Almonds are the oldest and most widely grown of all the world’s nut crops. They are the seeds of a fruit tree that is related to plums and apricots. Whole almonds are eaten raw or toasted, while almond oil is used in cosmetics and massage oils. Almonds are also highly regarded in ayurveda for their nutritional value and Vata-pacifying effect.
WHAT’S IN THEM?
Worried about gaining weight, many people stay away from nuts and seeds because of their fat content. However, if eaten in moderate quantities, almonds provide several essential nutrients. For one, they are 20% protein. If you eat an ounce of almonds a day (about 24 nuts) you will get about 5.6 grams of protein. They are also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium and contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Maharishi ayurveda recommends sweet almonds instead of bitter ones. Because of their sweet and warming quality, they are best for pacifying Vata dosha. They lubricate the skin and the microcirculatory channels and support all the seven dhatus (tissues), especially Shukra dhatu (reproductive tissue). Almonds are also good for Pitta but people with Kapha imbalance should eat them in small quantities. Due to their heavy quality, you need a strong agni, digestive fire, to metabolize them. If your agni is low, strengthen it first before you take almonds. The only people who should not consume almonds are those with high Pitta in the blood. An ayurvedic consultant can determine whether you have this condition and how to balance it.
HOW TO EAT THEM
Buy whole organic almonds, which contain most of Nature’s intelligence. Their skin is hard to digest so ayurveda recommends blanching them. Soaking also helps their digestibility. If eaten without soaking, they can aggravate Pitta in the blood. The best way to prepare them is to soak them overnight and peel the skin off in the morning. Then you can blend them with dates and raisins, which also reduce Pitta aggravation in the blood. Eat up to 10 almonds in the morning and evening. Almonds should not be eaten by themselves on an empty stomach, but always mixed with other foods such as milk, grains or vegetables, to avoid Pitta imbalance. Since they are so versatile, you can add them to most of your dishes. You can sprinkle chopped almonds on puddings and add them to muffins and breads. You can mix almonds in your grains and cook them together. Add toasted almonds to your salads, or blend them with the salad dressing. Toasting enhances the flavor of the nuts and helps their digestibility. Blend almonds with dates and raisins and add them to your breakfast cereal. Make an almond milk-shake or a fruit smoothie for a satisfying drink. Mixed with walnuts, sunflower seeds, dates and raisins, they provide a delicious and nutritious snack, you can take with you to school or work.
Sweet almond oil is the best massage oil for Vata people, or those with a Vata imbalance. As almonds balance Vata when you eat them, almond oil pacifies Vata when applied externally. It penetrates the skin easily and nourishes the deeper layers.