Almonds: Why & How to Use Them
In the battle to maintain health, energy, focus, and good weight, almonds are a richly nutritious resource. With a high percentage of protein (6 grams of protein per 1 ounce), and a fantastic source of vitamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorus, B’s 1, 2, 3, 9, zinc, and iron, almonds are no doubt a vital addition to anyone’s diet. So lets see how we can utilize these beauties in our daily life.
As far as how to prepare and when to eat almonds, there is some conflicting information out there. However, the commonly agreed upon factors are 1) soaking reduces the phytic acids, 2) they are full of wonderful vitamins and nutrients, 3) preparing raw organic almonds at home is the best way to ensure your not eating potentially hazardous residues from commercial pasteurization.
As mentioned above, a not so commonly known fact about almonds is that they should be soaked before eating to reduce their phytic acid content. Phytic acids are believed to reduce the absorption of calcium and other vital minerals found in the delectable nut, and actually, all nuts! Phytic acids are also found in legumes. So soak those babies before eating them too.
Almonds as a Snack:
- In a large bowl or jar, fill your choice amount of almonds being certain the container you use has plenty of space for water and for the almonds to expand. Cover the container with a loose fitting lid. Remember, they expand in water! Additionally you may choose to splash a little apple cider vinegar into the container to reduce potential microbes. (I don’t do this step myself, but I think I will try it next time.) Allow to soak overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Taking your almonds out the refrigerator, rinse them and place them one layer deep on a flat baking pan. Place almonds in the oven for 10-15 minutes. (My little convection/rotisserie oven seems to do them well at 13 minutes.) Alternatively you may want to try roasting them at a lower temperature for a longer time. Don’t bother to add salt or any oils at this point. Dry roasting is the best way to make the almonds tastier without losing any nutrients or adding potential free radicals to the mix.
- After the almonds have a lightly darkened exterior, (don’t worry if the color of brown is not very deeply changed, the almonds keep roasting in their own heat even after you extract them from the oven) remove them from the oven. Allow to cool a bit, then if you would like some extra flavor and healthy fats, you might try tossing the almonds in a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Enjoy!
Almonds for Milk & Flour:
If your tempted to try almond milk at home to avoid the plethora of acids and chemicals supposedly meant to retain the flavor and vitality of the almond milk but your a little intimidated by the potential challenge of it, please follow the methods I use! It is easy, and only mildly time consuming. Also, you could probably do this in a much larger batch then I did so you have much more of a reward from the work you put in.
You will need:
- Cheese cloth or a nut bag.
- (If using cheese cloth) a large mesh strainer.
- Wide mouth jar or a storage jar of some sort. If your storage jar has a small mouth, you will most likely want to use a bowl to extract the milk since it will get messy with a small mouth jar.
- Blender or food processor.
I personally only had cheese cloth on hand, but I think it would be easier with a nut bag.
- Soak 1 cup or your choice of quantity of nuts as described in “Almond as a Snack”.
- Instead of roasting the nuts, rinse them out with 2 or 3 changes of filtered water in the container itself or a strainer if you prefer.
- Place the nuts in the blender or food processor (I currently only have a Magic Bullet, hence my small batch of milk and flour), fill filtered water as a 1:1 ratio to the nuts and blend. Blend until you have pulp and milk.
- Over your storage jar or bowl, take the strainer, lining it with 2 to 3 layers of cheese cloth, or simply place your nut bag over the container, and begin slowly pouring your almond pulpy mix through the strainer or into the nut bag. With the cheese cloth you will have to stop once it gets fairly full, then pull the sides of the cloth up around the mixture and begin gently squeezing from the top down. Once you have squeezed the pulp fairly dry, set aside the pulp and begin again pouring the mixture into the cheese cloth and squeezing. With your extra pulp you may either store it in a container in the fridge to make almond flour later, discard the pulp, or set aside to make almond flour now!
- Once finished you should have some beautiful almond milk in your storage container or bowl. If you would like some flavor or sweetness, my favorite is adding a touch of vanilla and honey to the mix.
If you have made almond milk, then do as follows for the almond flour.
- In a large baking sheet, spread the almond pulp out. Break up any large blobs and try to create a flat single layer of the pulp. (I do not bother with parchment paper or any oiling of the pan. The mixture should be the appropriate consistency to not stick to the pan.
- Most other articles or blogs regarding the heating process advise setting the oven on the lowest temperature and letting it bake for some time. It has been working for me to set the oven to around 280 Fahrenheit, or 140 Celsius, then allow the mixture to bake for roughly 2 hours.
- Check at about 1 hour to see if the consistency of the almond flour is becoming dry like and crumbly. If there is no moisture when you break up little blobs or bits, then the flour is done.
There you have it! Almond goodness at it’s basics.
Below I have included one of my favorite super healthy, immune boosting, cold fighting, sinus infection easing smoothies you can make with your almond milk. Don’t be worried about the presence of turmeric in the smoothie as the flavorful mango, orange, and banana all mix with it’s strong spice to create a delightful flavor.
Almond Milk, Mango Blast Smoothie:
- In a blender combine, 1/2 of a fresh or frozen mango, 1/2 of a banana, 1/2 of an orange, 1 thumb size peeled bit of fresh ginger, either a little bit of a freshly peeled turmeric root or a pinch of ground turmeric, a dash of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of raw honey, and roughly 1 cup of almond milk. I suggest putting a small amount of almond milk in the mixture then adding for your preferred consistency.
- Blend and enjoy!
Also you may wish to add some ice cubes for a nice cold and icy smoothie. Or if you prefer a less thick consistency, you might want to add filtered water. Also, you can substitute mango for a full orange, or pineapple as a delightful replacement. Or if you want less of a sweet smoothie, you can add some spinach and remove either orange or mango. The flavors disguise the spinach, but the retaining of banana helps dull the intensity of ginger and turmeric.
Article by Shabby Goat guest writer.
Resources for this post come from below:
Nutrition facts and more can be found in a very informative article on almonds and their benefits by Kris Gunnar, BSc at https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/almonds/.
Roasting, or soaking explained here, http://www.thealternativedaily.com/raw-nuts-vs-roasted-nuts-which-is-better-for-you/.
More about phytic acid, and when to eat almonds here, https://authoritynutrition.com/phytic-acid-101/.
Also, for more on the antidepressant nutrient benefit see the Shabby Goat post, http://shabbygoat.com/food-health/niacin-depression-cure/.