If you have ever researched a new diet or meal plan, chances are it suggested almonds as a healthy snack alternative. Almonds have played an essential role in human diets since pre-agricultural times. Almonds have been collected in the wild dating back to 10,000 years, and they were among the first fruit trees to be domesticated in Old World agriculture, around the 3rd millennium BC. Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic, and social significance.

One ounce of almonds (23 almonds) has about 160 kcal, 6 g protein, 4 g carbs, and 17 g total fats, mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (good fats). Almonds are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and mono and polyunsaturated fats, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin E, and B2, and lots of antioxidants (polyphenols). This composition likely explains their protective health effects.

Cardiovascular health benefits

  • Although almost 50% of an almonds weight is fat, in incremental intakes of 7g − this tree nut can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration by 1%.
  • As found in almonds, plant sterols may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol and bile acid and significantly reduce blood levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and maintain or increase HDL (good cholesterol).
  • Fats from almonds improve cholesterol in a dose-dependent manner. Larger almond intake results in a more significant reduction in total cholesterol, especially when this food replaces other foods high in saturated fat and/or refined carbohydrates.

Obesity

  • Almonds, consumed as snacks, reduce hunger and desire to eat.
  • Eating almonds instead of a high carbohydrate snack (i.e., muffins) has been shown to reduce abdominal fat and waist circumference. Making that sensible swap is also linked to decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and maintained HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

Diabetes risk 

  • Frequent consumption of almonds is associated with lower levels of fasting insulin and fasting glucose.
  • Almonds can significantly reduce a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
  • Daily almond intake has been shown to help to reduce HbA1c in people with diabetes.

Digestive benefits
Almond seeds exhibit the potential to be used as a prebiotic, since they induce beneficial changes in human gut bacteria composition. 

Inflammation
Consumption of almonds is associated with a reduction in two inflammation markers: E-selectin and C-reactive protein.

5 Fun facts

  • The almond tree is a deciduous tree that can grow as high as 10 meters. 
  • Almond trees become productive and begin bearing fruit after five years. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.
  • Today, the US is the largest almond producer around the world. California produces about 80% of the global almond supply.
  • Almonds are consistently found in archaeological sites and were even present in the famous tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, 1352 BC.
  • In Medieval times almond milk was used as a thickener before starch was discovered.

Finally, although almonds provide several health benefits, they can also induce detrimental effects in people with an almond allergy. Adverse reactions include angioedema, hives, nausea, swelling, itching, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and potentially anaphylaxis.

The recipe of the week comes via California almonds.

Maple Baked Salmon with Chopped Almonds

Serves 4

 Ingredients
4 skinless, salmon fillets (each fillet should be about 3 ounces or 85 grams)

1/2 cup (125 mL) almonds, chopped coarsely

1/4 cup (50 mL) maple syrup

1/4 cup (50 mL) orange juice

2 tablespoons (25 mL) fresh, lemon juice

2 tablespoons (25 mL) light, soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

Line an 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) square baking pan with parchment paper. Place the four salmon fillets in the pan, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) between pieces.

Chop the almonds by hand or use a handheld blender (it only takes a few seconds with a handheld blender). Distribute the chopped almonds evenly on top of the fillets.

In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, and crushed garlic. Use a spoon to baste the marinade over top of each fillet gently.

Bake salmon for about 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is barely done. While the fish is baking, baste the top with marinade at least once or twice. When removing fish from the pan, leave the leftover marinade behind and discard. Serve the fish with brown rice and a green salad or vegetables.

Enjoy!