Rich in the antioxidant vitamin E along with an abundance of flavonoids, monounsaturated fat, and fiber, almonds supply fantastic nutrition for maintaining a strong and healthy heart. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the consumption of almonds with their skins significantly lowered cholesterol levels. The synergy of vitamin E and flavonoids in the skin of almonds appears to be the key. Almonds also reduce C-reactive protein, which is an indicator of inflammation that damages the arteries. By soaking nuts overnight with a pinch of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, nutrients are preserved and digestibility is enhanced.
Cherries, hemp seed, and cacao also provide excellent heart-friendly nutrition. Cherries contain anthocyanin (plant-based flavonoids) that display strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits. These qualities positively influence blood vessels, platelets and lipoproteins which reduce the risk of heart disease. The oil in hemp seeds lowers cholesterol while supplying an outstanding source of essential fatty acids. This healthy fat further helps to protect the heart by curbing inflammation and removing plaque from the arterial walls. Procyanidin, a powerful antioxidant flavonoid found in cacao, also promotes heart health by protecting tissue from oxidation while maintaining vascular tone. You can learn more here.
Enjoy the sweet benefits of almonds, cherries, hemp, and cacao in the following recipe. Your heart with thank you for it.
*Organic ingredients are always best for optimum health, quality, and taste.
Raw Almond-Cherry Cookies with Cacao and Hemp Seed
1 1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 teaspoon each pure, glycerin-based almond and vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange peel
1/8 cup hemp seed hearts
Cover whole almonds with water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Soak 8-12 hours or overnight. Drain off excess water and place almonds into a mesh strainer over a bowl, uncovered, in refrigerator for several days. Toss almonds twice per day to aerate and speed drying time. Once almonds are completely dry, about three days, remove from refrigerator. In a food processor fitted with the S- blade, pulse 1-cup of the almonds with nutmeg, cacao and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt until coarsely chopped. Add cherries and both extracts; pulse until mixture is smooth. Place in a small mixing bowl and combine with orange zest and hemp seeds. Set aside.
With remaining 1/2-cup of soaked and dried almonds, process in a coffee grinder until finely ground. Set aside. Using a small, oiled cookie scoop, form dough into balls and roll in almond meal. Set on plate and repeat process. Chill for at least two hours and store in a sealed container.
Alternatively, the cookies can be shaped with heart cookie cutter. Instead of rolling the dough balls in almond meal, skip this step. On parchment paper, form the dough into a 3-inch wide log, wrap with parchment and seal completely by twisting the ends. Chill for 3 hours. Unwrap and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Using a well-greased cookie cutter, punch out each shape and set a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once full, place the sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the following ingredients in a medium bowl:
1 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 drops natural food coloring
With a stand or hand mixer, beat the coconut oil until creamy. Add the agave, lemon juice and coloring. Mix well.
Remove cookies from refrigerator and spread an even layer of the glaze over each shape. Chill at least 20 minutes before serving. Store in a sealed container (with parchment paper dividers for each layer) in the refrigerator.