Since ancient times, almond trees have been cultivated around the Mediterranean and historians generally agree that almonds were among the earliest cultivated foods. Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. Today, almonds are one of the most popular nuts, not only because of their delicious taste, but also due to their top nutritional value and health benefits. In Cyprus, packaged almonds are available year-round. However, they are at their best in late summer and early autumn when they are at the height of their season.

The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within them. The seed of the almond tree fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. Often referred to as “the gourmet nut”, is among the most nutrient-dense tree nuts.

Nutritional value

Almonds are a very good source of protein, actually, they have the highest protein content of any nut and are a valuable food for vegans and vegetarians. Almonds are an excellent source of calcium and they are rich in potassium, manganese, copper and selenium. They are also high in riboflavin, fibre, folic acid, iron, zinc, thiamine, niacin and magnesium.

Almonds are high in healthy, monounsaturated fat which helps to lower cholesterol, especially the bad cholesterol (LDL).

Twenty potent antioxidant flavonoids were identified in almond skins, some of which are catechins, also found in green tea, and naringenin which is found in grapefruit. This is why we grind almonds with the skin on.

Almonds contain a high degree of oleic acid, which is believed to be the olive oil ingredient that protects against heart disease.

Almonds are the best whole food source of vitamin E, in the form of
alpha-tocopherol, which may help prevent cancer.

Health benefits

Clinical studies have shown that almonds can lower cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat. Because people love eating almonds, almonds are an ideal way of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels for cholesterol-conscious patients.

Almonds help to stave off hunger (Effect of chronic consumption of almonds on body weight in healthy humans, Hollis and Mattes, 2007). This makes almonds a good fit for many popular weight loss programs. Protein, fibre and monounsaturated fat found in foods, such as almonds, make meals more satisfying. Furthermore, almonds offer a great taste and crunch.

Almonds are nutrient rich. About 20 almonds is an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium and manganese, and a good source of fibre, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorus. Not to mention that every ounce contains
6g of protein and 12g of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Now that’s a lot of nutrients for such a small package.

Almonds are one of the leading food sources of the antioxidant,
alpha-tocopherol vitamin E. This is the type of vitamin E that the human body absorbs best.

When there is enough magnesium in the body, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and they relax. This lessens resistance and improves the circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients around the body.

Also, potassium is important in nerve transmission and contraction of all muscles, including the heart. It is also essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and healthy heart function.