Almonds, ripening on the tree

As 2015 comes to a close and I reflect back on my year of nutrition opportunities and adventures, the experience that stands out the most was participating in the Almond Orchard Tour sponsored by the Almond Board of California. This tour took me into the beautiful Central Valley of Lodi and Modesto, California, for three fabulous days. I learned about current almond research, met amazing people involved in the almond industry, became familiar with almond growers’ sustainable agricultural practices and was inspired by incredible colleagues from across North America.

Before travelling to California, I thought I had a good understanding of the nutrition benefits of almonds. However, this tour enhanced my knowledge beyond just the nutrition facts of almonds, and increased my love for this nut. Standing in the orchard and listening to the growers explain the farming techniques was the highlight of the tour for me.  I feel privileged to have been one of 24 dietitians and food writers from across North America invited to the 2015 Almond Orchard Tour. It is an experience I will cherish and the knowledge gained is being shared with patients and clients to help improve their health through enjoying almonds everyday.

I had the opportunity to share some of my newly acquired almond knowledge on CTV Winnipeg Morning Live:



My Almond Tour Highlights

Almonds are ripe and ready to be harvested when the hull splits open. Ripe almonds are shaken off the tree. They are left on the ground to dry for a week before being collected. Special machinery is used that separates the nuts from the leaves and soil
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Inside the beautiful almond orchard canopy. It was a warm day, but the almond trees provided spectacular shade
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We watch in awe as almonds are shaken from the tree



Creating Almond Inspired Snacks at “The Snack-off Competition!”

FullSizeRender “Smart Snack-off” Competition: It was fun creating an almond inspired snack recipe! We were put into groups, had ample almond ingredients at our finger tips, and 30 minutes to create an enticing, delicious snack. Our group made the winning almond snack: Triple Almond Energy Bars! We used whole almonds, almond butter and slivered almonds. Triple yum!


Getting to Know Amazing Colleagues

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Early morning yoga set the stage for a day of fun and learning. Thanks to our dietitian colleague and yoga instructor extrodinairre Alex Caspero for an invigorating practice. Namaste
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We were treated to a winery tour and fantastic almond inspired dinner at the Lange Twins Winery after a day of learning
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Final farewell group photo following a spectacular picnic lunch overlooking the orchards at the Travail and Phippen Almond Farms


Some Unique Almond Facts I Learned on My Tour

I was lucky to see some of California’s almond harvest late last summer and it’s funny to think that now, those almonds I saw being shaken from trees may be the ones I’m buying at the grocery store. Here are some points I learned on my tour, which have stuck with me:

  • The water used to grow almond trees produces two crops: the almond kernel, which is the nut we eat, and the fuzzy, dry almond hull, which is used to feed livestock and decreases the need to grow other feed crops. Even the shells are ground up and re-used as livestock bedding.
  • Almond growers care so much about their orchards. In fact, 90% of the farms are family-owned, many by third- and fourth-generation farmers.
  • Almond growers use a lot of water-saving techniques. These include things like using micro-irrigation so that as little water as possible is used to grow almonds, and it goes precisely to the roots; decreasing water runoff; and precisely monitoring how much and when trees need to be watered. So over the past two decades, almond growers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33%, and crop yields have actually increased.

Since the Tour, I’ve Learned a Couple of New Things

  • The Almond Board of California has embarked on a new initiative with an environmental group called Sustainable Conservation to explore using almond orchards and excess floodwater to recharge groundwater in some of California’s communities where it’s been depleted due to ongoing drought.
  • A recently published study found that almond trees in California absorb and store significant amounts of greenhouse gas throughout their lifespans. As the almond community continues to use its co-products from producing and harvesting almonds—like hulls, shells and other tree components—they’ll further contribute to becoming carbon neutral, or even carbon negative if policy changes and production advancements work hand in hand.

Overall, what I’ve been learning underscores that when we eat almonds, we’re choosing more than just a highly nutritious food. To learn more about the almond growers’ hard and smart work visit: almondsustainability.org

Almonds Benefit Health

For two decades, the Almond Board of California has invested in sound science to better understand the health benefits of almonds.  Some of the areas almonds help keep you healthy are:

Heart Health:

  • Research shows that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and cholesterol levels.

Weight Management:

  • A daily handful of almonds helps to control cravings and therefore helps us maintain a healthy body weight.

Diabetes Prevention:

  • Almonds’ unique nutrient profile makes them a great choice for helping to normalize blood sugar levels.

Almonds – A Nutrition Powerhouse!

Almonds help your body get more key nutrients like protein, fibre and good fats. One ounce per day is a fabulous way to increase the overall nutrition profile of your daily diet.  New research findings have concluded that almonds provide about 20% fewer calories than originally thought. While the composition of almonds hasn’t changed, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have used a new method of measuring the calories in almonds, which has allowed them to determine the number of calories actually digested and absorbed. Researchers found that participants absorbed just 129 calories in a 1 oz (28g) serving of almonds, compared to 160 calories that is currently on the label.

1 Serving = 1 oz (28 g) = 23 Almonds Contains:

Protein: 6 g

  • Key building block for the body
  • Helps build muscle
  • Important for tissue healing and repair

Fibre: 4 g

  • Helps stabilize blood sugars
  • Improves digestive health
  • Keeps you feeling full

Vitamin E: 7.3 mg

  • Antioxidant
  • Protects cells from damage
  • Promotes healthy skin and hair

Monounsaturated Fats: 9 g

  • Decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increases HDL (good) cholesterol

Potassium: 200 mg

  • Helps normalize blood pressure
  • Maintains regular heart rate

Magnesium: 77 mg

  • Regulates muscle and nerve function

Different Forms of Almonds and Their Uses

  • Whole – perfect for snacking, trail mixes, adding to recipes like granola, energy bars, making into roasted or coated nuts
  • Sliced, flakes, slivered, halved, diced, or chopped – can be used in a variety of recipes as toppings, garnish, in baked goods or as a crust or coating
  • Almond meal or flour – can be used to thicken sauces, soups and stews, or in baked goods as well as a coating. In addition, almond flour is gluten-free! Try swapping out 1/3 – 1/2 of flour for almond flour in any recipe for added nutrition.
  • Almond milk – can be used on cereal, in coffee, or blended into smoothies
  • Almond butter – a great alternative to other spreads and can be used as a filling for chocolate, in cereal bars, and baking. You can also add almond butter to smoothies
  • Almond oil – try using it in salad dressings, dipping sauces or as a flavourful drizzle on top of steamed vegetables

Sesame Honeyed Almonds



1 cup whole natural almonds
2 tbsp honey
20g (4tsp) sesame seeds

(Recipe courtesy of Almond Board of California)

Step 1

Place the almonds into a non-stick frying pan with the honey. Stir to mix, then heat gently for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sticky.


Step 2

Add the sesame seeds and stir to coat.

Step 3

Remove from the heat and put on a single layer on parchment.  Best to let dry overnight.



This recipe makes a great snack or packaged in a decorative jar as a healthy gift.