I love almonds. (Who doesn’t?) When I started living a healthy lifestyle ten years ago, I started eating nuts, but not just any nut … raw, organic, almonds. I’d order them by the five-pound case from our local food co-op and make all sorts of raw creations from smoothies to flour.
Back then, raw and organic meant something. I was re-assured when I saw those words that I was consuming something good for me. I thought I was making smart decisions and I didn’t think twice about it.
Raw and Organic Doesn’t Mean “Healthy”
Then I discovered that when it came to almonds, raw and organic aren’t synonymous with healthy — that raw really isn’t “raw” and the term “organic” is just a label left there to fool you into thinking the nuts you’re buying are safe. Did you know that the raw, “organic,” almonds you find in your health food store are toxic and could cause inflammatory conditions and cancer?
I know, right? You’re not alone. That’s how I felt when I discovered that my precious almonds were switched out with mutant impostors. I actually discovered this by chance when I noticed the term “pasteurized” on the label of the almonds I usually purchased. How can something be organic, raw, healthy, and be pasteurized? I immediately stopped eating almonds until I could figure it out.
Why Are Almonds Pasteurized?
A few years ago after a salmonella scare was traced back to raw almonds, the USDA decided that virtually all raw almonds had to be pasteurized. Instead of addressing the environment that caused contamination, they attacked the nut. Pasteurization would eliminate the risk of contamination and by utilizing a special fumigation process, they could still be labeled as “raw.” People have been deceived into thinking this process is safe ever since.
The truth is, pasteurized, raw, “organic” almonds are not safe and they’re technically not even raw. Raw foods are living organisms that contain enzymes, a high nutrient content, and have the ability to sprout. Pasteurized almonds are dead almonds. They have little to no enzyme activity, poor nutrient content, and cannot sprout.
Here is a picture of raw, “organic,” pasteurized almonds that were purchased at a health food store. They were soaked and dried but instead of returning to their original color and crunchy texture, they molded within a few hours. Here is a picture raw, organic, non-pasteurized almonds and what your almonds should look like after they are soaked and dehydrated. This is how an almond should look after this process — crunchy and free of mold.
Why Pasteurized Almonds are Toxic
There’s another concern about almonds related to the pasteurization process itself. Almonds can be pasteurized with steam, high heat (roasting), blanching, or fumigation. If almonds are steam pasteurized or fumigated they can still be classified as raw (and organic). Steam pasteurization kills the living properties of an almond, breaks fat bonds and oxidizes these molecules into free radicals creating potentially harmful levels of acrylamide. Acrylamide (a byproduct of the amino acid asparagine) is a chemical known to cause cancer and reproductive harm.
Fumigation involves a toxic, dangerous chemical called propylene oxide. This chemical was used as a racing fuel until it was banned for safety reasons. It’s now used in thermobaric weapons, polyurethane foam, and is sprayed on your “raw” almonds. Propylene oxide is not generally recognized as safe for human ingestion (GRAS) per the FDA and even the EU has banned its use. In fact, it is classified as a “probable human carcinogen.”
Here’s an exert of the EPA‘s website on the so-called “safe” chemical your nuts are pasteurized with:
Propylene oxide is also a mild central nervous system (CNS) depressant in humans. Inflammatory lesions of the nasal cavity, trachea, and lungs and neurological effects have been observed in animals chronically (long-term) exposed to propylene oxide by inhalation. Propylene oxide has been observed to cause tumors at or near the site of administration in rodents, causing forestomach tumors following ingestion via gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach) and nasal tumors after inhalation exposure. EPA has classified propylene oxide as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.
If you read further down on the EPA’s website you’ll see a whole host of other side effects ranging from neuropathological changes to reproductive harm. Is this the type of chemical you want to expose yourself to?
Almonds are essential to a raw foods diet and highly beneficial for anyone looking to switch to a healthier lifestyle. The good news is that you now know that raw and organic mean very little when it comes to almonds. You need to make sure the almonds you’re sourcing are organic, raw, AND unpasteurized. You might also have to get creative with your shopping.
In the United States, you can only purchase un-pasteurized almonds from the farmer/grower via a roadside stand or legally online. I source mine HERE.