By Anne Palumbo
Every day, I eat a handful of almonds. While I’m certainly crazy about this nut’s yum-factor, I confess to being absolutely nuts about its impressive array of nutrients.
Almonds abound with vitamin E, a powerhouse nutrient that acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells. You know how rust can crop up on your car or bike? Well, a similar oxidation process and accelerated aging occurs in your body when cells are exposed to molecules called free radicals. These toxic molecules weaken and break down healthy cells, and may also contribute to chronic health issues such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and more.
Although free radicals occur naturally in the body, lifestyle factors can accelerate their production, causing an unhealthy balance known as oxidative stress. Smoking, alcohol, fried foods and exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, have all been linked to an uptick in free radicals. An ounce of free-radical-bustin’ almonds—that’s 24 nuts—provides nearly half of our daily needs for vitamin E.
Almonds are a boon for bones. That one-ounce serving packs as much calcium as a quarter-cup of milk. On top of that, almonds are loaded with two minerals that also keep your bones healthy and strong: manganese and phosphorous.
Worried that almonds are fattening? Research has shown that eating almonds reduces hunger, lowering your overall calorie intake. High in both protein and fiber—two nutrients that take longer to digest—almonds increase feelings of fullness and satiety. A study of overweight women found that those consuming almonds lost more weight than those on a nut-free diet. Twenty four almonds have 160 calories.
And while almonds do have 14 grams of fat, it’s mostly monounsaturated fat—the good fat that helps protect your heart by maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Show your ticker some love: eat almonds!
Another great reason to reach for almonds: They’re remarkably high in magnesium, an essential mineral that may help lower blood pressure levels, assist with blood sugar control, and possibly reduce symptoms of depression.
Buy raw or roasted almonds in their purest form possible: no salt, no oil, no other added ingredients. If buying in bulk, take a sniff: they should smell sweet and nutty, not sharp or bitter (a sign of rancidity). Store almonds in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark, dry place. Freezing or refrigerating almonds extends their shelf life by several months.
Rosemary Roasted Almonds
2 cups raw almonds
1½ tablespoons maple syrup
1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
pinch of cayenne (optional)
— Preheat oven to 325 F; place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
— In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and spices. Add almonds and mix until well coated with the spice mixture. Spread almonds onto the baking sheet in one even layer.
— Bake in the oven for 10 minutes; then stir and bake for about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool on sheet. Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.