Almonds are the fruit of the almond tree and have a wide variety of uses. For example, they are used as a baking ingredient, eaten raw, and processed to make roasted almonds or oils such as almond oil.
Although almonds have a fat content of 49%, 7.4% of these are healthy saturated fats and they donʼt contain any trans fats. Almonds are also a good source of iron.
Sweet almonds are safe to eat raw, but you should not eat too many raw bitter almonds as these contain the toxin amygdalin. This is a cyanogenic glycoside which the bodyʼs own enzymes convert into hydrocyanic acid. This is particularly dangerous for children as they have a much lower tolerance to this substance. Heating destroys the hydrocyanic acid, making the almonds safe to eat
From Wikipedia: “The seeds of Prunus dulcis var. dulcis are predominantly sweet, but some individual trees produce seeds that are somewhat more bitter ... All commercially grown almonds sold as food in the United States are of the "sweet" variety.”
“The species Prunis dulcis (= cultivated almond) is subdivided into at least three varieties:
- Prunis dulcis var. dulcis = sweet almonds with sweet seeds (the edible almonds)
- Prunis dulcis var. fragilis = soft-shelled almonds with sweet seeds in a thin fragile shell
- Prunus dulcis var. amara = bitter almonds with bitter seeds that can be toxic even when consumed in smaller amounts.*”
“While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also a component of various dishes. Almonds are available in many forms, such as whole, sliced (flaked, slivered), and as flour. Almonds yield almond oil and can also be made into almond butter or almond milk. These products can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Along with other nuts, almonds can be sprinkled over breakfasts and desserts, particularly muesli or ice cream-based dishes. Almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, many pastries (including jesuites), cookies (including French macarons, macaroons), and cakes (including financiers), noghl, and other sweets and desserts. They are also used to make almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter, popular with peanut allergy sufferers and for its naturally sweeter taste.”
For more information on the many products made from almonds, click on the link above.
Nutritional value and allergies:
“The almond is a nutritionally dense food and a 100 gram serving is a rich source (>20% of the Daily value, DV) of the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, vitamin E, and the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. The same serving size is also a good source (10–19% DV) of the B vitamins thiamine, vitamin B6, and folate; choline; and the essential mineral potassium. They are also rich in dietary fiber, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats, fats which potentially may lower LDL cholesterol. Typical of nuts and seeds, almonds also contain phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, sitostanol, and campestanol, which have been associated with cholesterol-lowering properties.
Preliminary research associates consumption of almonds with elevated blood levels of high density lipoproteins and lower low density lipoproteins.
Almonds may cause allergy or intolerance. Cross-reactivity is common with peach allergens (lipid transfer proteins) and tree nut allergens. Symptoms range from local signs and symptoms (e.g., oral allergy syndrome, contact urticaria) to systemic signs and symptoms including anaphylaxis (e.g., urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms).
During the digestion process in humans, almond flour may be fermented into short-chain fatty acids, most notably butyrate which is a substrate for cells lining the large intestine.”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry