In a previous post I listed almonds as one of six foods I eat every day. I adore them, and aside from being delicious and filling, research on the health and weight-loss benefits of these gems just keeps piling up. A new Penn State study concluded that swapping a carb-y snack for an ounce and a half of almonds (about 33 whole nuts) helped lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as reduce both belly and leg fat (impressive!).
While it’s super easy to eat them “as is” (think: adding them to yogurt or sprinkling them on a salad), there are plenty of other ways to incorporate almonds into meals and snacks. Here are five of my favorite simple, healthy combinations.
If you have a powerful blender you can use whole almonds, but almond butter easily whips into any smoothie. In addition to adding nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and bonus protein, the good-for-you fat in almonds boosts the absorption of antioxidants from the produce in your drink. I have dozens of favorite blends, but one of my go-tos lately is a cherry-chocolate-almond combo made with: a cup of frozen cherries, handful of fresh spinach, half a cup each of almond milk and water, tablespoon of almond butter, scoop of pea protein powder, tablespoon of organic non-alkalized cocoa, half teaspoon of vanilla extract, and dash of cinnamon. Heavenly.
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As a crust for lean protein
Rather than breading proteins before cooking, you can use almonds as a crust. For a super simple version, just toss crushed almonds or almond flour (sometimes called almond meal) with herbs of your choice, brush your protein with Dijon mustard or dip into a lightly beaten egg, press with the almond mixture, and bake (400° F for 8-10 minutes is about right for white fish). Serve over a bed of steamed greens with a small portion of whole food starch, like roasted fingerling potatoes. Delish!
As a crumble topping
After warming either fresh of frozen fruit on the stove top, I cover it with a crumble made from two tablespoons of almond butter mixed with a quarter cup of raw or toasted rolled oats, seasoned with either pumpkin or apple pie spice. (It’s a little messy, but the easiest way to make it uniform is to get right in there with your fingers rather than trying to use utensils.) It’s ridiculously good on any of your favorite fruits, such as a freshly sliced apple or pear sautéed in a little water and lemon juice, warmed frozen berries or cherries, or a slightly mashed mini banana.
In a sauce
I had a blast creating more than 100 new recipes for my upcoming book Slim Down Now, and one of my favorites includes a sauce I make from almond butter, thinned with organic low-sodium vegetable broth, and seasoned with fresh grated ginger, garlic, turmeric, and crushed red pepper. It’s awesome paired with a generous portion of steamed or sautéed veggies, a lean protein (like shrimp or black-eyed peas), and a small portion of a healthy starch such as gluten-free buckwheat soba noodles or brown rice. Seems decadent, but this healthy dish will leave you simultaneously feeling light, energized, and satisfied.
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Added to savory dishes
I add chopped, sliced, or slivered almonds to hot dishes including stir frys, grains like wild rice and quinoa, cooked veggies (who doesn’t love green bean almondine), and even soups like squash, lentil, or tomato. Finely chopped almonds also add flavor and texture to chilled vegetable, grain, bean, or fruit dishes, like vinegar-based slaw, and cold ginger broccoli, three bean, or seasonal fruit salads. Like a great pair of jeans, almonds go with just about everything!
Meet Cynthia Sass at the Health Total Wellness Weekend at Canyon Ranch in May 2015. For details, go to Health.com/TotalWellness.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.