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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well

 

Almonds are a heart-healthy choice

handful of almondsSusan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

 

Of all the things to love about almonds, this one should really get your heart pumping: Just a handful of almonds a day may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. That’s good news for just about everyone, as cardiovascular disease holds its spot as the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S. Research shows that a diet high in heart-healthy foods like almonds can reduce cholesterol levels as much as statin drugs like lovastatin and mevastatin.

 

Almonds are also one of the richest sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. A study published in the June 2005 Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming whole almonds, including the skin, doubles the antioxidant intake.

 

Just 1 ounce (22 almonds) packs more protein than an egg and more than 3 grams of dietary fiber. This same portion of almonds provides about 160 calories and the high protein content staves off hunger. Almonds are also a rich source of riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and copper.

 

Shelled almonds may be whole, sliced or slivered with skin on, or blanched with the skin removed. Look for dry-roasted almonds that contain no additional ingredients like sugar or preservatives. Store them in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place to prevent them from going rancid and absorbing odors of other foods. Refrigerated almonds will last several months and up to a year frozen.

 

This heart-healthy recipe is a great way to incorporate almonds into your diet.

 

Savory Cheese and Almond Straws

Servings: 96
Nutrition Information: 37 calories per straw

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound puff pastry dough
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 3/4 cup grated dry cheese, such as Parmesan or aged Gouda
  • 3/4 cup almonds, chopped

 

Preparation:
Thaw pastry overnight in refrigerator or 40 minutes at room temperature. Unfold pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. With the shorter side facing you, roll out each sheet to 12 by 12 inches. Cut each sheet in half, lengthwise. Brush the dough with egg mix and sprinkle with an even coating of cheese and almonds. With a rolling pin, lightly press the mixture into the dough. Cut each half crosswise into 3/4-inch strips. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 400 degrees, 9 to 10 minutes, or until light brown and crisp.

 

For more information, contact your local MU Extension Center or Mills-Gray directly at mills-grays@missouri.edu.

 

Sources:
American Heart Association
California Almond Board
Environmental Nutrition, January 2011

 


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Last update: Tuesday, May 01, 2012