Countdown to Fall with Almonds
It’s that time of year again, when we transition from the relaxed routine of summer to the more scheduled habits of school and work. As we countdown to the days to fall, it is a wonderful time of year to celebrate the harvest. Almonds are one of my favourite nuts and for years I’ve been advising people, “Go Nuts for your Health.” Now, that the almond harvest is in full swing in California, it’s the perfect time to share the heart health benefits with you. Followed by three delicious snack recipes including gluten-free almond brownies directly from the Almond Board of California!
Almonds and Heart Health
Nearly two decades of research shows that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and cholesterol levels. A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition led by researcher Dr. Cyrill Kendall, University of Toronto found that participants who ate almonds as part of a heart-healthy diet significantly improved certain factors associated with heart disease risk (1). Researchers estimated that for every 30 grams increase (approximately 1 ounce) of almonds consumed daily during the study, the participants’ estimated 10-year coronary heart disease (CHD) risk score was reduced by 3.5%.
With a renewed emphasis on total dietary pattern and not just one individual food or ingredient, I often refer to the Mediterranean diet as one of the best meal plans for heart health. Based on that pattern, it is important to consume monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) which are found in olive oil and almonds. Almonds contain a high proportion of MUFAs, providing 9 grams per 30 gram (1 ounce) serving (or about 50% of their total calories). Keep in mind, a daily serving size of the nutrient dense almonds is 30 grams (1 ounce) or about 23 almonds.
Three Delicious Almond Snack Ideas and Recipes
As we get back to a routine, I always talk about Food Time Management. Planning out your meals and snacks for the week can make transitioning from summer to fall easier and less stressful. As we are celebrating the harvest for many foods and wines this time of year, I want to share with you three snack recipes using a variety of almonds.
First up is the almond cherry energy bars. This easy recipe calls for both almond butter and sliver almonds. I like the addition of dried cherries for color and texture. Keep in mind these bars are nutrient dense 239 calories with 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of MUFAs. They make the perfect grab-and-go for that weekend bike ride or post football practice to ward off the hunger pangs before the next meal!
Next on the snack list is the almond trail blazer mix. This recipe features crunchy whole almonds with a co-star of sunflower seeds (featured in my new book – The Need for Seeds, available in early 2015). I love that you sprinkle them with soy sauce and ginger, and then bake it to add a new flavor dimension to the standard trail mix. Along with the chew factor of dried cherries, golden raisins and regular raisin, the texture combination is great. Remember this is trail mix (and not sofa mix)! It is perfect to put in a small container in your workout bag and enjoy either before or after your exercise class or a morning run.
Let’s end with the delicious gluten-free almond brownies! With 142 calories, 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of MUFAs per brownie, they make a great heart healthy dark chocolate fix without blowing the calorie-bank. Unsweetened almond milk, almond flour and whole almonds are used in this recipe. Three times the almond benefits. In my other baking, I often use almond flour for cookies and sweet muffins when I want gluten-free options. It gives a nice nutty flavor and a fine, slightly chewy texture.
That’s a wrap…Let’s enjoy Celebrating the Fall Harvest and Going Nuts for our Health!
- Nishi S, Kendall CW, Gascoyne AM, et al. Effect of almond consumption on the serum fatty acid profile: a dose response study. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014; 1-10. doi:10.1017/S0007114514001640
Recipe Photos courtesy of The Almond Board of California