Sweet and Bitter Almonds
Almonds are fruits that are derived from deciduous trees which originally grew in parts of North Africa and Asia.
Today, almond trees are found growing in California, Spain and many other places.
Almond fruits are characterized by leathery coating beneath which there is dark-skinned pit resembling freestone peach.
It is important to note that almonds come in 2 varieties: bitter and sweet almonds.
Sweet almonds are found in many Asian dishes as well as in garnishes and desserts. They are also used to make a European candy base called marzipan made after crushing sweet almond fruits.
Sweet almonds can also be processed into extracts as well as in the making of essential oils.
The extract obtained is usually used in the place of vanilla extract in making diabetic safe recipes. Sweet almonds can also be roasted and then turned into chunks or slivers for texture in puddings or ice cream.
On the other hand, bitter almonds are processed in the raw stage after which can be used in cooking.
It is important to note that bitter almonds contain toxic amounts of prussic acid that is further processed to make cyanide. It is, therefore, important to be careful and not to consume unprocessed bitter almonds as a cyanide being a dangerous poison could lead to death.
If bitter almonds are used in cooking, the prussic acid must be removed. Although they are designated bitter almonds, it should be noted that it is not a disagreeable bitterness.
Almond trees can be found in many places across the world including Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
Almonds used for commercial purposes in America are found growing in California. You can buy almonds from grocery shops where they come in the form of raw form for cooking, crushed ones for pastes, roasted form for snacking and also in the chopped form for salads and garnishes.
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Are Almonds Good For You?
According to USDA, eating almonds regularly plays a crucial role in reducing cases of heart diseases.
Almonds are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is also important to note that almonds have a high content of calories and therefore it is advisable that you eat them in moderation.
Cholesterol – According to Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, a research conducted established that almonds, as well as other nuts, have the capacity to cut body’s bad cholesterol by up to 20 percent.
The fruits are rich in unsaturated fats including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It has been established that one ounce of almonds has 14 grams of fats. The composition of fats includes 1.1grams of saturated fats, 3.4 grams of polyunsaturated fats as well as 8.8 grams of monounsaturated fats. It is worth noting that almonds are free from cholesterol.
Minerals and Vitamins – it is also worth noting that almonds are a good source of minerals and vitamin elements. One ounce of almond serving has 200 milligrams of potassium, 76 milligrams of magnesium, 0.9 milligrams of zinc, 0.3 milligrams of copper, 75 milligrams of calcium as well as 11 milligrams of iron.
Almonds also very rich in vitamin B. One ounce serving of almonds has 14 mg of folate, 0.3 mg riboflavin as well as 1.0 mg niacin.
A healthy diet that is rich in fiber will help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, constipation as well as diverticulitis.
Health Benefits of Almonds
Almonds have always been associated with high intellectual capacity and this explains why most parents will give them to their growing children.
Ideally, almonds contain two very crucial nutrients that are required by the body: L-carnitine and riboflavin.
These two nutrients are known to increase brains activity and at the same time reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Various studies have also revealed that including almonds in your diet regularly will improve the functioning of the nervous system and also promote the overall good health of the body.
Prevention of cancer – almonds consumption helps to foster the movement of food materials throughout the colon thereby reducing the incidences of cancer. E.g. colon cancer.
Health Benefits of Almond Milk For Weight Loss
Are you looking to shed some weight? Consuming unsweetened almond milk could help you achieve your mission. The monounsaturated contained in almonds helps to suppress appetite thereby preventing overeating.
Also, the presence of dietary fiber in almonds will create the feeling of fullness after eating a small meal thereby preventing you from over intake of calories.
Various studies have established a low calorie diet containing almonds is good for obese people who are desperately trying to shed some weight.
It has also been established that those who consume almonds regularly are able to maintain their ideal weight without having to endure weight fluctuations.
The presence of fiber helps in smoothening the bowel movements which will not only help you lose weight but also will improve your overall body health through efficient removal of toxins.
Prevents constipation – constipation is a common condition which affects many people. Due to the high fiber content in almonds, those who consume almonds regularly are less likely to encounter constipation.
However, consuming almonds will require you to take plenty of water to speed up digestion.
Prevents Alzheimer’s disease – consuming almonds has been found to have been found to have a positive impact in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
The fruit is known to stimulate new passage ways for neurals and this may help to prevent neural degeneration that could develop.
Possible Side Effects of Consuming Almonds
Although almonds are famous for all the good reasons, there are some risks that may arise as a result of over consumption of the fruits.
These risks includes;
Weight gain – eating too much of almonds may result in weight gain.
Medical interactions – it must be noted that almonds are high in manganese levels. Too much manganese in the blood may cause interactions with certain medications especially antipsychotic drugs, laxatives, certain antibiotics, blood pressure medications as well as antiacids.
An overdose of vitamin E – although vitamin E is a very important antioxidant in the body, too much of it can trigger lethargy, headaches, flatulence, diarrhea and blurred vision.
Gastrointestinal problems – one ounce of almond serving has all the fiber required by the body to prevent constipation.
However, taking too much of almonds could actually result in constipation and other abdominal problems. If you realize that you have taken a little bit more of almonds, you should take plenty of water to counter the possible side effects.
Researches and references
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Coates AM, Howe PR. Edible nuts and metabolic health. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2007 Feb;18(1):25-30.
Lamarche B, Desroches S, Jenkins DJ, et al. Combined effects of a dietary portfolio of plant sterols, vegetable protein, viscous fibre and almonds on LDL particle size. Br J Nutr. 2004 Oct;92(4):657-63.
Dicenta, Federico; Ortega, Encarnacion; Martinez-Gomez, Pedro (January 2007). “Use of recessive homozygous genotypes to assess genetic control of kernel bitterness in almond”. Euphytica (Springer) 153 (1-2): 221–225
Jenab M, Ferrari P, Slimani N, et al. Association of nut and seed intake with colorectal cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Oct;13(10):1595-603.
Davis PA, Iwahashi CK. Whole almonds and almond fractions reduce aberrant crypt foci in a rat model of colon carcinogenesis. Cancer Lett. 2001 Apr 10;165(1):27-33.
Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Frequent nut consumption and decreased risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):76-81
Jambazian PR, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Tanzman J, Sabaté J. “Almonds in the diet simultaneously improve plasma alpha-tocopherol concentrations and reduce plasma lipids.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Mar;105(3):449-54. Accessed November 28th 2013.
“Aflatoxins in food”. European Food Safety Authority 2010.
Berryman CE, Preston AG, Karmally W, Deckelbaum RJ, Kris-Etherton PM (April 2011). “Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions”. Nutrition Reviews 69 (4): 171–85.