Almonds 101 (And the Good News About How They Can Protect Your Heart)

June 27, 2011

Know your almonds, what to do with them, and the nutritional beneifts.

There was something wonderful in the news yesterday about almonds! According to new research "eating nearly one-third a cup of almonds a day—either alone or combined with almost one-quarter cup of dark chocolate and 2 1/3 tablespoons of cocoa a day—may reduce a risk factor for coronary heart disease." 

So we thought it would be a good time to offer a quick SupermarketGuru guide to shopping for almonds. From what they are, to how they are sold and how to store them, we have everything you need in this quick reference article. Tune in weekly for your A-Z guide to shopping in your market.

What are almonds? A seed of the fruit of the almond tree, sweet almonds (Prunus amygdalu var. dulcis) are eaten; bitter almonds are not eaten but are used to produce almond oil.

How to Buy: Sold in shell or shelled. Shells: creamy yellow, naturally pitted; avoid if split, moldy or stained. Shelled almonds: white, creamy texture; avoid if shriveled or limp; smells and tastes lightly sweet. Sold whole, sliced, slivered, blanched, unroasted (raw), roasted, salted or unsalted in bags, cans or bulk. Can be dry roasted without oil or cooked in a deep fried process with oil; read package ingredients carefully to see if sugars or other ingredients or preservatives have been added.

How to Use: Eat as a snack, add to salads, yogurt or cottage cheese, grains or baked goods; mix with other nuts and dried fruits for trail mix. Pulse in food processor to make almond butter; use like peanut butter.

How to Store: Natural oils can develop rancidity. Store shelled almonds in tightly sealed container in a dark, cool, dry place. Refrigerate up to 3 months; freeze up to 1 year. Whole almonds have a longer life than pieces or slivers; those in the shell last the longest.

Health Benefits: High in vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, and phosphorus. Has monounsaturated fat and plant protein (greater than an egg.) Contains many phytonutrients including flavonoids; 20 antioxidant flavonoids in the edible skins. Plant sterols may reduce cholesterol, as well as reducing inflammation. 

NOTE: almonds contain oxalates which may be unsuitable for those with existing or untreated kidney or gallbladder problems and can trigger allergies in some people.

Smarter Shopping: Look for almonds in multiple location in stores – usually found in produce, snacks and baking sections – compare brands and prices by weight for best deal.