The other day while I was grocery shopping, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Since I'm not likely to make too many changes, what's the one food that will give me the most bang for my buck? Can you give it to me in a nutshell?"
I'm smiling, knowing that's exactly where it comes from — a nutshell. An almond shell, to be exact. I was glad that he was open to suggestion and equally glad to share one of my top favorite nutritional powerhouse foods, almonds.
Researchers at Loma Linda University reported that you could improve your diet on many levels just by adding almonds. Surprisingly, they're really a fruit, related to peaches and cherries. They're loaded with vitamin E, which helps to lower C-reactive proteins. High levels of C-reactive proteins are an indication of inflamed arteries and a risk for heart disease.
This high vitamin E content also makes them a powerful antioxidant with cancer-fighting properties. Eating almonds has the same effect on the body as the cholesterol, lowering drugs called statins. The American Dietetic Assn. and the Journal of the American Medical Assn. both agree that almonds lower your blood cholesterol levels.
A handful of almonds offers protein, fiber, potassium, phosphorous, calcium and iron, all in about 240 calories. They contain even more magnesium than spinach! They are higher in fiber than any other nut. In one ounce of raw blanched almonds you'll find 1.5 grams of fiber. And if you choose unblanched almonds, the fiber content doubles. They're also higher in calcium than any other nut, and the calcium they contain is bio-available, which means easily used by your body. Many food sources may say they have calcium, but if your body can't assimilate that form of calcium, it's useless.
But, what about the fat? We know nuts are notorious for fat. Yes, they are high in fat, but very low in saturated fat. That means most of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat, and that's the kind of fat that helps with body function. It's good for you! Even the fat in almonds is beneficial to the body. In one ounce of almonds you'll have 15 grams of beneficial fat and only one gram of saturated fat. You can't beat that for a snack food. I call it "power snacking."
Roasting and salting nuts decreases their health benefits. Choose organic, raw, unblanched almonds instead of pretzels, popcorn or chips.
Start "power snacking." Here's a tip that makes it easy:
Buy a 1-pound bag of almonds and separate it into small Ziploc bags, each holding 1.5 ounces. You'll get about 10 perfect little snack bags out of a pound of almonds. Keep one in your car, one in your briefcase or purse and the rest in the freezer. As your "power snacks" disappear (and I hope they do quickly) replace them with a bag from your freezer. Even if you eat only a few every day, there is a lot of nutrition in just a few almonds.
So, the next time someone says, "Ah, nuts, what's there to snack on?" Just smile and say, "That's exactly right."
Reach me at my website, gotoloa.com, with questions or comments. I'll see you in two weeks.
Love and health,