Like most people, you’ve probably heard of almond milk, but do you know where the milk comes from? It comes from the almond nut. Botanically, almonds are related to cherry, plum and peach, though they are classified as nuts. Covered by a brown and leather-like coating, almonds are the most nutritious of all the nuts eaten by man. They contain protein, fibre, Vitamin E, Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, Calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Almonds come from the almond tree, which has pink and white flowers and which thrives in warm climate like in the Middle East. Almonds mostly come from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and other warm climates.
The origin of almonds
Almonds are thought to have originated from Asia and China. In the ancient times, the Romans showered newlyweds in their society with almonds. They were believed to enhance fertility. Almonds then spread to Northern Africa and finally Southern Europe. They are now common in most parts of the world, especially in California, where they’ve taken the number one spot as the largest American crop export.
Types of Almonds
Depending on the tree that produces them, almonds can be bitter or sweet.
Sweet almonds – These are sweet tasting and do not contain harmful chemicals.
Bitter almonds – Shorter and broader in shape, bitter almonds are bitter, and not suitable for home use. They contain cyanide, which is removed during the manufacture of almond oil.
What are their health benefits?
Almonds are beneficial to your body in the following ways:
Regulate cholesterol in the body
Almonds are known to increase the level of good cholesterol (High density lipoproteins) and they reduce the bad cholesterol (Low density lipoproteins). This helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and other health risks associated with having high levels of bad cholesterol.
Prevention of cancer
The different nutrients in almonds help to fight and prevent different types of cancers. E.g. Almonds contain melatonin which helps to protect against breast cancer, they prevent cancerous brain tumours from multiplying.
Control of diabetes
Almonds, more than any other nuts, are very rich in magnesium and chromium, which help to lower the levels of blood sugar, for people who suffer from Type 2 diabetes. It’s important to take your medication for diabetes, even as you try to control it with a healthy diet.
Help to reduce the risk of hypertension
Almonds have been known to reduce hypertension or high blood pressure, primarily because of the high potassium that they contain. They are also sodium free, further reducing high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
Almonds Prevent Harmful Oxidation of LDL Cholesterol
Oxidation of LDL cholesterol makes it sticky, thus blocking crucial arteries that transport blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Blocked or clogged arteries can cause a heart attack or a stroke.
Help lower weight loss
Almonds reduce hunger pangs because when eaten, they leave you feeling full for longer. The reason for that is that almonds contain a lot of fibre which satisfies hunger. This prevents you from indulging in unhealthy snacks like biscuits and cakes. These nutritious nuts are also known to boost your metabolism, further helping you to reduce your weight.
Have Vitamin E, this protects your cells from damage
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, which help repair cell damage and also prevent free radicals in the body to cause that damage in the first place.
They make your skin healthy
As mentioned earlier, almonds are packed with Vitamin E, which in addition to neutralizing free radicals in the body, it protects the collagen fibres in your body, thus help your skin retain its elasticity and youthful appearance. When your collagen fibres and connective tissues I your skin are firm, wrinkles and fine lines do not form.
Uses of almonds
• Almonds can be eaten raw as a snack, either salted or sweetened depending on your preference, or sprinkled over breakfast like muesli.
• Snacks like cakes, cookies and pastries can also be prepared using almonds.
• Like peanut butter, almond butter is made by crushing the almonds together and blending them until they form a smooth paste. It is smooth and sweet tasting. It’s a good source od protein and monounsaturated fats.
• Almond milk is a good alternative for people who have lactose intolerance. Please note here that almond milk does not contain enough calcium and protein, so you do need to get these from other sources. Other than that it tastes great, helps with weight management and contains all the benefits associated with almonds.
Almond oil is very popular as a massage oil because:
• It is a natural lubricant, leaving the skin moisturized
• The skin doesn’t absorb almond oil too fast; therefore the massage therapist does not need to keep reapplying it.
• It spreads easily on the skin, because it’s thin and light
When you massage almond oil to your scalp, it helps to:
• Get rid of dandruff in your scalp. After massaging into your scalp, wash it off after thirty minutes. The dandruff will all wash off.
• Helps your dry, itchy scalp to stay moisturised and reduce extreme dryness.
• Have that glossy shine that is associated with healthy hair. Apply just a few drops of almond oil to your wet hair.
• Detangle hair when you’re combing it.
• It gets rid of split ends
• Due to the lightness of almond oil, it’s great as a make-up remover. It doesn’t tug and pull the skin. Almond oil is gentle enough to be used to remove eye make-up, leaving the skin fresh.
• Apply almond oil on a tissue or cotton balls and wipe you face gently to remove you make-up. In addition to leaving your skin glowing, it’ll save you money, rather than buying commercial make-up removing creams.
Heals chapped lips
• Rather than buy expensive lip balms, make your own my mixing a teaspoon of almond oil and a teaspoon of honey. Store it in a dry, sealable container for using when you need it.
Although almond allergies are uncommon, it is wise to exercise caution, especially if you’re allergic to other nuts. The severity of an almond allergy can range from minor to severe; therefore almonds or almond products should be consumed with care and diligence.