The common almond has a secret life: Under it’s unassuming exterior is one of nature’s wonder foods. In Sicily and the south of mainland Italy (think the heal and the toe of “the boot”), grandmothers have long prized almonds and almond paste for their healing qualities. They use the paste in many of their recipes, including the island’s wonderful almond granita. They also use almonds in pastry fillings and even pasta sauces, such as almond pesto.

Whether you come up with an elaborate recipe or eat them plain, almonds are a perfect snack during treatment, an easy way to get added vitamins and nutrients. They are an excellent source of essential fatty acids as well as the dietary fiber that helps maintain regular digestion. They are also high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.

Another enjoyable way to get the benefits of almonds is by drinking almond milk. Nut milks have long been popular in other cultures and are beginning to catch on in the United States. Almond milk is now widely available at grocery stories and is a great alternative to dairy or soy. Delicious on its own, almond milk can be added to coffee, tea or smoothies. Increasingly, other nut milks such as hazelnut and cashew are also available.

While many almond products can be found on store shelves, there’s no comparison to the real homemade thing. But if you don’t have almond paste, fear not–you’d be surprised how easy it is to make your own almond milk, and the delicate freshness of the beverage makes the small amount of work worth it.

On a hot summer day, it’s hard to find a better lifter-upper than a chilled glass of almond milk, or an almond milk slushy blended with ice. Get creative and add your favorite extras–berries or bananas can turn your almond milk into a delicious and healthy smoothie.



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