How True Are Your Raw Almonds?
How true are your raw almonds? “Raw” doesn’t necessarily mean unpasteurized when it comes to almonds.
According to NPR, all California almonds — which would be virtually all the almonds in the country — are either heat-pasteurized or treated with a fumigant. The processes, which have been required by law since September 1, 2007, are intended to prevent food-born illness. But almond aficionados say the treatments taint the flavor, takes away its nutritional value, and misleads consumers.
Difference between Pasteurization and Fumigation
- Pasteurization or Steam Heating exposes the almonds to steam heat sufficient to raise the surface temperature of the almond kernels to about 200°F (93°C).
- Fumigation process fumigates the almonds, inserted into a closed chamber, to propylene oxide gas. If not pasteurized or steamed, under law, almonds must be fumigated with a chemical called propylene oxide, or PPO. Propylene oxide is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen.
Linda Harris, a cooperative extension specialist who researches food safety at the University of California, Davis, says “There is no legal definition, no federal definition of the word ‘raw’.” She predicts that sterilization of a lot more foods will soon be required by law.
Labeling DOES NOT require which type of pasteurization is used, however only steam is approved for an organic product.
Fumigation with propylene oxide is not allowed in the processing of almonds if the almonds are going to be sold as certified organic.
Collateral Damage of Heat Processing
There are many downsides to buying heat or pasteurized almonds.
- Steam-Heat Pasteurization damages most water-soluble vitamins.
- Steam heating destroys most of the health-beneficial enzymes within the almond. Unpastuerized (truly raw) almonds retain the live enzymes that help your body with digestion. Enzymes in the live nut spare our pancreas from the extra work of manufacturing and secreting digestive enzymes needed for digestion.
- Raw almonds are an excellent source of omega 9 Monosaturate fats, but once the almonds are heat treated, those fragile omega 9 fats become rancid and oxidized. And if the “raw” almonds you happen to buy are the ones that were sterilized with propylene oxide, you are now consuming a toxin that your liver is saddled with trying to detoxify.
- Steamed (pasteurized) almonds are less crunchy and taste slightly less rich.
- Phytic acid (aka phytate) is a substance found in many types of plant foods, such as grains, legumes (including peanuts and soybeans), nuts, and seeds. It binds to essential minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium in the digestive tract and inhibits their absorption by the body. Phytase enzyme neutralizes phytic acid and liberates the phosphorus. Humans do not produce enough phytase to safely consume large quantities of high-phytate foods on a regular basis. Phytase is destroyed by steam heat at about 176 degrees Fahrenheit in ten minutes or less. In a wet solution, phytase is destroyed at 131-149 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus heat processing will completely destroy phytase. As an additional note, careful preparation of raw nuts and seeds with an overnight soak in salted water and then drying in a warm oven or dehydrator is necessary to eliminate difficult-to-digest anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors present in the hulls of all seeds. Here is a great video tutorial on how to soak, dehydrate and make your own almond butter. Refer to my recommendation below of where to get your raw almonds.
In a nutshell (pun intended), besides altering the texture, taste and flavor of the nut, pasteurization kills enzymes and vitamins and makes the good-fat part of this food rancid.
Buying “raw” almonds doesn’t mean unpasteurized, but it may mean that it is not roasted.
For instance Trader Joe’s California “raw” almonds are steam pasteurized and are heated to 115 degrees. Does Trader Joe’s call their almonds “raw” because steam pasteurization of almonds is an industry standard, or because it is not roasted, or because they are mislabeling? It is not clear which.
Nutritional Benefits of Truly Raw Almonds
- Naturally Gluten Free
- Aids in weight loss: Research has found that people can snack on modest amounts of them without gaining pounds, and that nuts can even help in slimming down  .
- Protects against Diabetes: Intake of organic almonds has positive effects on blood sugar and helps maintain insulin sensitivity. Almonds appear to decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar.
- Provides Energy: Almonds are all-natural energy-boosters. In addition to their role in glucose metabolism, organic almonds are packed with the right combination of minerals that speed up the production of cellular energy. Magnesium, manganese, and copper are dietary elements involved in different metabolic pathways that lead to the generation of adenosine triphosphate, which powers cellular activities.
- Scavenges Free Radicals: Free radicals are almost always incriminated in the formation and progression of many known diseases, which is the reason why antioxidants have become a major component of nutrition today. Organic almonds contain up to 45% RDA of vitamin E. Furthermore, they are one of the best natural sources of selenium and manganese, two trace minerals that raises the antioxidant defense of the human body.
- Facilitates Regularity: Nuts are generally considered high-fiber foods, and almonds are no exception. Fiber adds bulk to stool and attracts water in the colon to facilitate regular bowel movements. By doing so, it enables the smooth muscles along the gut to perform peristaltic movements, which are pivotal in the passage of waste materials. The fiber content of organic almonds makes them a viable treatment for constipation.
- Improves Complexion: Throughout the centuries, almonds have been utilized as ingredients to skin care products. For example, the oil is extracted from the nuts and applied to the skin during massages. Modern science points to the unique nutrient profile of organic almonds that strengthens the capacity of the epidermis to ward off irritants and nourishes the lipids found in the skin .
- Sharpens Memory: Organic almonds are among the oldest foods believed to have brain-boosting properties. For one, they are a rich source of fatty acids (albeit fragile) that are important to the synthesis of brain chemicals and activation of neuronal activities. More importantly, their nutritional value remains largely unrivaled by other natural sources touted to enhance mental clarity and improve cognitive function .
- Reduce risk of Heart Disease: Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
- Almonds are loaded with minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and folic acid . One serving of almonds (20-25 almonds) contains 12% of the daily value of protein and 35% of the daily value of Vitamin E according to a 2,000 calorie diet. Almonds are the best whole food source for Vitamin E, which is known for its cancer fighting qualities.
- Provide lots of healthy fiber.
- Prevent Gallstones: preventing gallbladder disease may be as easy as having a handful of almonds as an afternoon pick me up, tossing some almonds on your salad each week.
- Calcium: One serving of almonds contains as much calcium as ¼ cup of milk, a valuable tool in preventing osteoporosis and building strong bones and teeth.
- Magnesium: more than oatmeal or spinach.
The almond may be considered a fruit or a seed, but it is one of the healthiest nuts around. About 30 grams of almonds have 184 calories and 16.8 grams of fat. This may seem like a lot of fat, but the fat in almonds is considered to be healthy fat, or monounsaturated fat. The same serving provides 9% of the daily calcium intake and 29% of the daily magnesium intake. They are also good sources of zinc, Vitamin E, potassium, phosphorous, iron, Vitamin C, foliate, Vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, fiber and protein. They also help to lower cholesterol, heart disease and the risk of cancer. The flavonoids in almonds are very beneficial to the body.
How to Buy Truly Raw Almonds?
It has become illegal for 100% raw almonds to be manufactured and sold in the United States, with two exceptions and two ways you can still buy truly raw almonds:
- Almond growers can receive exemption from these requirements if they can show that their ordinary manufacturing process achieves the same minimum 4 process reduction in Salmonella content. For example, their ordinary manufacturing process might include enough dry roasting or blanching to accomplish this same goal.
- Almond growers can also receive exemption if they will only be selling their almonds directly to customers at local markets, with a limit of 100 pounds per person per day in direct farmer’s market sales.
How Do Brand Names Fare?
Here is the research from Food Identity Theft:
- Costco’s Kirkland Signature chocolate-covered almonds as well as their whole almonds are fumigated with PPO.
- Planter’s brand almonds (now owned by Kraft Foods) are heat-treated.
- Diamond of California almonds are treated with PPO fumigation.
- Blue Diamond almonds vary. Sliced and slivered almonds are heat-treated, while their whole-nut ‘natural’ line is treated with PPO. Some other Blue Diamond products containing almonds may use steam-treated almonds.
- Whole Foods Market 365 brand is a question. There is an organic 365 line that is almost certainly heat-treated, and a conventional 365 line that may or may not be.
- Back to Nature almonds are heat-treated.
- Superior Nut Company almonds are gassed with PPO, with the exception of their organic almonds sold online, which may be imported and not even subject to being heated to a temperature of 200.
- Trader Joe’s says all the almonds sold under the their name are heat-treated.
BareFood Angel Solution
Pasteurizing or fumigating our food is like placing a Bandaid on a wound. Bandaids work if it offers a temporary solution that doesn’t leave a long lasting effect.
Pasteurization creates “dead” food.
Food born illness is an important issue to consider. Perhaps understanding the underlying reason why Salmonella bacteria become present in certain batches of almonds is the first step in creating a solution.
Non-sustainable approaches to growing and inappropriate post-harvest processing create problems that until just recently we, collectively, haven’t had much experience knowing how to deal with.
Almonds are not the first or last food that have gone through scrutiny as far as food-born illness prevention is concerned. There will be many more other conventionally grown and processed foods that will cause food-born illnesses. We will hear more illogical “solutions” like irradiation or pasteurization.
Meanwhile the real problem….the source which is always linked to an industrial food system of mass production with run off water from nearby CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation), or use of pesticides (to kill pests that are a nuisance rather than deadly) that weakens the plants natural defense systems. Not to mention use of unsustainable farming which promotes use of chemical fertilizer and again weakens the plant’s natural ability to grow as strong as it can, and not providing the consumers with all the minerals that natural compost/fertilizer and biodynamic farming food would.
This is why we almost always buy from local farmers that we trust, so the fruits and veggies are picked that day vs. picked weeks in advance.
As more and more of our food is sterilized in the name of food safety, the more enzymes in our food supply will erode making our digestive systems go into overdrive trying to produce enzymes that naturally come from live food. “Dead” foods throw your system off balance. An off balance body then resorts to supplements and medication when not given proper nutrients.
The more we refine our foods (adulterating it, chemically treating it or pasteurization), the more rancid the fragile monosaturated and polysaturated fats will be in our foods. The more refined foods we consume, the more rancid fats we consume. The more rancid fats we consume, the more inflammation we trigger in our bodies, making us susceptible to diseases.
You can not find truly raw almonds at big retail stores as growers are not directly selling to customers.
There are a few options to get 100% raw organically grown almonds.
- Your best option is to purchase from a grower at a local farmer’s market. Ask the grower if they apply heat or fumigation to treat their almonds.
- You may buy from a grower who has received exemption from the mandatory processing rules. This one is harder to hunt.
- The last option is buying from a certified organic almond grower outside of the United States who exports almonds to this country.
Hope this was helpful and empowering. Would love to hear what luck you have finding raw almonds. Would you share the sources you trust in the comment section below so that we can all benefit?
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