Disclosure: This post is based on my experience with the Almond Board of California’s sponsored trip in September 2016. I was not required to write a blog post, did not receive compensation for this post and all opinions are my own. I just love almonds!
Last month I had the awesome opportunity to travel up to Lodi, California with a group of other Registered Dietitians/Food Bloggers and the Almond Board of California to learn about the growing and harvesting of almonds, as well as tour an almond orchard and processing facility. Wow! I will never look at an almond in the same way! So much work and dedication goes into those bags of almonds you purchase from the grocery store! It was great to see how such a popular item in our food supply is produced.
Here are seven awesome facts about almonds that I want to share with you!
1 – One serving is bigger than you think! We often hear that a serving of nuts is 1 ounce, but what does that even look like? About 24 to 26 almonds.
2 – Less calories than we thought! We actually may absorb 20% fewer calories than what’s listed on the nutrition facts panel according to a 2012 USDA study. Why you ask? Researchers at Kings College London believe the answer lies with the fiber. The chewing process doesn’t seem to break down all of the tough fibrous cell walls in whole almonds. The cell wall acts as a barrier to digestive enzymes that want to get inside to release and break down the fat. Research is in the works to see if this is also the case for other forms of almonds like sliced and slivered.
3 – Almonds & bees need each other. Bees are vital to the growing of almonds and it’s a mutual relationship. The almond blossoms will provide the first natural food of the year for the bees. For every one flower that a bee pollinates, one almond is produced.
4 – Water conservation is a top priority. Sometimes inaccurate info spreads like wildfire. This was the case when a Slate reporter made the claim that almonds use 10% of California’s water supply. The reporter later retracted this false statement, but unfortunately it will probably live forever on the internet. According the Almond Board, water efficiency over the past 20 years has improved by 33%. The total amount of almonds has increased over the past 20 years, but the water use has remained pretty constant. As the Almond Board likes to say, “more crop per drop.”
5 – Machines make the almond trees “rain”! If you think almonds get picked one by one, you’re not exactly correct. A machine stops by each tree and vigorously shakes the almonds from the tree. The almonds then dry in the sun and are then swept up by another machine. Play the video below to see how growers make it “rain”!
— Lindsey Pine, MS RD (@TastyBalance) September 14, 2016
6 – You can eat green almonds. Did you know that almonds are green and fuzzy when young? Not only are they edible, but they are also a delicacy in certain cultures, such as those in the Middle East. Cut open the green coating and pop out the small white nut. It tastes like cucumber! Try adding to salads for a an unexpected herbaceous flavor.
7 – There’s a difference between almond meal vs almond flour. If you like to bake, you’ve probably seen recipes that call for either almond meal or almond flour, but what’s the difference?
Meal = from natural almonds, meaning almonds with the brown papery skin
Flour= usually from blanched almonds to give the final product a white appearance
During the almond tour, we had a chance to play Top Chef by getting into teams and creating a snack using various almond products. My team made Almond Joy Bliss Bites using almond butter, flax, oats, coconut, brown rice syrup, dark chocolate and chopped almonds. Originally, I was going to recreate that recipe here, but, that didn’t quite go as planned and I wanted to use up a banana that was super ripe! Almond Joy Bliss Bites morphed into Almond, Chocolate & Banana Bliss Bites and they taste almost like a chocolate truffle!
These energy bites remind me of chocolate truffles! Decadent, but full of highly nutritious ingredients to tide you over as a snack, satisfy your sweet tooth for dessert, or even fill in as a grab n' go breakfast. For additional banana flavor, try adding a dash of banana liqueur or banana flavor.
If you don't want to hand chop the almonds, you can also use a food processor.
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond butter, smooth or crunchy
- 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
- 2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 1/4 cup mashed very ripe banana
- 1 large, soft date, pitted and chopped until mashed
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped into very small shards and pieces (I used 72% cacao)
- 1 ounce raw almonds (about 24-26 almonds), finely chopped
- In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the almond butter, oats, ground flax seed, mashed banana, mashed date, cinnamon and chocolate. Stir until well combined and the chocolate is distributed equally throughout mixture.
- Spread chopped almonds onto a plate.
- Use a tablespoon size measuring spoon to scoop out level tabelspoons of the mixture, roll into balls and roll in the almond mixture until each ball is evenly coated.
- Refrigerate bites for about an hour to firm.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.