{Foodie Friday}

15 Jan

Last year, I completely revamped my diet.  This resulted in me eating a lot of foods I had never eaten before (or heard of!), and not eating some foods that were previously my dietary staples.  I was a picky eater.  The pickiest of the picky.  I don’t even like salad dressing.  I love desserts, although I have a sugar problem…so I don’t eat it have to get creative eat it only in moderation.  The only way I could successfully do this, was to research.  A lot.  I have tons (okay, more like ounces) of notes from various resources about certain foods.  So, every Friday, Foodie Friday, get it?! (I love alliteration), I will share a different food that I feel competent about. And that I think is actually edible for picky, picky eaters.

Food: Almonds

Word, to yo mother (or Etymology)

 The word “almond” comes from Old French almande or alemande, Late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdola from the Greek amygdala, an almond.  (WORD NERD ALERT! Makes sense the gray mass in our brains is called an amygdala…it’s shaped like an almond…isn’t that so cool?!) The adjective “amygdaloid” (literally “like an almond”) is used for things which are roughly almond-shaped, particularly a shape which is partway between a rectangle and an ellipse. I’m totally pulling  that word out at the next party I attend.

Random Fact

The almond is not actually a “nut”, it’s a seed.  It is found in the fruit of the almond tree, much like its cousin, the peach tree, cherry tree, and apricot tree.

Where Are They Grown?

 Almonds are native to the Middle East region, but has been spread along the coast of the Mediterranean, Europe, Africa, and more recently, California.  SHOCKER: California is now the largest producer of almonds worldwide, with estimates being as high as 80% of the world’s supply originating from Cali. 

Can You Grow It At Home?

Probably not.  Unless you have an orchard.  And bees (the trees are not self-pollinating).  And get very specific weather patterns. It’s possible for some, but for most, the time and energy is best spent on other projects.

When Is It In Season?

Packaged almonds are available all year, but they are freshest in late Summer  and Fall.

Storage & Shelf-Life

 Unopened, packaged almonds can last up to 2 years.  Store them in a dark pantry or in the fridge.  Opened almonds should be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.  They can last up to a few months.  Rancid almonds will have a slight bitter smell, as well as becoming yellowed and/or shriveled.

Ummm, Why Should I Care?

As they are rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two “good” fats, they are responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol, and preventing heart disease.  Almonds help reduce artery-damaging inflammation and to reduce the level of homocystein, which causes fatty plaque buildup in arteries. Almonds are also a source of folic acid (a huge plus for pregnancy).  Adding almonds to a meal helps to regulate blood-sugar levels, which aid those who are diabetic, and those who tend to experience “spikes” in energy levels after eating. They can also help in weight loss as they help to absorb nutrients and help to move food through the digestive system.  Also, the quicker the “food” moves through the digestive system, the less risk of reabsorption which can lead to cancer.  Because they are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, they are also said to aid brain development and to ward off Alzheimer’s. Their skins alone contain as many as 20 antioxidant flavonoids that may favorably impact the body’s immune system as well as reducing the effects of aging.  Many find that improved complexion comes with eating almonds.

Bottom Line: healthy heart, smarter brain, more energy, more absorption of nutrients, healthier skin & hair, lower risk of illness and disease

Other Uses

Almond flour is a popular choice for low-carbohydrate diets or for patients suffering from diabetes. Almond flour is gluten-free and therefore a popular ingredient in place of wheat flour for gluten-sensitive people and people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.

Edible Almond Milk, Almond Oil, Almond Butter

Some alternative therapies use almond extract as an herbal supplement for different ailments

A few drops of almond oil can be massaged into the scalp and throughout the hair to promote shine, frizziness, and even hair loss.

Almond oil can also be applied directly to the face or body for a substitute for lotion.  Add a few drops in the tub for a moisturizing soak.  I haven’t tried this, but it’s supposed to be good with all skin types.

Random Trivial Fact

The wild almond tree is extremely toxic.  Only through domestication did the seed become edible.  It was domesticated early, as Early as the Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC) and the almond fruit was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Recipes

Almonds are best when eaten raw.  They taste great in trail mix with other seeds, nuts, raisins, granola, dried fruit, or dark chocolate bits.  Roasting or toasting (like many foods) can alter the “good” parts and change them into unhealthy and possibly damaging free radicals that wreak havoc on the body.  Sugaring and salting them can also negate the healthy benefits, although rolling them in some organic dark chocolate is delish. (Shhh…don’t tell.)  While I don’t constitute the whole “Raw Food Movement”, I do try to process food as little as possible. 

Crushed raw almonds taste great, and are super-healthy, as a garnish.  Sprinkle them on salads, fruit, desserts, and even chicken. I love to crush them, toss them in lemon zest, and add them to green beans.  Because they help regulate blood-sugar, if you are going to eat a sweet snack (whether it’s chocolate cake, or an apple), grab a handful of almonds to stop from “spiking”.  I keep a baggie of almonds and other nuts and seeds in my tote so that I always have quick access to a healthy snack.  They’re so easy to toss in and go!

15 Minute Almond Butter Recipe

20 Minute Almond Milk Recipe

Almond Pie Crust (no baking required!)

I'd love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below.

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