It seems that our taste buds have known what's good for us all along. Almonds, one of America's favorite nuts, are now considered one of the most nutritious, too. Recent studies suggest that they may offer long-term health benefits.
Just one single-ounce serving -- about 20 almonds -- provides a substantial amount of dietary fiber (three grams), 12 percent of the daily allowance of protein, and almost as much calcium as a quarter cup of milk, with only 164 calories and no cholesterol. Almonds are also a good source of potassium and zinc. Even their fats, being largely monounsaturated, have been shown to help lower "bad" cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, almonds are a protein-rich source of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent certain cancers. And they're endowed with phytochemicals, plant compounds that are believed to protect against stroke and some cancers.
They're not just healthful -- almonds are delicious in a variety of dishes. Perhaps most familiar in desserts, they are great with savory foods as well. The following recipes call for either whole shelled almonds (with skin) or blanched almonds (without skin). Although both of them are nutritious, the whole shelled almonds have a nuttiness with more depth.
We sometimes like to toast the nuts first to bring out their flavor, and then sprinkle them over a salad or puree them for a dipping sauce. Or we saute them quickly and mix them into a zesty topping for fish. When we roast them with maple syrup, they come out with a salty sweetness that's irresistible. But with almonds, you needn't even try to resist -- simply surrender to the whims of your taste buds.
Do You Know?
Almonds are actually the seeds of tree fruit; they can be enjoyed plucked from the branch, the soft, green husks peeled on the spot.