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Almonds

    Nov-04-2008

How many of you who have relished almonds on different delicacies like marzipan (candy on a stick), rail mix (a snack comprising dried fruits and nuts), in slivers adorning the top of cakes or roasted green beans are aware of the fact that these nuts are a source of energy in nourishments that enable us to combat against ailments?
For hundreds of years, people across the globe have been relishing almonds, the nuts that have been providing multiple advantages in sustaining our well being as well as preventing and healing ailments such as cardiovascular conditions, cancer, diabetes, asthma and also bronchitis. It is important to note that almonds are highly rich in antioxidants, especially selenium that retards the aging process. Almonds also enclose wholesome monounsaturated fat (a fatty acid with only one double carbon bond), which facilitates the enhancement of the intensity of good cholesterol that in all probability safeguards against heart ailments. High concentration of magnesium in these nuts (a few nuts are ample to supply 25% of a person's daily mineral need) as well as the ability of almonds to lessen spines in blood sugar possibly aids in defending against diabetes. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E content and this reduces the perils of fatality owing to heart disease and cancer.

It has already been mentioned that almonds are a powerhouse of nutrients and hence it is not surprising that in addition to the above nourishments, the nuts are also rich in protein content. In fact, consuming one ounce or 28 grams of almonds provide us with 12% of our protein requirement every day. Among all other nuts, almonds enclose the utmost concentration of calcium. Just about one ounce of almonds contains the equivalent amount of calcium in one-fourth cup of milk. Unblanched almonds possess more fiber than any other available nut. Almonds also contain phosphorous that is beneficial for teeth and bones. In addition, this valuable nut also possesses other minerals such as iron, copper, potassium, manganese, zinc and some hints of vitamin B such as thiamin and riboflavin. High concentration of folic acid in almonds is beneficial for pregnant women as it helps in avoiding birth defects. Interestingly, almonds contain very little saturated fat.

Almonds are an important source of protein for all vegetarians. While consumption of the nut is not only substantial, but people who have taken a snack comprising almonds have claimed that it reduces their food ingestion as they felt very satisfied. Studies have not only confirmed this, but also demonstrated that almonds also facilitate in obstructing the soaking up of carbohydrates and also prevent the fat content in the nut itself from being absorbed by the body. These features of almond explicates why even when almonds are taken in substantial quantity, they do not pose a threat to our health. On the contrary, consumption of almonds is considered to be nutrition low in saturated fat content. In addition, consumption of almonds does not increase the weight and aids in maintaining a low cholesterol level.

It may be noted here that the cultivation of almonds and some other fruits such as grapes, olives and dates were taken up by the prehistoric man some time before 3000 B.C. Almonds and pistachios happen to be the only nuts referred in the Bible. According to the ancient texts, the initial array of almonds originated in China and was carried by the traveler as provisions to Greece, Portugal, Turkey and the Middle East. On the other hand, early Europeans coated almonds with sugar and packed them in nets and presented these to guests at the wedding ceremonies. This tradition is followed even today and is considered to be a sign of fruitfulness, pleasure, well being and luck.

Apart from using almonds as refreshments, the healthy nut was also used by the people in the medieval period to prepare a nourishing drink. In fact, the almond milk prepared from grinding the nuts was the principal drink of the people during the Middle Ages, as compared to the cow's milk; the almond milk could be preserved for a longer period with no refrigeration. There were some benefits associated with the almond milk, as it could be prepared instantly when required, or prepared and stored for later use. Since almond has high concentration of fat, people were able to churn out butter from the almond milk. Moreover, as neither the almond milk nor the almond butter was animal products, Christians could use them during Lent (a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by the Christians in preparation for Easter).

One of the favorite preparations of the early Europeans was using the almond milk with tantalizing ice-cold French custard known as 'blancmange'. The British too loved this delicacy and in the 14th century they invented their own version called 'blancmanger'. The 'blancmanger' was prepared using grated chicken, sugar, rice, almond milk or the pulverized nuts. Preparation of almond milk is simple as it requires adding one cup of crushed nuts to two cups of boiling water. Having been left to permeate for approximately five minutes, the liquid is strained to obtain two cups of nutritious almond milk. The butter yielded from ground almonds is an useful source of vegetarian protein and can be used as spreads on sandwich or to top thinly cut bananas and apples. In addition, almond butter may also be used as a sauce thickener.

In botany, the sweet almond is known as prunus amygdalus dulcis. Almond is also known as a stone fruit and is intimately associated with other fruits such as the apricot and peach. These nutritious nuts grow on small trees that requires cross pollination by honey bees for higher yields. It may be mentioned here that California is the world's largest producer of almonds and the almond orchards there are a bewildering sight during spring when the trees are in full bloom enchanting the entire region with the delicate scent of the white almond flowers.

Compared to other nuts, almonds have the capability to preserve their qualities for longer periods provided they are stored appropriately. In fact, almonds can be stored and used for over a year with no the fear of the nut loosing any of its properties - flavor and nourishments. However, as in the instance of all other nuts, almonds too are susceptible to oxidation or decomposition as the oxygen from the atmosphere undergoes chemical reaction with the unsaturated fat rotting the nuts and make them pungent. Hence, it is important to store the almonds in cool and dry places that are far off heat and sunlight. Alternatively, one may also store almonds in deep freezers for better preservation of the nuts' goodness.

Before we wrap up the topic, it needs to be emphasized that no matter how people take almonds, they are always useful for our well being and are a viable substitute for peanuts as refreshments, to dairy for cookery and drinking and to animal supply of protein for vegetarians. These nutritious nuts may be consumed raw and whole, crushed, in small pieces, blanched, roasted or in the form of milk and butter and all these will provide you with the same properties and benefits that may be derived from almonds.

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