ALMONDS – Nutritional Profile
Even though they are not technically a nut, almonds have many of the same nutritional elements that you would expect from the food group which may explain the misunderstanding. Firstly they are rich in dietary fibre and essential vitamins, particularly B group vitamins such as Thiamine and Riboflavin as well as being a good supply of vitamin E.
Phytochemicals are normally associated plant pigmentation and in human diet with protection against many diseases including some cancers and they are found in almonds in significant quantity.
Almonds, like most nuts are known to have a high fat content. The rich supply of monounsaturated fatty acids plays a major role in managing cholesterol.
Amongst other essential nutrients they also contain manganese, copper and significantly, one ounce of almonds contains 206mg potassium. Almonds are free from glutens so become an important food supply for those suffering from gluten intolerance such as Ceoliacs.
ALMONDS – Health Benefits
Almonds are a high fat food but they are high in monounsaturated fats that promote health by reducing cholesterol in the same way that live oil does and resulting in reduced risk of heart disease. Research in Toronto, Canada has indicated that even those experiencing problems with high fat levels in their blood may benefit from eating almonds. The research demonstrated that 2.5 ounces of almonds had a greater effect, in terms of reducing LDL cholesterol, than eating as single whole wheat muffin, which contains a similar amount of fat. Research in America has demonstrated that when consumed as part of a diet that is rich in health promoting foods, almonds can give a reduction in LDL cholesterol that is similar to that achieved with early statin treatments.
Despite their high fat content, research has also shown that a low calorie diet that has a high almond content will lead to more effective weight loss. Research has shown that avoidance of nuts due to their high fat content is not justified. A two year study of 8.865 men and women in Spain found that those eating nuts at least twice a week were less likely to gain weight.
A recent study reported that when such foods as almonds are incorporated into a healthy eating regime the benefits of that regime are multiplied with reduced levels of LDL cholesterol being observed in as little as two weeks.
Vitamin E is a well documented antioxidant so almonds have the potential to reduce heart disease as well as lowering cholesterol.
A quarter cup of almonds contains 99mg of magnesium which is responsible for maintaining the health and flexibility of blood vessels, critical to avoiding high blood pressure. Where insufficient magnesium is present immediately after a heart attack additional damage can be done to heart muscles.
Potassium, found in good quantities in almonds, plays an important role in nerve transmission, the contraction of all muscles, including the heart and all processes involving electrolytes. A good supply of potassium is extremely important for maintaining normal blood pressure.
Post meal surges in blood sugar are associated with a number of conditions including Type 2 diabetes and minimising them through diet is an important part of prevention and treatment should the condition occur. Current thinking in dietary nutrition considers Glycemic Index (GI) which is the rate at which carbohydrate is released into the bloodstream. Low GI foods are regarded as more beneficial. Almonds are identified as a Low GI food but it has been observed that where almonds are eaten along with High GI foods then the GI level is significantly reduced resulting in lower blood sugar and insulin levels after eating.
Vitamin E is know to be particularly important in maintaining mucal membranes throughout the body by protects them from the effect of free radicals
More recently, research is showing that whole foods have a more rounded benefit on health than refined ones. In the case of almonds the skins contain significant quantities of antioxidant flavinoids which are thought to have a role in protecting against allergens, viruses and carcinogens. The antioxidants identified are similar to those found in green tea, a well known source of antioxidants, and currently number twenty individual antioxidants.
ALMONDS – Product History
Almonds come from a tree that is native to the middle-east and south Asia.
Fruit of tree is not technically nut, rather a drupe. A drupe is a fruit that has an outer fleshy part surrounding an inner hard pit, such as Peach or nectarine. Processing with hot water removes the hard parts and the fruit is then sold as blanched almonds.
Almond trees are small, deciduous, 4 – 10meteres in height and reach fruit bearing maturity within three years of planting and full yield within six. Almonds are a domesticated form of a plant found in the Middle East and whose fruit, when bruised and damaged generates hydrogen cyanide which is why the poison is often reported as having an almond scent.
Worldwide production generates a crop of some 1.85 million tonnes in 2002 according to the Food and Agriculture organisation. The majority of production is in the Mediterranean zone with Spain, Syria, Italy and Morocco producing some 415,000 tonnes. The United States of America is the single largest producer, growing 715,000 tonnes in that year, and most of this crop is concentrated in the Californian region.
In America, pollination of the crop is achieved by the movement of bee hives, rather than by indigenous pollinators. Current concerns about the viability of bee hives following unexplained deaths in recent years does place some concern over the Californian almond industry’s future.