A quick snack, an addition to your milkshake or salad or mixed with fruits... whichever way you like, make sure you include almonds in your diet.

Almonds (badam) are one of the most nutritious nuts. They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. This nut-like seed has gained quite a reputation as a superfood. You can eat it as a quick healthy snack, put it in your milk shake or mix it with fresh fruits and vegetables to make a detoxifying drink. When it comes to snack foods, the almond's health benefits get top honours.

Heart healthy: According to one study, those who consumed nuts five times a week had a 50 per cent reduction in risk of heart attack. The huge amount of vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of heart diseases. Almonds also help reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), which causes artery-damaging inflammation.

Reduces bad cholesterol: Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats that help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol). A handful of almonds every day can lower your bad cholesterol level by 8-12 per cent.

Improves blood circulation: Almonds are high in potassium and low in sodium, thereby helping regulate blood pressure. The high level of magnesium has a very positive effect on the arteries and veins and helps improve the overall flow of nutrients through our bodies. It also contains iron, which helps carry oxygen to the body's cells and organs.

Strengthens our bones: They are a very good source of calcium, which prevents osteoporosis and strengthens bones, teeth and muscles. It also provides other nutrients to increase the bone mineral density, which helps strengthen the skeletal system.

Helps lose weight: Almonds have high fibre content, protein and the good type of fat, which satisfies your appetite very soon. So you are less likely to have cravings and overeat. Studies have revealed that almond-rich low-calorie diet helps obese people shed their weight.

Diabetic help: They are a low glycemic index (GI) food. When eaten with a high GI food, it helps reduce rise in sugar and insulin levels after meals.

Reduces risk of cancer: Being high in natural fibre, it improves the movement of food through the colon, thereby preventing colon cancer. It is an excellent source of vitamin E, phytochemicals and flavonoids that suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. It is also a rich source of boron, which helps to prevent prostate cancer.

Prevents gallstones: One study has shown that people eating at least five almonds a day have a 25 per cent lower risk of developing gallstones. Almond oil also possesses laxative properties and helps avoid constipation.

Beauty aid: A massage of almond oil mixed with amla juice can prevent hair loss. It also prevents greying and thinning of hair. It also helps treat dandruff. An almond face pack prevents dry skin, pimples and black heads and is a good long-term cure for acne. It also improves skin complexion and premature aging.

Good in pregnancy: Almond contains folic acid, which helps reduce incidence of birth defects in newborn babies.

Energy booster: Nutrients present in almonds like protein, manganese, copper and riboflavin are used to generate energy. Keep an almond chocolate or energy bar with you if you are always on the move.

Brain power: Almond is a source of many nutrients which helps in development of the brain development. Ayurveda recommends five almonds soaked in water every morning for maximum brainpower. Phenylalanine, a brain-boosting chemical present in almond, aids healthy development of cognitive functions.

Good source of protein: Almonds, like all nuts, provide one of the best plant sources of protein. They provide high quality and highly absorbable protein. A quarter-cup (around 30 almonds) contains around 7.6 gm of protein

The writer is a Delhi-based dietician.

Tips

For wrinkles/spots: Make a paste of five almonds soaked overnight and put it in a glass bottle. Mix 6 g rose water + 15 drops of sandal scent. Apply thrice in a day on the face and spots.

Drink it up: Grind 5-6 pieces of almonds with a little sugar and saunf. Take with hot milk at night for 40 days

Quick serves

Add punch to plain yogurt by mixing in some chopped almonds and dried fruit

Enhance a healthy sauté of curried vegetables with sliced almonds

Add almond butter to a breakfast shake to boost its taste and protein content

Almonds and apple slices make a wonderfully simple, on-the-go power snack

Make a delightful cold rice salad with almonds, fresh garden peas and currants

Add sliced almonds to chicken salad

Cool salad 

Ingredients

1 bunch spinach leaves rinsed

10 medium strawberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup shredded cottage cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

Method: In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, lemon juice, orange juice and pepper. Whisk well to form an even dressing.

Cut the strawberries into bite-sized pieces and add powdered sugar. Set aside so they induce the sweetness.

Put spinach leaves and strawberries in a large salad bowl. Add in the dressing and toss so the salad is evenly coated. Add almonds and mix again a little. Garnish with shredded cottage cheese.

Why it's good: It is not only colourful and tasty, but full of essential vitamins, iron, anti-oxidants, protein and good lipids; everything needed for a healthy heart and mind! This is a perfect summer salad!

Keywords: NutritionTips

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012