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Don’t Make this Almond Mistake

Don’t Make this Almond Mistake

Raw almonds deliver a wide array of nutrients and health benefits; but are the almonds you’re buying truly “raw”?

Raw almonds contain a bevy of important micronutrients that support health. They support heart health, gut health, fight inflammation, reduce insulin resistance, and help with weight control. It’s relatively well-known that roasting almonds reduces their nutrient content, which is why many health-conscious consumers opt for raw almonds. The problem is, if you’re buying your almonds from a store, it’s almost guaranteed that they are not truly “raw,” even if it says so on the package. To get real raw almonds, the only way to do so is directly from a grower.

By law, almonds have to be pasteurized. This arose in response to outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 traced to raw almonds grown in California that sickened 33 people; no one died. As a result, the Almond Board of California and the USDA created a mandatory program in 2007 requiring all almonds to be sterilized through one of several treatment processes, including chemical treatment with propylene oxide (PPO), oil or dry roasting, blanching, or steam. Note that organic regulations prohibit the use of PPO. Irradiation was used for a number of years, but the Almond Board now says that almond pasteurization does not include irradiation.

Oil roasting, dry roasting, and blanching cook the nuts, so it is absurd that they are still able to be labeled as raw. Steam also heats the almonds to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, negatively affecting its nutrition profile. Truly raw almonds retain the live enzymes that help your body digest, sparing the pancreas the work of making those digestive enzymes. Heating the almonds also oxidizes the omega-3 fatty acids in the almonds, potentially turning them rancid and producing free radicals, which contribute to inflammation and all kinds of health problems. According to the USDA’s own data, raw almonds have significantly more calcium, iron, potassium, fiber, manganese, and vitamin E than blanched almonds (which are only minimally cooked).

Then there’s chemical treatment with PPO. The substance is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The chemical is classified as “possibly” carcinogenic only because no epidemiological studies have been conducted to assess the long-term health effects of this chemical treatment. The European Union and other countries have banned PPO-treated foods. PPI is so volatile that it is used in fuel–air bombs.

Again, there is no labeling requirement to show that almonds have been steamed or treated with PPO, so consumers are misled into thinking they are eating truly natural raw almonds when, in fact, they are not. Labeling is an absolute necessity for consumers to make an informed choice.

When the rule was instituted, raw and organic almond farmers were outraged and pushed back. They fought the USDA, and in 2010 a federal appeals court ruled they could challenge USDA’s almond regulation. ANH-USA submitted an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs (an amicus curiae, Latin for “friend of the court,” is an outsider who provides information to assist the court in making its decision). The lawsuit was unsuccessful, so the problems remain.

Truly raw almonds can still be sold, but only direct-to-consumer in small batches. 

We have a problem in this country with truth in labeling. Almonds sold as “raw” are allowed to be cooked or chemically treated. Consumers need transparency, yet lawmakers and federal agencies, time and again, work on behalf of industry to obfuscate the truth. 

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9 thoughts on “Don’t Make this Almond Mistake

  • Linda Milkes

    I had an email fight with the FDA when this first happened. Raw almonds naturally taste slightly sweet, like marzipan. Pasteurized almonds taste like fish.

  • dismal dave

    Well what do you know. This post helps shed some light on why I was experiencing intestinal distress, “the Squirts”, at least once a week for several years until I suspected the raw almonds I was eating several days a week, sometimes daily, may have been the cause. Sure enough, when I stopped eating em raw, the squirts went away. I did switch to roasted almonds but wound up quitting them after a while. No squirts but light intestinal issues just the same.

  • Barbara Clark

    Thank you for this article. I was aware of this information on almonds, but I continued to buy them “organic” and “raw”, even though they may not be because I enjoyed them for the taste and health benefits. Consequently I have lowered my access to them …. Will our food ever be safe? Until there is a huge change in agriculture and government, I do not think so in my lifetime. it is truly sad!

  • Emiliano DeJesus

    We the consumer demand the truth! Make the labeling an absolute necessity so that we the consumer would know exactly what process and additives are in our foods so that we could make a better decision while shopping for foods.

  • Tim M

    Almonds are often sprayed with a fungicide called Eagle 20, a Myclobutanil-based fungicide. Usu regarded safe (some others like to counter that) but not if it gets heated too high (burnt) above 401F.
    Mycobutanil converts to hydrogen cyanide. Just saying… Cafeful not to toast them too much.

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