There’s no question that almonds are healthy, but like all other food options – the way they’re prepared could be negating their many health benefits.
Here’s a little background you should know about almonds. Almost all the US supply comes from Central Valley, California and are treated practically the same way. There are some almonds that come in as imports and directly from farmers – but if your store has almonds, chances are it came from the California mass market.
Just recently, there was an outbreak of salmonella with almonds from California seen as the most likely link. Salmonella is most commonly found in chicken and can cause nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. These bacteria can be treated by antibiotics but for the most part, patients are hospitalized due to the dehydration.
Although government stepped in to address the issue of salmonella, a second outbreak happened and something had to be done – leading to the introduction of regulations regarding almonds sprayed for salmonella.
Bad to Worse
Unfortunately, the pasteurization regulations set up by the California Department of Health Services turned things from bad to worse. See, in order to kill any signs of bacteria from almonds, growers can choose from four different procedures: (1) extreme heat exposure of around 200 degrees, (2) propylene oxide gas fumigation or PPO, (3) oil roasting, (3) steam processing, and (4) blanching .
Note that most of these options involve heat which means that the almonds are no longer sold raw. When it comes to commercial raw almonds, large scale farmers often find that the use of PPO is cheaper and easier – which is why most of them do this.
Unfortunately, PPO is considered dangerous. In fact, the CDC has labeled it as a possible carcinogen. Another shocking fact is that PPO was once used as engine fuel, but was later banned because even the fumes it emitted were considered dangerous. So why spray it on almonds?
EPA further makes a point by citing the various health effects of almonds. Even short term exposure can actually cause skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation, and eye problems. It leads to necrosis and lesions of the lungs and trachea. Tested on animals, it was linked to tumor growth and neurological problems.
So does that mean you have to ban almonds from your grocery list altogether? Not necessarily – you just have to be a bit wiser when it comes to shopping.
In line with regulations, all food items today are labeled, allowing you to be more discerning with your choices. As it turns out, all almonds labeled ‘organic’ means that they were cleaned using the extreme heat method. Non-organic ones or those with no label have gone through PPO fumigation and must be avoided.
Of course, if you can buy directly from small scale farmers, then this would be the best option. Farmers who grow small batches tend to have better, cleaner crops with lesser chances of salmonella presence. Some brands today that have been heat treated include: Back to Nature, Trader Joe, and Planters.
Other Ways to Get Healthy Almonds
If you use almonds on a daily basis, there are several ways you can still get these raw without fear of almonds sprayed with chemicals to kill salmonella.
- Buy almonds from Spain. They’re a little more expensive, but definitely PPO free
- Join a group of people who buy raw almonds. You can get away with this if you purchase directly from a farmer
- Get sproutable almonds
- Grow your own if that’s possible!
About the author:
Amy is a life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach. She is the founder of the healthy lifestyle website body-in-balance.org and creator of the online program, “ThinForever”. After successfully changing her family’s health and happiness, she’s on a mission to help other people achieve the life and body they want. You can find here on Facebook or Google+ or get her FREE clean, whole food recipe eBook “Amy’s Home Kitchen” here.