February 16th is National Almond Day. Whether you are eating them by themselves, using almond milk, pasta, flour, butter, oil or meal, almonds offer a delicious flavor along with many health benefits. Almonds are one of the most heart-healthy foods on the market, packed with vitamin E, magnesium and fiber.
- According to a survey of 500 health professionals, almonds may be beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.
- According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
- Recent research from Purdue University suggests that eating almonds can help people feel satisfied for several hours, which can support weight management and counter weight gain.
- Eighty percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California.
- By 4,000 B.C. people were cultivating almond trees, which blossomed well in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
- Hebrew literature from 2,000 B.C. mentions almonds.
- The Bible makes numerous references to almonds as an object of value and symbol of hope. In Genesis 43:11, for example, a famine in Canaan prompts Jacob to ask his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain. He told them, “Take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.”
- King Tut took several handfuls of almonds to his grave in 1352 B.C., to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife.
- Persians and Arabs made a milk of almond meal and water, which they valued both as a refreshing drink and as an ingredient in other foods.
Worship, Legends & Customs
It’s said Moses crafted pure gold lamps in the shape of almonds, Persian rug makers wove their image into rugs and Van Gogh devoted many paintings to their likeness. Since at least biblical times, it’s believed the almond has been revered in art, music and literature as emblems of beauty, hope and rebirth.
The shape of the almond seed is prominent in religious art of the Renaissance and earlier. The distinctive oval of the kernel forms a halo around religious figures in paintings, stained glass windows, frescoes, friezes, and in many other art forms to signify spiritual energy or to serve as a protective shield. Widely used by Italian artists, the halo was referred to as a mandorla, the Italian word for almond.
Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Bible’s Book of Numbers tells the story of Aaron’s rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.
The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, North Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find it, and good fortune is yours for a year.
Consumption of almonds in India is believed to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.