Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making A Really Good Thing Bad for You

Google almonds.

Any discussion about healthful eating includes a recommendation for including a handful of almonds each day.

You'll find almonds listed in:

"Fifteen best foods for runners," 
"Ten nutritional powerhouse foods"
"Top five foods to lower your cholestoral
"Ten best protein sources"
"Ten best foods for flat abs"

The list goes on and on. 

And the most healthy of the healthy is the raw almond.  Studies comparing the nutritional and health benefits of raw to roasted almonds show the nutritional content of raw almonds is negligably better.  Roasted nuts lose a minimal amount of B vitamin and anti-oxidents in the roasting process, and certain roasting procedures can damage the nut's fatty acid content, leaving a rancid flavor.   However, roasted nuts often have added oils (unless dry roasted), salt, sometimes sugars and other additives.  Given almonds' high caloric value, adding calories through oil roasting or added sugars is highly undesirable.

But then there's salmonella.  

Since 2007, the FDA has required raw almonds to be treated for salmonella.  Salmonella is bad, but the treatment itself can be carcinogenic.   Unless you buy organic.

According to Worlds' Healthiest Foods, mandatory pasturization to inhibit salmonella can be handled one of two ways, exposure to steam heat sufficient to raise the almonds' surface temperature high enough to destroy the salmonella, or to fumigate the nuts with propylene oxide gas.

Propylene oxide has demonstrated carcinogenic implications.  Not to mention it is used in motor oils to enhance racing performance!

To make sure you are getting steam-treated almonds rather than propylene oxide treated nuts,  you must buy organic.  Propylene oxide nuts are not allowed to be labeled organic.

More on propylene:
More on the nutritional value of almonds:


  1. interesting tidbit on almonds. Do you know of any other nuts that provide a similar benefit but aren't so damn expensive?

  2. Peanuts are also healthy, and usually cheaper than almonds. However, almonds are among the cheapest of the nuts - much less pricey than cashews or pecans. I say "shop around." Almond prices can vary a lot. I've found almonds pretty cheap at - of all places - Walmart! Here's an article on the health merits of different types of nuts.

  3. Thanks for this valuable information. I do love almonds! BTW, almonds have a very interesting history of human domestication. Several thousand years ago, they were extremely bitter and considered inedible. Indeed, they were poisonous due to the presence of cyanide. Every once in a while, however, a tree growing 'sweet' almonds would be discovered due to a genetic mutation. Through selection only those trees growing 'sweet' almonds would be propagated thereby leading to harvesting of sweet, edible almonds. Bitter, cyanide-laced almonds still predominate in the wild.