Almonds are a little bit like the nuggets of gold in the cocktail nut mix. You’ve always got your usual peanuts, walnuts, maybe cashew here and there. But when you find that almond, you know you’re in for a treat.
These sweet, delicious nuts have their own distinct shape and their own unique look. They look pretty and there’s something decadent about them. And like many nuts, they have a reputation for being a healthy snack.
But are they? Did you know that some almonds are actually toxic? There’s a lot you don’t know about the nutritional facts of almonds and the many types of them that are out there. Learn a little more and you may feel a little differently about these starring guests at the cocktail nut mix party.
Where Do Almonds Come From?
The almond tree produces the edible seeds that everyone knows as almonds. The trees, Prunus dulcis, grow naturally in Southwest Asia. The almond tree is grown throughout the Mediterranean because the warm climate is so well-suited for this purpose. However, nearly 80 percent of the world’s entire almond supply is grown in California. So all those snack nuggets you dig out of the nut mixes and trail mix blends probably came from California.
Almonds are used for a variety of different food items. You can buy almond milk or almond butter, bake with almond flour or enjoy the sweet scent of almond oil. But if you’re going to make roasted almonds or put them in a recipe, make sure you’ve got the right kind of almonds. There are many different varieties of this popular nut, but two main types: sweet and bitter. There’s a world of flavor difference between these two nuts.
Types of Almonds
You’re probably the most familiar with sweet almonds, P. dulcis variety dulcis. These are the tasty tree offerings that are used to make almond oil. They’re packaged in mixes and as standalone baking ingredients and snack treats. Sliced almonds and chopped almonds used in baking and cooking are always the sweet variety.
Bitter almond, P. dulcis variety amara, is used to make oil that is used to add flavoring to liqueurs and extracts. Bitter almonds are not sold in the U.S. at all because they contain trace amounts of cyanide, a powerful toxin.
After bitter almonds are processed to be used for flavoring, the toxin is removed. Heat causes the cyanide to leak out of the nuts, which renders them safe for nut consumption. Even so, the bitter type is never sold as packaged almonds in the U.S. so you can feel free to enjoy these nuts without worry.
You may also hear about Chinese almonds, which are not actually almonds at all. This is actually the kernel of an apricot that is specifically grown for the seed, which does resemble an almond in taste and texture. When raw, Chinese almonds are also mildly toxic and must be cooked in order to remove the toxicity.
Green almonds are unripened almonds that are still inside the fruit produced by the almond tree. You can actually eat the entire fruit when it is in its green stage, along with the almond inside. The fruit tastes like an unripened peach and it’s slightly crunchy. The seed itself has not hardened yet and has a consistency more like jelly but packs a powerful almond flavor.
Almonds can be eaten and enjoyed in a variety of ways. Munch on them raw, roast them, blanch them, bake them in a cookie. They’re always delicious. They can be added to salads, soups, all sorts of dishes. It can even be used as a garnish when you want to add just a pop of sweetness to any dish.
Almond is the main ingredient in marzipan, a paste-like edible substance that’s used for baked goods and candies. This nut is also used often as an ingredient in Asian cooking. They can be found in nut mixes, trail mixes, sweet stuff of all kinds. That’s why these nuts are grown so extensively and why there are so many different types of almonds that are commercially grown and sold.
Meet the Almond Tree
The almond tree is deciduous, growing 10 to 15 feet tall. They are beautiful trees. These trees produce pretty flowers in shades of pink and white. The trees produce fruits that resemble peaches. When the almond fruit matures, the outer covering splits open and drops a pit. The nut is inside here, which means that technically the almond isn’t a nut. It’s a seed because it is surrounded by a fruit.
If you want to see an almond tree, head to central California. There are more than 6,000 almond growers in the central part of the state, where conditions are absolutely ideal for these trees.
Different Types of Almonds
Many different almond varieties are grown around the world. Different types of these nuts are grown in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, and all around the Mediterranean. There are dozens of different types of almonds grown in California alone. But apart from the names, these nuts don’t have a lot of differences between them.
You don’t have to be a health nut to appreciate the value of eating nuts. It’s pretty well-known that they’re a good source of protein and packed with vitamins and minerals. But almonds are truly the best of the best. They pack in more nutrition than any of those other nuts, a pretty good claim to fame.
In a one-ounce serving of almonds, which is about 23 whole nuts, you’ll get six grams of protein, four grams of fiber, and a healthy dose of calcium, potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, and vitamin E. Like all nuts, they are somewhat high in fat, packing about 14 grams in that same one-ounce serving. However, this is almost all monounsaturated fat, which is a heart-healthy fat that is actually good for you in moderation.
An ounce of these nuts also contains just over six grams of carbohydrates, three and a half grams of fiber, and 164 calories.
You’ll get more nutritional value from consuming almonds if you leave the almond skin on. That’s the papery outer covering that surrounds the nut.
Almonds are full of antioxidants that protect you from all kinds of bad stuff. They can help you fight off cancer, inflammation, and even aging. Forget the fountain of youth. Just keep some of these nuts in the house! They’re also full of vitamin E, which keeps your cell membranes strong and prevents them from being damaged. Vitamin E can potentially lower your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
This is one of the best possible snacks for people with diabetes because these nuts help control blood sugar levels and don’t have a lot of saturated fat. They have plenty of healthy fat and fiber and they’re low in carbs, which is why they’re also a great all-around diet snack food.
Protein and fiber help you feel full, so you don’t have to eat a lot of the nuts to feel like you’ve had a satisfying snack. This makes them an effective snack for weight loss. You can use them to reduce hunger pains and give yourself an infusion of vitamin E, magnesium, and other nutrients your body needs.
Because they are high in magnesium, almonds may also help reduce blood pressure. They also lower LDL cholesterol levels, the “bad” cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease and other health problems. In studies, eating almonds every day has been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease.
How to Roast
Roasted almonds are a tasty, nutrient-packed treat. The roasting process brings out the natural flavor of the nuts and adds some crunch. Roast them in the oven at 325 degrees F by spreading them out on a baking sheet and letting them toast for about 15 minutes. Make them in a skillet by cooking them on medium heat for just about five minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they turn slightly brown and become aromatic.
You can even make toasted almonds in the microwave. Spread them in an even layer on a microwave-safe plate and zap them for just one minute and you’ll get a nice, toasted taste.
Add a little oil and spices or sugar to give your nuts even more flavor. Just remember that these additions will also give the roasted nuts more calorie content.
If you want to make almond butter as a peanut butter alternative, don’t roast your nuts. Start with blanched almonds, which have been boiled. These nuts are soft and easy to blend up in a food processor, a necessary step for making almond butter.
You’re well on your way to being an expert in almonds, the nutritious nut that can stand alone or enhances other recipes. But there are some common questions that lots of people have about this nut. Once you can answer them, you will truly be an almond genius.
Can dogs eat almonds?
The short answer to whether or not dogs can eat almonds is no. While some nuts aren’t harmful to dogs, almonds are toxic to our four-legged friends. Dogs may really enjoy the taste of these nutrient-rich nuts, but their digestive systems cannot process them.
Dogs can suffer from a range of symptoms after eating almonds, including vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. If dogs eat these nuts regularly, they will consume too much fat and could develop serious health problems as a result. if your dog digests almonds or you believe your dog has eaten them, contact your local humane society or a veterinarian to ask for advice.
Is almond milk dairy-free?
Yes! Almond milk is a great alternative for people who are lactose intolerant, vegans, and others who avoid consuming dairy. The milk is very sweet with a slightly nutty flavor and a great dairy-free alternative.
Are almonds gluten-free?
All nuts are naturally gluten-free, which makes almonds a great snack choice for those who are sensitive to wheat. Almond flour is also gluten-free if you’re looking for a substitute for the wheat-based stuff that’s so often used in baking. Almond flour is also known as almond meal and it is literally ground-up almonds that have essentially become powdered.
Am I allergic to almonds?
Nut allergy is an extremely common ailment. People who suffer from tree nut allergies should avoid almonds. Nut allergies can cause a range of gastrointestinal problems, including cramps, nausea, and vomiting. The mouth, throat, or eyes may become itchy and your tongue can swell up.
You may also experience shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing. If you have a peanut allergy, you may also be allergic to almonds. At least 25 percent of people who have a peanut allergy also experience allergic reactions with at least one other nut. Symptoms of a nut allergy can be extremely severe and even fatal.
Are almonds good for you?
If you’re on a diet, if you want a healthy snack, if you want to get an infusion of healthy dietary fiber and prevent weight gain, then almonds are definitely good for you! Eating a few of them every day can help you prevent weight gain, reduce belly fat, and regulate blood sugar levels. These nuts are excellent as part of a healthy diet, but only when you eat them in moderation.
Because they are a somewhat high-calorie delight, you don’t want to eat a lot of them on a regular basis. But if you pop a shelled almond or two a couple of times a day, you’ll get healthy doses of magnesium, vitamin E, healthy fatty acid, protein, and fiber. It’s a nutrient-rich treat that’s been proven to improve health, lower LDL cholesterol, and prevent heart disease. In other words, sweet almond is a sweet way to stay healthy!
- Britannica: What is Almond?
- Berkeley Wellness: Types of Almonds
- California Almonds: California Almonds Technical Information
- TasteAtlas: Top 7 Most Popular Almonds in the World
- Live Science: Almonds: Nutrition & Health Benefits
- Healthline: 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Almonds
- Verywell Fit: Almond Nutrition Facts
- Culinary Hill: How To Roast Almonds
- The Kitchn: How To Toast Almonds and Other Nuts in the Oven
- American Kennel Club: Can Dogs Eat Almonds?
- Healthline: Why Almond Flour Is Better Than Most Other Flours
- ACAAI: Tree Nut Allergy
- The University of Manchester: Allergy information for Almond (Prunus dulcis)
- Sallys Baking Addiction: Homemade Almond Butter