The Almighty Almond
A Fountain of YouthKnown among consumers for its “anti-aging” properties, vitamin E lends elasticity to skin, resulting in a more youthful appearance. Additionally, it promotes cardiovascular health and, in conjunction with polyphenols (also found in almonds), may reduce the risk of certain cancers and boost the immune system. While the RDA of vitamin E is 15mg daily, only about 50% of Americans ingest enough, which is where almonds can play a significant role. A one-ounce serving of almonds—about 25 almonds—contains 7.2mg of alpha-tocopherol and six grams of protein. “They are also a good form of fiber—an ounce of whole almonds provides about 15% of the RDA,” states Karen Lapsley, Ph.D., director of research, Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif.
Almonds contain other important nutrients such as the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc; the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and folate; and phytonutrients, plant substances some of which may be beneficial to the immune system. Almonds are cholesterol-free and are high in desirable monounsaturated fat. While nuts, in general, have suffered in the past from negative press regarding their high fat content, there have been studies indicating the body absorbs all the nutrients in almonds, but not all the fat. Other studies show the unique mixture of nutrients in almonds helps lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and improve blood flow—all factors that help counteract heart disease.
Anyway You Want 'EmAlmonds can be ingested in many ways, and two forms gaining interest are almond pastes and almond butters. “These two items have been popular in European countries, such as France, Italy and the U.K., for many years. The almond butters and pastes are used as a moisture additive in pie crusts and cooking doughs, as they lend a buttery flavor and contribute to a flaky pie crust,” explains Stacey Kollmeyer, manager-communications, Almond Board of California.
Almond butters, basically, are roasted, ground almonds that can be spread on a wide range of foods, such as crackers. Generally, they include coarsely ground nuts. Almond pastes undergo a cooking process and have the consistency of marzipan; usually, they are semi-solid. Chocolate or fruit purees can be added to enhance flavor, and the two items have good stability during formulation.
“Nut butters are used as a paste or cooking sauce in other parts of the world. In Indian cuisine, there are recipes using nut butters as one of the main ingredients. The nut butters contribute to consistency, texture and mouthfeel,” states Lapsley. She believes the industry can do more with almond butters. “For example, the almonds could be flavored with seasonings to make products such as a curried almond butter.” Other ideas, which appeal especially to vegetarians, include nut loafs, available in dry mix forms in the U.K. and in the Middle East, almond milk and almond cheeses.