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All about Almond

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Almond: understand everything in 2 min

Great importance is given to the almond for its high content of phytosterols, monounsaturated fatty acids, vegetable proteins, soluble fibers, vitamins and minerals. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States allows since 2003 to put on the labels of food products the following allegation concerning nuts: “Evidence suggests, but does not prove, that consumption an ounce and a half a day of most nuts, if you eat a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease . ”  Although there is a great deal of scientific data regarding the beneficial effects of consuming almonds, this claim is not permitted in Canada.

Active ingredients and properties

Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oil seeds with various health benefits such as a cholesterol-lowering effect 2 , a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease 3 and type 2 diabetes 4 , a reduction in the risk of gallstones 5 and removal of the gallbladder bile 6 , and a decreased risk of colon cancer in women 7 . The amount of shelled and oil-bearing fruits to achieve these benefits is most of the time about five ounce (30 g) servings per week.

Several clinical studies 8-11 have demonstrated the effects of consuming almonds on the decrease in the concentration of blood cholesterol , in particular on LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). According to epidemiological data 12 , a daily consumption of 30 g of nuts could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 45%, when these foods replace foods rich in saturated fat. These benefits could be attributed to the high content of nuts and oil seeds in different components known for their cholesterol-lowering action such as phytosterols, monounsaturated fatty acids , vegetable proteins and soluble fibers.

Phytosterols . Almonds have a high content of phytosterols. In fact, 30 g of almonds (about 25 almonds) contain 34 mg of these compounds 13 . Phytosterols are constituents with a structure very similar to that of cholesterol found in animal products. This resemblance allows phytosterols to compete with cholesterol in the intestine and, consequently, to decrease its absorption. In addition, a meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials has shown that taking 2 g / day of phytosterols reduced LDL cholesterol by 10% and that this reduction could reach 20% in the context of a low-fat diet. saturated and cholesterol 14. This amount of 2 g / day is practically impossible to achieve only through food. It is for this reason that products enriched with phytosterols such as margarine have appeared on the market. Even if present in very small quantities, phytosterols naturally present in food such as almonds remain interesting for cardiovascular health.

Nutritional value of almonds: Beware of salt and fat
Several types of almonds are available on the market and differ in their respective nutritional values. Oil-roasted almonds are therefore richer in fat than dry-roasted or dried almonds. The latter are therefore to be preferred. Salted almonds also contain almost 70 times more sodium than unsalted almonds, hence the importance of consulting the list of ingredients. A healthy and delicious solution is to get raw unblanched almonds and roast them yourself in the oven at 175 ° C (350 ° F) for 10 minutes.

Unsaturated fatty acids . More than half of the lipids contained in almonds are monounsaturated fats , more specifically oleic acid which is also found in olive oil and canola oil. A study of more than 80,000 women followed over a 14-year period found that the consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids was linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease 15 . In addition, a meta-analysis of 27 clinical trials published between 1970 and 1991 illustrates an increase in HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) when the carbohydrates are partially replaced by monounsaturated fats in the diet 16, while this substitution does not change the LDL cholesterol level. Among all the other nuts and nuts, the almond contains the least amount of saturated fatty acids (4%).

Fibers . Almond contains a large proportion of fibers, 80% of which are insoluble and 20% of which are soluble. Fiber helps normalize bowel movement and has a satiating effect more quickly 17 . Several studies have shown that a diet rich in fiber is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer 18-20 . Although the preventive effect has been demonstrated, the role of fibers in the treatment of cancer remains controversial 21 , 22 . Soluble fiber also promotes fecal cholesterol excretion, which reduces blood cholesterol 23 , 24. A diet rich in soluble fiber can also help normalize blood glucose and insulin levels, which can help treat cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes . 25

Vegetable proteins . Among the other shelled fruits or nuts, the almond is the one that contains the most protein. The latter are of good quality, but incomplete compared to animal proteins. In fact, vegetable proteins differ from animal proteins by their amino acid composition. They generally have a higher content of arginine, but lower content of lysine, an amino acid considered essential for the body. An animal study has shown that arginine has a cardioprotective effect in lowering blood cholesterol 26. The almond also contains a good proportion of arginine, an amino acid that has shown effects on energy metabolism. Indeed, arginine would have thermogenic properties which would increase the oxidation of carbohydrates and lipids via the modulation of genes which regulate the basic energy expenditure 36 . Arginine is also a compound that stimulates the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), a powerful neurotransmitter in the body that promotes vasodilation of blood vessels. Some studies have shown that arginine could help improve blood circulation in the arteries of the heart and thus prevent certain cardiovascular diseases 37. However, the evidence is still insufficient and other scientific data must confirm these results.

Antioxidants . Almonds have a high content of antioxidants, compounds that reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging. Among these, vitamin E 8 (also called “alpha-tocopherol”), a powerful antioxidant, is said to have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cognitive decline 27 . The squalene , precursors of phytosterols, are also found in almonds. Several studies indicate that these compounds have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects by preventing tumor growth and by inactivating many carcinogenic substances 28 . Finally, the skin of almonds contains phenolic compounds which, according to an in vitro study 29 , have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. However, additional studies will need to be performed before concluding on their effects on humans.

The Portfolio Diet

Recently, a new nutritional approach has been proposed to reduce blood cholesterol levels  : the Portfolio diet. This diet combines four food components known for their beneficial effects on total cholesterol levels: soluble fiber (oats, eggplant, combo), soy protein , phytosterols (enriched margarine) and almonds. Researchers studied the effect of this diet in 34 people with high cholesterol in the blood. Adherence to this diet for a period of four weeks resulted in a decrease in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by approximately 30%, compared to 8.5% for the low-fat control diet. without affecting HDL (“good” cholesterol) or triglyceride levels 30 . In addition, the Portfolio Diet has lowered blood cholesterol levels similarly to a drug designed for this purpose.(statin). The four components of this diet have complementary mechanisms, each acting in a different way, which has a complementary effect on lowering LDL cholesterol.

Other properties

Is the almond antioxidant? Strongly: The almond has a TAC index of 1,603 µmol / portion of 36 g.
Is the almond acidifying? Data not available.
Does the almond have a high glycemic load? The almond has a low glycemic load.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Excellent source Magnesium . The almond and butter almond kind are of great sources of magnesium for women and good sources for the man , their needs are different. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Excellent source Manganese . The almond and butter almond kind are of excellent sources of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

Excellent source Copper . Almond is an excellent source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

Excellent source Vitamin B2 . The almond is an excellent source of vitamin B2 for women and a good source for men , their needs being different. Plain almond butter is a good source of vitamin B2 for women and a source for men . Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

Excellent source Vitamin E . Almond is an excellent source of vitamin E. A major antioxidant, this vitamin protects the membrane that surrounds the cells of the body, in particular red and white blood cells (cells of the immune system).

Good source Phosphorus . Almonds are a good source of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient fact sheet ). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Good source Iron. The almond and butter almond kind are good sources of iron for the man and sources for women , their needs are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).

Good source Zinc. Almond is a good source of zinc for women and a source for men , their needs being different. Plain almond butter is a source . Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (manufacture), the storage and the release of insulin

Source Calcium . Almond is a source of calcium. Calcium is by far the most abundant mineral in the body. It is mainly stored in the bones, of which it is an integral part. It contributes to the formation of bones and teeth, as well as to the maintenance of their health. Calcium also plays an essential role in blood clotting, maintenance of blood pressure and contraction of muscles (including the heart).

Source Potassium . Almond and plain almond butter are sources of potassium. In the body, it is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Vitamin B1 . Almond is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, this vitamin is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

Source Vitamin B3 . Almond is a source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the DNA formation process , allowing normal growth and development.

Source Folate . Plain almond butter is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

What is a “portion” of almonds worth?
Volume / weight Unblanched dehydrated almonds, 36 g (60 ml or about 28 to 30 almonds) Plain almond butter, 32 g / _30 ml
Calories 208 205
Protein 7.7 g 4.9 g
Carbohydrates 7.1 g 6.9 g
Fat 18.2g 19.2g
– saturated 1.4 g 1.8g
– monounsaturated 11.6g 12.4 g
– polyunsaturated 4.4g 4.0g
Dietary fiber 4.2g 1.2g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

 

Almond and weight gain

Many people limit their consumption of shelled and oilseed fruits for fear that their high caloric content will lead to weight gain. Several epidemiological studies indicate that regular consumption of nuts and oilseeds is not associated, contrary to what many are led to believe, with an increase in body weight 32 , 33 . Indeed, certain compounds contained in shelled and oleaginous fruits increase satiety and bodily metabolism and make the absorption of lipids incomplete (almost 20%), which results in a decrease in energy intake.

Precautions

Allergy to shelled and oleaginous fruits . According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) 31 , nuts (including all the nuts and oilseeds of which almonds are a part) are among the foods most frequently associated with allergies. Symptoms of shellfish and oilseed allergy can be severe and can even lead to anaphylactic shock . In addition, it is recommended that people allergic to peanuts also avoid consuming other shelled and oilseed fruits (including almonds), since they are often handled and distributed by the same companies that handle and distribute peanuts.

Urinary stones . Some people may be recommended to adopt a restricted diet of oxalates to prevent recurrences of kidney or urinary stones (also called urolithiasis). Oxalates are compounds that are found naturally in several foods, including shelled and oil seeds in general. It is therefore preferable that these people avoid consuming it.

Almond over time

The almond takes its name from the popular Latin amandula , an alteration of the Latin amygdalus , taken from the Greek amugdalê . It appears in the written language in the XIII th  century. In the XII th  century, there is also the form “per German” close phonetically in English almond . Interestingly, the word “amygdala” is derived from the same Latin name, this organ having the shape of an almond.
Cyrano’s recipe
In the second act of Cyrano de Bergerac, Rostand gives, in verse please, a recipe for almond tarts  :
Beat, so that they are frothy,
A few eggs;
Add a
selected lemon juice to their mousse ;
Pour in
a good sweet almond milk;
Put flan dough in
the side
of tartlet molds;
With a quick finger, apricot the
sides;
Pour
your foam drop by drop into these wells, then let
these wells go
into the oven, and, blondines, coming out
in cheerful flocks,
These are the
Almond Tartlets!

The almond tree is native to the hot and dry regions of the Near and Middle East where, according to archaeological excavations, hominids consumed it 780,000 years ago. On the cultural side, we know that it was done in China 3,000 years ago and in Greece, 2,500 years ago.

During the conquest of Spain, the Arabs brought with them citrus seeds and almond kernels which they planted. From there, the almond tree spread all along the Mediterranean coasts. However it was not until the middle of the XVIII th  century for the Franciscan fathers from Spain, North America leads, specifically California. The cool and humid temperatures of the coast did not suit him, half a century would pass before it was discovered that the almond tree could flourish inland. Today, California is the largest producer of almonds in the world, followed closely by Spain, known for its famous Jordan almond, produced in Malaga, and for that of Valencia.

A symbolic value

The almond tree, like its fruit, has always been associated with fertility . It was the Romans who would have instituted the custom of throwing almonds to brides, to promote abundant offspring, a custom that continues in various regions of Europe.

Culinary uses

Choose well

The dry shelled almonds are sold all year round. As for fresh almonds (still in their green and fluffy fruit), they are rarely found in Quebec, except in a few specialty shops. In Europe, they are offered seasonally, from June to October.

The shelled almonds are offered with their skin removed or peeled (stripped of the brown film that covers them), whole, sliced, salted, smoked, dipped in tamari and roasted, or powdered. As all these products are likely to go rancid, buy only small quantities at a time and preferably keep them in the refrigerator.

Commercial almonds should not have been harvested for more than a year. In principle, distributors replenish stocks of oilseeds each year at the time of the new harvest, which normally arrives on the markets during the holiday season. In practice, this is not always the case, the temptation being great to dispose of the old stocks first. Ask the merchant.

The bitter almond is used in food, but is not found as such on the market because it must first be rid of the hydrocyanic acid which it contains, this substance being toxic even in small doses.

Culinary dishes

Almonds are used to make countless sweet dishes – such as croissants, macaroons, cakes, tiles, cobblestones, fortune cookies , etc. – as well as tasty treats: pralines and sugared almonds, made with almonds coated with hardened sugar, Spanish turret, nougat, marzipan and Aix hugs, frangipane and orgeat.

But almonds are not confined to sweet dishes: they also contribute to the flavor of many salty dishes , such as beans or almond fish, and condiments such as pestos and tapenades. Ground, they can replace wheat flour to thicken sauces and soups. Peppery, salty, spicy, soaked in tamari, then roasted in the oven, they are a good snack. Appreciated both in the East and in the West, they are used in many regional dishes  :

  • The Turkish tarator is a sauce for fish and meat; composed of blanched and flaked almonds, fresh breadcrumbs, water, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, it mounts like mayonnaise.
  • The ravioli di zucca from Italy are squares of fresh dough stuffed with a preparation based on pumpkin flesh, beaten egg yolks, onion, parmesan, honey, white wine and amaretti cookies almond. The whole is served with sage butter.
  • The b’stilla from Morocco is a pigeon pie seasoned with blanched and ground almonds with a little sugar and cinnamon.
  • In India, biriyanis and other dishes made from dried meat and fruit often contain it. The almonds are first browned in clarified butter before being added to the dish.
  • In Spain, romesco sauce is made with roasted almonds and red peppers, red wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil, all made with mayonnaise. As for the famous Cebollada con Almendras , it is a soup made of onions, chicken broth, white wine, blanched and ground almonds, parsley and cumin.

Almond oil
From the sweet almond, an edible oil is drawn which is used to coat the mussels where the most delicate cakes will cook. Consider using it on a green salad , to which it gives an original flavor.

Almond milk or drink
In the Middle Ages, it was forbidden by the Church to consume eggs, meat and dairy products on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, as well as during Lent, under penalty of burning in hell. In total, there were finally almost 180 days of abstinence, half the year. Almond milk was therefore welcome, especially since it kept much better than cow’s milk. You could even churn it to make butter. Today, it is used in the composition of various dishes. To prepare it, mix one part of ground almonds and, depending on the desired consistency, two to four parts of water. We will then go to the mixer. Or pour hot water over the ground almonds and leave to infuse over low heat for around 30 minutes; if you want very clear milk,

The fromentée , which was also popular at the time, is a porridge made of wheat flour and almond milk, enriched with egg yolks and colored with saffron.

The “white mengier” or “blamanger” of the Middle Ages consisted of ground chicken, boiled rice and almond milk. Seasoned with sugar and salt, it was decorated with fried almonds and anise seeds. Today, blancmange is prepared with milk, almonds and sugar, and is used for dessert.

Conservation

Shelled almonds  : it is best to keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, as they go rancid fairly quickly.

Almond oil  : mainly composed of monounsaturated fatty acids, it is relatively stable at room temperature, but it is better to keep it in the refrigerator if you want to keep it for a long time.

Ecology and environment

Almond production in California is now singled out. Indeed, as the production of a single almond would require approximately 4 liters of water, we are concerned about the water reserves available in this region. In addition, California has been in a period of extreme drought for a few years and almond producers have to drill numerous wells to irrigate their plantations. The consequences for the environment are disastrous, including a subsidence of the soil which threatens roads, irrigation canals and bridges.

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