Posts Tagged With: almonds

National Grab Some Nuts Day

Hold onto your privates. Your private stash of nuts, that is! August 3 is National Grab Some Nuts Day, and we’d hate for you to come up short.

Humans have been grabbing nuts for about as long as nuts have been around to grab. Archaeologists unearthed evidence of this fascination with nuts at a site in Israel, where seven different varieties of nuts were discovered, along with the stone tools needed to crack them open. The site was estimated to be 780,000 years old, and included almonds, water chestnuts, acorns, and pistachios. Nuts were also popular closer to home; Native Americans frequently used “hammer stones” to crack open beech nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts, which were either eaten whole or ground up into a nut butter. Other folks around the world prized nuts for their oil, or turned them into a powder used for thickening foods. Nuts pack a nutritional punch, making them a great source of energy and protein.

Nuts also have a very strict definition, which means that some of the nuts you think are nuts aren’t really nuts. That’s nuts! By definition, a nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed. So far, so good…but read the fine print: that shell must not open to release the seed. So, from a botanical standpoint, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns are all true nuts. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios? They’re nuttin’ but wannabes. Though technically incorrect, any large, oily kernel found within a shell and used as a food source is considered a nut. So Planters, you’re off the hook.

One reason nuts are such a popular snack is due to their health properties. They are considered a “superfood” high in healthy monounsaturated fat and other good-for-you nutrients including vitamins E and B2, folate, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. They tend to be high in calories though, so a handful at a time is plenty.

A day rarely goes by where I don’t grab some nuts, so today’s food holiday was easy to conquer. I’m particularly fond of Blue Diamond’s lineup of bold flavored almonds, so I indulged in some Sriracha and Jalapeño Smokehouse nuts. For dessert, I added a few Planters Salted Caramel peanuts.

nuts

Categories: Nuts, Snacks | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Foods You Should Make a Regular Part of Your Diet*

* (if you want to be healthy).

There’s nothing new about the adage to “eat healthy.” But what does that entail, exactly? In simple terms, it involves eating the right balance of foods in order to achieve optimum nutrition. If asked to elaborate, you would probably sum it up like this: vegetables and fruits are good, sweets are bad, proteins should be lean and consumed in moderation. And that’s a great general rule of thumb…but awfully vague. If you’re like me, you thrive on specifics! I like things spelled out for me.

T.E.L.L. M.E. W.H.A.T. T.O. E.A.T.

Like that.

So, I’m doing you all a solid and giving you 5 “power” foods you can incorporate into your diet immediately. All have proven health benefits – and all taste great! Each food is a regular part of my nutritional rotation, as well. Of course, there are more than merely five “superfoods” (overused term alert!) out there, but I’m avoiding some of the trendier ones, like chia seeds and kefir. Those can be intimidating; start with this list and slowly work your way up the (hemp) ladder.

  1. Almonds. Nuts get a bad rap sometimes because they are high in fats, but keep in mind those are good fats. Almonds have an abundance of monounsaturated fats (the same type found in olive oil), which help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Their potassium helps regulate blood pressure, and magnesium improves the flow of blood. Almonds are rich in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps boost the immune system. Studies show that people who ingest high amounts of Vitamin E decrease their risk of heart disease by 30-40%. Almonds increase your energy, speed up your metabolism, promote weight loss,help protect against cancer, prevent the blood sugar of diabetics from spiking, and even make your skin look healthy. A handful a day is one of the best steps you can take to improve your overall health! I’m a big fan of Blue Diamond’s roasted, salted almonds. A one-ounce serving (28 nuts) is 170 calories, has 5 grams of carbs and 3 grams of dietary fiber. I’ve also recently discovered almond milk, which adds a subtle, nutty flavor and makes a delicious substitute for cow’s milk. I could write a separate blog post on almond milk. almond chart
  2. Blueberries. Don’t let their tiny size fool you – blueberries have huge health benefits! They contain more antioxidants than any other fruit; these chemicals help neutralize free radicals, groups of atoms that damage the body’s cells and are associated with the development of cancer, heart disease, and other age-related diseases. Blueberries are low in fat and calories, high in fiber, and contain plenty of Vitamin C (25% of your recommended daily allowance in one serving), manganese (helps convert carbohydrates and fats into energy), and anthocyanins (helps reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer). They help promote a healthy urinary tract, improve brain health, and even help preserve your vision. Plus, they taste great! I’ll top cottage cheese with 1/4 cup of blueberries for a nutritious snack, or toss a handful into a salad. I also enjoy a homemade blueberry vinaigrette (I’ll post the recipe soon). blueberries
  3. Black beans. Good for the heart? Definitely! Black beans are high in fiber (15 grams per cup) and potassium, which help lower cholesterol levels, maintain blood glucose levels (making them an excellent choice for diabetics), promote a healthy digestive tract, and aid in weight loss as they make you feel fuller longer. They are also packed full of protein and have no saturated fat or cholesterol. In addition, black beans are another excellent source of antioxidants, containing more than any other type of bean. They help prevent heart disease and cancer, lower blood pressure, and strengthen bones. I love adding black beans to a healthy wrap, mixing with quinoa for a nutritionally balanced side dish, or serving in place of refried beans when making Mexican food. Want a great tasting, healthy breakfast? Heat up black beans and add to scrambled eggs. Top with salsa and a few slices of our next food, and you’ll have a great start to your day!
  4. Avocados. Some people shy away from avocados for the same reason they avoid nuts: they are afraid of the high fat content. But like almonds, the fats in avocados are healthy ones; 15 of the 22 grams of fat monounsaturated. This creamy, buttery fruit is nutritionally dense, containing lots of Vitamins C, E, K, and B6, in addition to potassium (packing more per serving than a banana), riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids. A medium avocado contains about 250 calories, so it’s best to portion that out – I rarely eat more than 1/2 in one sitting, and in fact, the official serving size is 1/5. Avocados are high in fiber, low in saturated fat, contain no cholesterol or sodium, and can significantly reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They improve digestion and help prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. People who eat avocados on a regular basis weigh less (thanks to the low carbs/high fiber combination), have a lower overall Body Mass Index, and less belly fat. Avocados help promote healthy vision and even lower your risk of depression. Turning them into guacamole is a given (I have another great recipe to post); I will also slice them and add them to wraps, sandwiches, and salads.
  5. Quinoa. Quinoa is an “ancient grain” that is enjoying a modern surge in popularity thanks to its many health benefits. The Incas called it “the mother of all grains” and believed it improved the stamina of their warriors. This gluten-free superfood contains all nine essential amino acids and is chock full of protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Its antioxidant properties help ward off heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, while its high fiber content helps fill you up longer, helping to prevent obesity. Whole grains are significantly healthier than refined grains such as white rice, white bread, and pasta, which have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients during the milling process. Plus, I think they taste better. Brown rice is another nice whole grain substitute, but honestly, it’s a bitch to cook – I have yet to master its idiosyncrasies. Quinoa, on the other hand? Simple. Add one cup of uncooked quinoa to a pot, 1/2 cup of liquid (water works fine, but I like the flavor that chicken or vegetable broth brings), bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Be sure to season with salt and pepper. Quinoa is incredibly versatile, as well; add sauteed mushrooms and garlic to the pot for a burst of flavor and textural contrast, or make this delicious one-pan Mexican quinoa when making tacos or enchiladas – it’s a great replacement for Spanish rice. black-and-white-quinoa-grains

I’ve also got some honorable mentions that would easily have made the list if I’d expanded it beyond five items. These include salmon, green tea, feta cheese, spices like curry and turmeric, and garbanzo beans. Even dark chocolate and wine have surprising health properties.

Good luck, and eat up!

Categories: Healthy Eating | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

47/365: National Almond Day

Some of these food holidays are downright nutty. Take, for instance, today: it’s National Almond Day!

Actually, I should strike that joke from the blog, because it turns out almonds aren’t true nuts at all – they are actually a fruit, more closely related to cherries and plums than to cashews or walnuts. The almond “nut” is the seed of the green, fleshy fruit. I guess the folks at Almond Joy never got the memo; their candy bar slogan – “Almond Joy’s got nuts, Mounds don’t” – is just plain wrong (not to mention grammatically clunky to begin with). In truth, Almond Joy’s got fruit, Mounds don’t.

Almonds are native to the Middle East, where they grew like weeds in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, and were one of the first trees domesticated by man. Most ancient civilizations relied on almonds as a food source; they date back to 4000 B.C. They are mentioned numerous times in the Bible, where they were revered as symbols of divine approval and hope. The Book of Genesis calls almonds “among the best of fruits,” and almond branches were a symbol of the virgin birth of Jesus. In fact, many paintings depict almonds circling the baby Jesus (though it could be that the artists had merely worked up hearty appetites while slapping oil on canvas). King Tut was buried with several handfuls of almonds when he died, in order to nourish him on his journey to the afterlife. I’d have preferred a pizza myself, but maybe all their Round Tables were closed for the night.

Cultivated almonds are delicious and nutritious, but wild almonds are another story. Their kernels contain prussic acid, a fancy name for cyanide, and are deadly if eaten raw. Domesticated almonds are safe due to a genetic mutation that eliminated the toxic substance.Today, nearly 80% of all almonds in the world are grown in California. Earlier attempts to grow the fruit in southern states were unsuccessful due to killing frosts and high humidity, but the Golden State’s climate proved to be ideal for these little suckers.

We could have just eaten a handful of almonds to celebrate today’s holiday, but it’s the weekend and we wanted to get creative, so we decided on a chicken teriyaki stir-fry topped with slivered almonds. It was a delicious combination!

Stir-fry with slivered almonds

Categories: Nuts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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