The beauty of almonds

I have a 2L almond storage jar. I don’t know whether to increase that to a 4L or a 5L. Almonds are an incredible super food, easy to prepare and are so darn versatile I can’t get enough of them. No wonder they’re a key component of paleo, raw and vegan diets.

Nutrition

High in calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, mono-unsaturated fats, and protein almonds should be an essential part of everyone’s diet, especially athletes.

Calcium is critical for bone strength and preventing stress fractures while vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, works at a cellular level to protect us from damage caused by free radicals. Magnesium also works at a cellular level, producing energy and assisting muscle contraction and relaxation (including regulating our heart beat), as well as nerve function.

Mono-unsaturated fats and protein are slow burning energy sources. They are critical for cellular repair, mental function, hormone production and balance, and regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. Both fats and protein keep us feeling fuller for longer than carbohydrate based energy sources.

I recommend reading Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Foods and Thrive Fitness if you’re interested in finding out more about the role and function of different nutrients in our bodies. If you’re after info on the nutritional breakdown of almonds visit the USDA National Nutrition Database.

Preparation

Use almonds in all their different forms, including raw, soaked, activated, milk, meal, butter and roasted nuts to reap the benefits.

Once a week I prepare a batch of almond milk and meal.

To make both almond milk and meal place 1 cup almonds in a container and cover with water and a teaspoon sea salt to soak overnight (don’t leave them soaking for longer than 24 hours though or they’ll go slimey). Soaking in the salt water will remove the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, activating the nuts and making them easier to digest. If you haven’t had time to do this don’t worry, just progress to the next step (your almond meal will just be slightly rougher in texture). Drain the almonds and place them in a blender along with 1 litre water. Blend for a couple of minutes until milky and frothy, so Moneygram money order that you can no longer see chunks of almond. Then strain the mixture through a jam or nut bag, or a piece of muslin over a bowl, to catch the milk. Once strained I squeeze out any remaining liquid to ensure the resulting almond meal in the bag is as dry as possible.

That gives me a litre of almond milk for the week ahead and a cup of almond meal, perfect for my turkey loaf. I love the taste of homemade almond milk so much better than store bought, and also love that there’s no packaging going to waste.

If you blitz almonds in a food processor you’ll get a beautifully gooey almond butter. It will take approximately 20 minutes for the almonds to release their oils, warm up, and bind in to a butter, so don’t give up too early!

Activated almonds have the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitor removed to make them more easily digested. Activate the nuts by soaking them in a mixture of salt and watet at a ratio of 1 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water for 12 to 14 hours. Drain and rinse them, then place them in a dehydrator or the oven on its lowest temperature for 12-24 hours.

To dry roast almonds just scatter them on a tray and pop them in a 170C (340F) oven for ten minutes to dry them out.

Storage

Like other nuts the oils in almonds can go rancid when exposed to air. When you’re buying them try to ensure your almonds are whole and don’t have too much bruising or chips from them. If you have quite a high turnover store the raw nuts in a airtight glass jar. If you’re not going to use them for a while you can store them in the freezer to increase their longevity.

Almond milk can be stored in the fridge in a covered glass bottle for a few days. It will separate so will need to be stirred or shaken prior to use.

Almond meal will keep in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a few months.

The butter can be stored in a glass jar in a dark pantry for a few months. The oil will separate, that’s okay, just mix it through before you use it. If its been sitting for a few weeks the solid component will be really stiff, so be careful not to glop the oil everywhere (I speak from multiple experiences).

Dry roasted nuts should be stored in an air tight glass jar.

Use

The milk is great as a substitute for dairy milk once you get used to it. I particularly like it with porridge or museli and in protein shakes and smoothies (we also just throw some raw nuts straight in to our smoothies too).

Almond meal is a fantastic substitute for wheat flour in heavier cakes and recipes. Due to the moisture from the oils, its not a good choice for lighter or dry dishes, such as sponge cakes though.

Dry roasted almonds are our favourite snack and salad ingredient.

The butter works wonderfully as a dip for veggie sticks and apple slices or combined with some chilli and oyster sauce to form a satay for your stir fry. I also use almond butter in cookie recipes and as a base for protein bars.

Outside of the kitchen almond meal is also great as a natural facial scrub.

I highly recommend making your own. You can buy in bulk, buy organic, elimate preservatives, support a local farmer and reduce packaging.

I’ll be sharing some fantastic almond recipes with you shortly – including my favourite staple, turkey loaf, double choc protein bars and choc caramel slice. Yum!

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