Almonds 101

January 16, 2012

Almonds, the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, are a wonderful snack for kids and grownups alike. Here's your quick 101 for shopping for almonds

What are almonds? A seed of the fruit of the almond tree, sweet almonds (Prunus amygdalu var. dulcis) are eaten; bitter almonds are not, 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: should have a white, creamy texture; avoid if shriveled or limp; almonds smell and taste lightly sweet.
Almonds are sold whole, sliced, slivered, blanched, unroasted (raw), 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 become rancid if stored improperly; 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 longest.

Health Benefits: High in vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, and phosphorus. Contains healthy monounsaturated fat and plant protein (more protein than eggs.) Contains many phytonutrients (especially flavonoids) and the skins contain 20 antioxidant flavonoids. Plant sterols may reduce cholesterol, as well as reducing C-reactive protein. 1 oz. serving has 164 calories.

NOTE: Almonds contain oxalates and therefore maybe unsuitable for those with existing or untreated kidney or gallbladder problems. Can trigger allergies in some people.

Smarter Shopping: Look for almonds in multiple locations in the market, they are usually found in the produce, snacks, and baking sections – compare brands and prices, and additional (unnecessary) ingredients for best deal.

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