Almonds are native to Iran, grow on small deciduous trees, and, in case you didn’t know it, botanically speaking, almonds are not true nuts. An almond is a drupe, which means it is a fruit that surrounds a shell and has a seed inside—another example of a drupe is the peach pit.
Historians believe the almond is likely one of the first domesticated trees because almonds appeared in the Early Bronze Age and, then one thousand years later, were found buried with the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen in his tomb.
The Egyptians weren’t the only ones to revere the almond. They are mentioned several times in the Bible—both the bitter and the sweet almond—and, in ancient Israel, they were considered a symbol of God’s love or wrath depending on whether or not the Israelites obeyed him.
Today, almonds are an important crop worldwide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 1.76 million tons of almonds were produced worldwide in 2006, with the U.S. being a major producer at 41 percent. Spain was second at 13 percent and Syria was third at 7 percent. In the U.S., California is the top producer of almonds, and, in fact, it is their sixth most plentiful crop and their number one export.
Almonds have been touted for their culinary use and can be found in these forms
- Almond Butter
- Almond Flour, as a substitute for wheat- or gluten-sensitive people
- Almond Milk, as a substitute for vegans or lactose intolerant people
- Almond Oil
- Almond Syrup
Besides, its culinary use, the almond is the most nutritious of all nuts. It is rich in magnesium and vitamin E and also contains protein, fiber, folic acid, calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, niacin, phosphorus, and antioxidants. They also offer these health benefits:
- Aids in weight loss programs
- Enhances the brain and nervous system
- Helps to prevent cancer
- Improves the complexion
- Lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol and raises HDL “good” cholesterol
- Prevents gallstones
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s and heart disease
- Reduces risk of diabetes because it reduces blood sugar spikes after eating
- Reduces weight gain
- Soothes the skin when used an emollient
If you want to get the almond’s health benefits, remember almonds are high in calories and fats, so you want to consume no more than 1/4 cup a day. Here’s some great ways to enjoy them.
- Add them to a salad or a stir fry
- Chop them and add them to your pasta
- Eat a handful raw
- Make an almond butter and jelly sandwich
- Sprinkles almonds over your cereal in the morning
- Use almond butter on your bagel instead of cream cheese