Almonds are a waistline-friendly snack known to boost heart health and loaded with enough other health benefits to land them a coveted spot on our list of the 50 healthiest foods of all time. But before you get carried away with a heaping handful, consider a few of the lesser-known facts about this beneficial bite.
1. Almonds are in the peach family. The nut we know as the almond is technically the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree, itself a member of the prunus family. This category of stone fruit encompasses trees and shrubs that produce edible fruit such as cherries, plums, peaches, and nectarines. (Don't the pits look a little bit like nuts, now that you think about it?) As relatives, almonds and fruit in the same family can cause similar allergic reactions.
2. Almonds are among the lowest-calorie nuts. Per one-ounce serving, almonds are tied with cashews and pistachios at 160 calories. They also have more calcium than any other nut, plus nearly 9 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, 6 grams of protein, and 3.5 grams of fiber per ounce.
3. Almonds are best for you raw or dry-roasted. When you see packaged nuts with the word "roasted" on the front, consider this: They may have been heated in trans or other unhealthy fats, Judy Caplan, R.D., says. Look for the words "raw" or "dry-roasted" instead.
4. But "raw" almonds aren't exactly "raw." Two salmonella outbreaks, one in 2001 and one in 2004, were traced back to raw almonds from California. Since 2007, the USDA has consequently required almonds to be pasteurized before being sold to the public. The FDA has approved several methods of pasteurization "that demonstrate effectiveness in achieving a reduction of possible contamination in almonds while not impacting their quality," according to the Almond Board of California. However, opponents of almond pasteurization argue that one such method, propylene oxide processes, poses health risks greater than that of salmonella, since the EPA has classified propylene oxide as a human carcinogen in instances of acute exposure.
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5. You can make your own almond milk. All you'll need are some almonds, a sweetener of your choosing, some water, and a food processor. Click here to learn how to make it—it's easy!
6. Almonds pack quite the disease-fighting punch. According to 2006 research, just one ounce of almonds contains about the same amount of polyphenols, antioxidants thought to help fight off heart disease and cancer, as a cup of broccoli or green tea. However, considering that the research was funded at least in part by the Almond Board of California, we may have to take this one with a grain of salt.