Almonds are the edible seeds of the almond tree, scientific name Prunus amygdalus var dulcis, native to Central Asia but nowadays widespread all over the world. With their delicate flavor, almonds are appreciated by everyone, adults and children, they can be eaten as a healthy and energetic snack, added to yogurt and sauces. So let's try to understand the properties of almonds and see some ideas to eat them in a yummy way.
Almonds, properties and daily dose
Almonds contain fats, mainly unsaturated fats, useful to protect the heart and to reduce bad LDL cholesterol, highly digestible proteins and carbohydrates, resulting in a precious source of energy (Kamil et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2012). But almonds also contain fiber, vitamins, such as vitamin E and ribloflavin, or vitamin B2, involved in energy processes, supporting the immune system and beneficial for the health of skin and hair, mineral salts, such as manganese, magnesium, copper and phosphorus, and finally antioxidant substances of the polyphenol class (Barreca et al, Nutrients, 2020 - Liu et al, J Med Food, 2018). Normally, within a healthy diet, 30-40 grams of almonds per day are recommended. Regular intake of almonds, as its main effect, helps reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and also, due to the action of fiber and unsaturated fats, reduce the waistline (Berryman et al, J Am Heart Assoc, 2015). Almonds help fill you up, so they're a great mid-morning snack, and help keep your blood sugar under control. They also act as prebiotics by promoting the presence of good bacteria in the microbiota, which represents our intestinal bacterial flora. A healthy microbiota supports digestive processes, strengthens the immune system's defenses, counteracts obesity and even depression. Not only that, this dried fruit helps to counteract inflammation and damage from free radicals thanks to its antioxidant action (Barreca et al, Nutrients, 2020). Do not forget also the antiviral and immune system support action of almonds that, however, is due to the brown skin that covers the natural almonds and not the fruit itself as many of the antioxidants of almonds are concentrated in the peel ( Arena et al, Immunol Lett, 2010). Finally, almonds also help in case of stomach problems, in particular they can relieve abdominal swelling, sour stomach and stomach pain (Akhondi-Meybodi et al, Middle East J Dig Dis, 2015).
Almonds and insomnia
Yes, almonds can also be beneficial in case of insomnia and to improve the quality of sleep. This is what emerged from a scientific research that observed that 10 almonds consumed every day for two weeks bring calm and promote a good rest (Ghafarzadehet al, Iran J Public Health, 2019).
Sweet and bitter almonds
The almonds found on the market and intended for food are sweet and free of toxic substances. Instead, there are bitter almonds, produced by the Prunus amygdalus var amara tree, which is a different type of tree from the one that produces sweet almonds. Bitter almonds are such because they contain a toxic substance, called amygdalin, which then gives rise to prussic or hydrocyanic acid. Eating large quantities of bitter almonds can lead to intoxication with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea but also confusion and dizziness (Chaouali et al, ISRN Toxicol, 2013). However, as mentioned at the beginning, these effects concern the bitter almonds and not the sweet variant.
Almonds, recipes in the kitchen
Almonds eaten naturally are excellent but you can also think about adding them to your recipes, here are some ideas taken from our Healthy Food section. A truly irresistible snack is the sweet almond cream, a cream of almonds, brown sugar and vanilla to which you will hardly be able to say no. And don't forget the wholegrain spaghetti with pesto of radish leaf, black cabbage and almonds, a dish rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.