The Almond tree or Prunus dulcis belongs to the family of Rosaceae. The largest genus by far is Prunus, which include plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. That’s why almonds may be considered seeds, although they are commonly considered to be part of the nut family. Almond tree fruit, the almond, is crisp and sweet, and the crop is harvested in September/October. This tree comes from plateaus and mountains of western Asia, particularly in Iran. It was introduced in Egypt by the Hebrews and in Europe by the Greeks people. The Romans brought back almond, called “Greek walnut”, to Italy in the 3rd century, then, the Arabs spread the almond tree throughout the Mediterranean.
Almonds are tree crops that have been used as part of a human diet throughout history in all continents but they are mainly a part of the Mediterranean ecology.
With many benefits, the almond is indeed a nutritional treasure. Almonds are a highly recommended food, obviously as part of a healthy or ‘balanced’ diet.
In this nut, fats account for 53’5 % (Source: FAO: http://www.fao.org/home/en/). They essentially consist of unsaturated fats, which reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, because they are liquid at room temperature, unlike saturated fats, that are solid at room temperature, what can block blood vessels and cause cardiovascular-disease risk. About 80% of them are monounsaturated acids (oleic acids) which help to reduce bad cholesterol LDL and to increase good cholesterol HDL. Research shows that diets that are higher in monounsaturated fatty acids, fibre and low glycemic index foods appear to have advantages in insulin resistance, glycemic control and blood lipids ( Tony Hung, John L. Sievenpiper, Augustine Marchie, et al. Fat versus carbohydrate in insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care; 6:165-176) .
Polyunsaturated fats are equally beneficial for our health.
Almond contains a majority of complex carbohydrates, around three quarters of the carbohydrates. They are a good source of energy, giving a satiety sensation, and it’s recommended for longer physical efforts. These complex carbohydrates are slowly digested, causing blood glucose to rise less and over a longer period of time.
Almond is composed of 15 % of fibres, 80 % of them are insoluble and 20 % are soluble. Fibres help to normalize bowel movement and have a satiating effect. Studies ( Jansen MC, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, et al . Dietary fiber and plant foods in relation to colorectal cancer mortality: the Seven Countries Study. Int J Cancer. 1999;81:174-179) show that a rich diet of insoluble fibres can be associated with a lower risk of cancer of the colon. Nutritionists advise a daily consumption of 30 g of fibres: one portion of almonds (30 g) supplies 4,5 g of fibres.
Almond is rich in proteins; it supplies 19 g per 100 grams, practically as much as meat. Almonds are privileged in vegetarian food rightfully: 30 g of almond bring as many proteins as a yoghourt or 150 ml of milk. Almonds also contain a high level of the amino acid Arginine, which steps in the protection of arteries.
Almond is rich in minerals, supplying 2,6 g for 100 g. It is beneficial as a source of calcium, potassium and magnesium, minerals involved in regulation of artery tension and in the neuromuscular good working. Moreover, it contains phosphorus, iron and copper, which helps carry oxygen throughout the body, and little quantities of zinc and selenium (antioxidants).
Almond is an exceptional source of Vitamin E with a content of 26 mg per 100 g. One portion of 30 g of almonds covers 60 % of the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA). Thanks to its antioxidant properties, Vitamin E helps to fight against the free radicals.