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    Archive for the ‘almonds’ Category

    Do It Yourself: Almond-Based Yogurt!

    While there are a plethora of almond-based products on the market (butters, ice creams, milks, whipped creams, etc), almond yogurt has yet to make it onto supermarket shelves in most places.  Until you see it in a store near you, here is how you can make your own almond yogurt at home!

    The recipe below is for an almond-pecan yogurt.  It is actually very easy to prepare, but requires time and patience for two important processes — the soaking of the nuts and the fermenting of the yogurt.  Although the “bad news” is that you can’t enjoy your yogurt right away, the “good news” is that the hands-on time you need to devote to this recipe is fifteen minutes, tops.

    Continue Reading »

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Allergy-Friendly Breakfast Pie (Wheat, Soy, Dairy, and Nut-Free!)

    goodmorningiu9You can have this pie whenever you please — day or night.  However, its fruity flavors are breakfast-ish to me.  And, while it is a pie, it is made of such healthful ingredients that you can start your day off quite nutritiously with a slice.

    Chock-full of fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it makes minimally-nutritious morning pastries quiver in fear!

    YIELDS: One 8-slice pie

    INGREDIENTS:

    For crust:

    3/4 cup raw almonds (see NOTES at bottom of post)
    3/4 cup raw walnuts (see NOTES at bottom of post)
    (NOTE: For nut-free version, you will need 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup hemp seeds, and 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds; see NOTES at bottom of post)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded dried coconut (optional)
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup pitted dates (any variety; I like Medjool)

    For filling:

    1.5 cups blueberries
    1.5 cups strawberries, sliced
    1 medium banana, sliced
    2 Tablespoons cup raisins
    1 scoop unsweetened whey or hemp protein powder (optional; see NOTES at bottom of post)
    1 Tablespoon water (if needed, to thin out)

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    To make the crust, process the nuts/seeds, coconut (if using), vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in food processor into a finely ground powder.

    Add the pitted dates, 1/3 of a cup at a time, and process for 30 to 45 seconds at a time.

    Once all the dates have been added, you should have a solid “dough-like” product.  If it does not stick together, add a few more pitted dates and process again.

    Remove the “dough” from the food processor and press it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan (preferably glass), forming a crust that goes up onto the sides of the pan.  Once done, place pie pan in freezer for 30 minutes.

    While crust freezes, make the filling, as detailed below.

    Rinse out the food processor and fill it with berries, the sliced banana, and the raisins.  Process for 45 to 60 seconds, or until completely smooth.  If needed, add up to 1 Tablespoon of water to make processing easier (careful, though, you don’t your filling to be watery!).

    Once filling is smooth (and has a creamy texture), remove crust from freezer and pour filling into pie pan.

    Refrigerate pie pan for at least 90 minutes.

    Once pie has been fully refrigerated, cut into eight uniform slices and enjoy!

    NUTRITION FACTS (for 1 slice, crust made with almonds and walnuts, filling without protein powder):

    245 calories
    1.5 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    5 grams fiber
    4 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: B vitamins (except B12), folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, zinc

    Good Source of: Iron, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 ALA fatty acids, vitamin E, zinc

    NOTES:

    1. For a simpler and less costly crust, you can definitely use one type of nut or seed.  I like using a combination in order to achieve more flavors, but that is completely up to you.  If using multiple nuts/seeds, feel free to experiment with different ratios, too.  You can also try ingredients not listed in this recipe (i.e.: Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)

    2. The extra scoop of whey or hemp protein in the filling provides an additional 2.5 grams of protein per slice, and thickens up the texture slightly.  I find that an unsweetened, vanilla-flavored type works best with the filling.

    3. Serving this for guests?  Top it off with whole fresh berries or sliced fruits of your choice!

    4. If you want to give the crust a hint of chocolate flavor, add one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the crust.  For a deep chocolate flavor, add two tablespoons.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nut Butters, Nut Milks, Protein, and Satiety

    04314l1395I understand that nuts are filling because, in part, of their protein. Do nut milks (e.g., almond milk) possess similar properties? Are they as “filling” or have as much protein?

    Also, what is a good protein replacement for nut butters? I like nut butters and love the idea of “bulking up” a piece of bread to make it more satisfying, but sometimes find it hard to digest nuts in large quantities. Is there something else I can put on my breads, muffins, etc. that will make me feel as full for as long as nut butters do?

    — Lizzie (Last Name Withheld)
    (Location Withheld)

    Nut milks offer different nutrient values than nut butters because they have have a much higher water content.

    If you make nut milk the traditional way (straining the liquid through a chinois and/or a nutmilk bag before consuming it), most of the “nut mush” (along with its fiber and protein) is caught and does not make it to your beverage.

    This helps explain why the average cup (1 serving) of commercial almond milk has 1 gram of protein, while 1 serving (2 tablespoons) of almond butter has 7 grams of protein.

    In terms of a good replacement for nut butters, you could always do a combination of nut butters with fruit.

    For example, if you normally put 2 tablespoons of nut butter on bread, try 1 tablespoon (or even 2 teaspoons) and then add some sliced bananas or mashed berries.  The fiber in the fruit will help you feel full, while the decrease in fat will make the total snack easier to digest.

    You could also put a small amount of nut butter on bread and add a sprinkling of hemp, chia, or flax seeds for easier digestion.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutritional Content of Homemade Almond Milk

    Measure-and-soak-almondsIs there any possible way to calculate the nutritional information (calories, fat, fiber, etc.) when making homemade almond milk?

    It’s been asked across the web a few times and I was wondering if maybe you knew of a way to do so.

    — Daniel Clausen
    Location Unknown

    Here is how I would calculate it:

    1. Look up nutritional information for whatever amounts of almonds you put into blender (i.e.: 1 cup)
    2. Measure how much almond meal is left at end of process.
    3. Look up nutritional information for that amount of almond meal, keeping in mind that since there is some water in that meal, figures are going to be slightly lower (ie: 1 cup of almond pulp may be 80% meal and 20% water or so).
    4. Subtract nutritional values of almond meal from whole almonds and, voila, you have estimated nutrition facts for your homemade batch!

    Let’s do an example right now!

    Let’s suppose you made 6 cups of almond milk using 1 cup of almonds.  That amount of whole almonds amounts to:

    • 827 calories
    • 72 grams of fat
    • 17 grams of fiber

    Let’s say you then have one cup of almond meal left.  One cup of ground almonds contains:

    • 549 calories
    • 48 grams of fat
    • 11.2 grams of fiber

    However, since this is almond pulp (almond meal with some absorbed water) let’s decrease those figures slightly to 500 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 9 grams of fiber.

    That means the batch almond milk you just made contains:

    • 327 calories
    • 32 grams of fat
    • 6 grams of fiber

    Divide those figures by six (since you made six cups and we want to determine how much you are getting per cup) and you come up with:

    • 55 calories
    • 5 grams of fat
    • 1 gram of fiber

    Commercial almonds milks have a higher almond to water ratio, so they offer half the fat content.

    To put that “5 grams of fat” figure into context, it’s equal to half a tablespoon of almond butter.

    One of the wonderful things about making your own batch of any nutmilk is that you can tailor it to your palate and nutritional needs.

    PS: A higher-fat version of almond milk is a wonderful way to add heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to your diet!

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Almond “Milk”

    july-09-almond-milkAlthough almond milk is becoming widely available in supermarkets across the country (especially now that Silk sells its own variety), nothing beats the taste of a homemade batch.

    Almond milk recipes have been around for decades and can be found in a variety of books and websites.  By no means is this an original concept of mine.

    That said, the version below is the one I have found to be ideal for me in terms of taste and texture after much experimentation.

    YIELDS: 4 cups

    INGREDIENTS:

    1.5 cups soaked raw almonds (see note about soaking after recipe)
    4 cups cold water
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine almonds, water, and salt in blender.  Process for at least one minute.

    Place a cheesecloth, fine sieve, or nutmilk bag over a large container.  Pour “milk” into cheesecloth, sieve, or nutmilk bag.  For smoothest results, repeat this step one more time.

    That’s it!

    VERY IMPORTANT NOTES:

    • You can make this with any nut or seed.  I have made pecan milk (delicious!), cashew milk, hazelnut milk, and hempseed milk.
    • The ratio of nuts/seeds to water determines the texture and consistency of the final product.  For a creamier milk, decrease the ratio.  For a thinner liquid, increase it.  Experiment!
    • Try different flavorings!  One of my favorites for this recipe is to add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and half a teaspoon of cinnamon before blending.  For chocolate nutmilk, add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Strawberry milk?  Throw in a small handful of strawberries into the blender after you’ve made the milk.  Other sweet suggestions that I have used in the past: half a banana; one or two figs/pitted dates.
    • The fat and fiber content in this milk is not equal to the amount in the number of almonds used to make it.  After you strain the milk, you will have a significant amount of solid almond lump left behind (which, by the way, you can combine with cocoa powder, a tablespoon of the sweetener of your choice, and some shredded coconut in a food processor and then spread over a baking sheet and bake for a delicious granola-like snack).
    • For easier blending in conventional blenders (and for better flavor), I highly recommend soaking the almonds in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours first (any container will do, just make sure to completely cover the almonds in water).  If you are using soaked almonds, drain the soaked liquid from the container, rinse two or three times, and then go ahead and make your milk.
    • Almond milk lasts 3 days in the refrigerator.  It is super versatile; I have used it in coffee, over cereal, and in smoothies.
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    You Ask, I Answer: Peanuts vs. Tree Nuts

    peanuts-peeledA peanut butter sandwich is as American as apple pie.

    What are your thoughts on peanut butter, though?

    I’ve been hearing that peanuts, which I know are actually legumes, aren’t as healthy as tree nuts.

    Should I be making my sandwiches with almond butter instead?

    — Fred (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    I don’t have any issues with peanuts or peanut butter.

    When it comes to nuts (and, yes, for the sake of this post we’ll treat peanuts as such), my recommendation is to always have one serving of some nut every day.

    One serving is made up of 13 walnuts halves.  In the case of almonds, that’s 23 individual pieces.  If you’re talking pistachios, you’re looking at 49 kernels!

    The issue with nuts is that you could label any one as “better” or “worse” than the next, depending on what criteria you use.

    Consider these lists I compiled:

    FIBER CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios: 3 grams
    • Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts: 2 grams
    • Cashews: 1 gram

    PROTEIN CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Peanuts: 7 grams
    • Almonds, pistachios: 6 grams
    • Cashews: 5 grams
    • Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts: 4 grams
    • Pecans: 3 grams

    MONOUNSATURATED (heart-healthy!) FAT (per ounce)

    • Hazelnuts: 12.9 grams
    • Pecans: 11.5 grams
    • Almonds: 8.7 grams
    • Brazil nuts, peanuts: 6.9 grams
    • Cashews: 6.7 grams
    • Pistachios: 6.6 grams

    OMEGA 3: OMEGA 6 RATIO (per ounce)

    • Walnuts: 1:4
    • Pecans: 1:20
    • Pistachios: 1:51
    • Hazelnuts: 1:89
    • Cashews: 1:125
    • Brazil nuts: 1:1,139
    • Almonds: 1:2,181
    • Peanuts: 1:5,491

    All of them, meanwhile, are good sources of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese.  Calorie amounts range from 155 (cashews) to 195 (pecans).

    I always recommend varying your nut intake since each variety contains unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that have been linked to an array of health benefits.

    Peanuts, for example, are a wonderful source of resveratrol (the same antioxidant in red wine and grape skins), while pecans contain high amounts of beta-sisterol, a cholesterol-lowering phytonutrient.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    PecanHeart_E2A heart-healthy diet gets approximately 16 percent of its calories from monounsaturated fats and roughly 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).

    Although all foods contain a combination of different fats, you definitely want to give priority to those highest in monounsaturated fats:

    • Almonds
    • Avocados
    • Cashews
    • Peanuts
    • Pecans
    • Pine nuts
    • Olives/Olive oil
    • Sunflower seeds

    How, then, do you figure out what these percentages mean in terms of grams of fat?

    Let’s assume you consume, on average, 1,800 calories a day.

    Sixteen percent of 1,800 calories = 288 calories.

    Each gram of fat contains nine calories.  Therefore, to figure out how many grams of fat are in 288 calories, divide by 9.

    In this case, 288 divided by 9 = 32 grams.

    Therefore, someone who consumes 1,800 calories should aim to get 32 grams of fat from monounsaturated fats.

    Following these percentage, roughly 18 grams (10 percent) should come from polyunsaturated sources (this includes Omega-3 fats, like those found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish), and no more than 16 grams from saturated fats.

    (Note: I abide by Mediterranean diet guidelines that recommend 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat)

    A whole small avocado,  for example, adds the following to your day:

    • 15 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 2 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 3 grams saturated fat

    A small order of cheesecake ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery breaks down like this:

    • 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 3.9 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 13.7 grams saturated fat

    That said, there is no need for you to do multiple-step math calculations in your head.  Simply know your different fat sources and choose the healthiest ones, keeping appropriate portions in mind, whenever possible (i.e.: guacamole, rather than nacho cheese dip, at a Mexican restaurant).

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nuts & Cholesterol

    nuts1240705690Are there any nuts that help lower cholesterol, or are they all bad?

    They are high in fat, right?

    — Greg (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    When it comes to lowering cholesterol with food, there are three particular nutrients to keep in mind:

    • Soluble fiber
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fats

    The above nutrients are ones you want to consume more of.  Ideally, you don’t want to simply add them to what you are already eating, but rather eat them in place of less-healthy foods (i.e.: refined carbohydrates, foods made with corn and cottonseed oil, etc.).

    In regards to your question: nuts are an absolutely wonderful food that I encourage everyone to have a serving of every single day.

    Almonds and Brazil nuts are the nuts with highest amounts of soluble fiber per ounce.  Walnuts, meanwhile, have more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of Alpha-Linolenic Acid) than any other nut.  The monounsaturated fat category is dominated by peanuts.

    This is not to say other nuts are inferior; others have certain phytonutrients and compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

    While we’re discussing these three nutrients, check out this list of best sources (which includes some foods not mentioned above):

    • Soluble fiber: barley, figs, kidney beans, oat bran, oatmeal, pears, psyllium husk
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, halibut, sea vegetables, scallops, walnuts, wild-caught salmon
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts, peanuts olive oil

    Great news about soluble fiber — every gram of soluble fiber (when consumed in a consistent, daily basis) is linked to a 1 or 2 point reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Above all, please undo the “fat is bad” mantra that has pervaded the American dietary landscape for the past two decades.  Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats not only lower total and LDL cholesterol, they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “I’ve Got Hummus Coming Out Of My Ears!” Dip

    almonds-spoonAs much as I love hummus, there are times when my tastebuds beg for a change.

    This delicious — and super easy — dip is a top-notch, phytonutrient-rich alternative.

    YIELDS: 2 cups (8 servings)

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup raw almonds
    1/2 cup raw walnuts
    1/4 cup onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves
    1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    6 Tablespoons water

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse for 20 – 30 seconds.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per 4-tablespoon serving):

    153 calories
    5.5 grams heart-healthy monounsaturated fat
    1 gram saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    3 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, vitamin C, vitamin E

    Good Source of: Copper, magnesium, riboflavin

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: W-O-W!

    almondsThe recipe below appears in Ani Phyo’s cookbook Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen.

    I usually do not post recipes from cookbooks, but this one is so delicious, nutritious, and easy to make that I must share it with you.

    Ani, who credits another chef as the inspiration/creator, calls these “raw vegan donut holes”, but I refer to them as “one of the most amazing things you can create in 15 minutes using a food processor and your hands.”

    These “rounds” make for a terrific snack or dessert.

    YIELDS: 20 pieces

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 1/2 cup raw almonds
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped (I prefer Medjool dates, which lend a caramel flavor)
    1/2 cup unsweetened dried pineapple, chopped
    1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling

    Note: Although not listed in Ani’s recipe, there are plenty of variations you can make.  Here are some of my suggestions:

    • Add some cinnamon to the food processor almond mix
    • For extra crunch, add raw buckwheat groats to the general mix
    • Replace the dried pineapple with dried apple
    • Add quick-cooking rolled oats to the general mix

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a food processor, mix almonds, vanilla, and salt.

    Process until almonds have a finely chopped (as opposed to ground up) consistency.

    Transfer mixture to a large bowl (you will be mixing ingredients by hand in this bowl for approximately five minutes, so make sure it provides plenty of room)

    Add chopped dates, chopped pineapple, and 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut to bowl.

    Mix all ingredients by hand until you get a dough-like texture (Hint: rinse your fingers under running water a few times to make this process easier)

    Rip off small chunks and make them into small ball/circular shapes by hand

    Roll in coconut.  Enjoy!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for 2 pieces):

    250 calories
    3.5 grams saturated fat
    240 milligrams sodium
    0 grams added sugar
    6 grams fiber
    6 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E

    Good source of: Niacin, protein, riboflavin

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Ridiculously Easy Pie Crust

    dates crustI always enjoy experimenting with new pie recipes (especially of the vegan variety), but find pie crust to be an often-times challenging obstacle.

    Most ready-to-use pie crust products on the market have horrid ingredient lists.

    If I choose to make my own at home, it’s either taking out the rolling pin I do not own, or mixing together crushed graham crackers with butter.

    Alas, this recipe not only makes a delicious pie crust in minutes, it’s also chock full of nutrients.

    Whenever I have served pies made with this crust in the past, the only comments I get are how delicious it is.  Busting the “health food tastes like cardboard” myth one dessert at a time!

    YIELDS: One 8 or 9 inch pie crust

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 1/3 cups almonds
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup pitted dates

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Place almonds, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in blender and process until coarse texture is achieved.

    Add dates, process until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

    Press onto pie plate with fingers and chill for two or three hours.

    NUTRITION FACTS: (per 1/8 slice)

    215 calories
    1.2 grams saturated fat
    75 milligrams sodium
    4 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Copper, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin, vitamin E

    Good Source of: fiber, potassium

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    You Ask, I Answer: Almond Butter

    Any idea how much almond butter you need to eat to get the same benefits in one ounce of almonds?

    Oddly, I love almond butter but don’t care for whole almonds.

    — “wife2abadge”
    Via the blog

    Yes, slightly less than an ounce (or two tablespoons.)

    The nutritional profile of an ounce of pure almond butter is equal to 1.1 ounces of whole almonds.

    Another way to think about it: it takes approximately 25 or 26 individual almonds to make one ounce/two tablespoons of almond butter.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    One ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 5 more calories than one ounce of raw almonds.

    Remember, the dry roasting process does not add any fat.

    The additional five calories are most likely due to slight changes in nutrient composition as a result of exposure to heat.

    Vitamin and mineral contents are also identical, so the “raw versus roasted” question has a very simple answer: eat whichever type you enjoy most.

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    Numbers Game: Raw Numbers

    One ounce of dry roasted almonds contains _________ more calories than one ounce of raw almonds.

    a) 5
    b) 29
    c) 61

    d) 87

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Slivered Almonds

    Are slivered almonds as nutritious as whole almonds with the brown skin on them?

    — Gary Wington
    (Location withheld)

    Slivered almonds offer as much protein, manganese, selenium, fiber, and heart-healthy fat as their skinned counterparts.

    However, keep in mind that nutrition goes beyond the basic macro (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

    Almond skins contain a high amount of flavonoids. Apart from having health benefits of their own, they help maximize the health benefits of the vitamin E present in actual almonds.

    This study from the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, for instance, found that the flavonoids in almond skins work synergistically with vitamin E in almond “meat” to reduce LDL oxidation (one of the main factors behind the development of atherosclerosis).

    Another example of how a whole food is nutritionally superior to a slightly more processed counterpart.

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