If you’re a fan of these seeds (people usually mistakenly call them “almond nuts” or “tree nuts”), chances are you’ve heard about avoiding raw almonds. We all know that almonds are full of nutrients, making them healthy snacks that can be used in a wide range of recipes. But have you ever considered how they should be eaten and which varieties are safe to eat?
In this article, we answer the question, “is it safe to eat raw almonds” and provide other useful information.
What are “Raw” Almonds?
When talking about “raw” almonds, people will be quick to assume that these are completely uncooked. According to the Almond Board of California in the United States, raw almonds aren’t roasted but have gone through steam pasteurization. This refers to a process that kills bacteria in almonds through heat, removing toxin content and pathogens that may be found in the seed.
While almonds aren’t classified as raw in a conventional sense, they are referred to as “raw” on labels, which can be confusing. But because they are pasteurized, raw almonds are safe for consumption. It’s also compulsory for almonds distributed throughout the US to be pasteurized, which means that they’re all cooked on some level.
Is it Safe to Eat Them?
By law, almonds must be pasteurized — if the seeds aren’t steamed, they’ll need to be fumigated using a chemical known as PPO or propylene oxide. This regulation occurred during a series of salmonella outbreaks in the early 2000s. While almonds aren’t more susceptible to bacteria compared to other seeds and nuts, the Almond Board of California was determined not to have another outbreak.
As a result, they appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue the “almond rule,” which started in 2007. The rule served to ensure that all California almonds grown within the Central Valley are pasteurized.
Health Benefits of Raw Almonds
If you’re unsure whether to include this seed in your diet, you’ll find that there’s a long history when it comes to the potential health benefits of almonds — here are just a few of them.
1. Lower Cholesterol Levels
One of the numerous health benefits of eating almonds is an overall decrease in cholesterol levels. While almonds may be high in fat, these are all unsaturated fat, which doesn’t increase your risk of low-density lipoprotein build-up, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol. In fact, the American Heart Association believes that unsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol in people.
Moreover, according to a study in 2005, eating almonds may help increase levels of vitamin E in red blood cells and plasma. Vitamin E serves as an antioxidant that helps to stop oxidization — a process that causes arteries to become clogged from cholesterol. In one review, researchers found that almonds may help with high-density lipoprotein levels, otherwise known as “good cholesterol.”
2. Great Source of Vitamin E
As mentioned above, almonds are a good source of vitamin E and contain antioxidants like tocopherol. Just one ounce of almonds can provide 7.27 mg of vitamin E, which is already half of the recommended daily requirement for human consumption. This vitamin can help prevent damage to our bodies through the accumulation of free radicals.
3. Almonds Support Heart Health
Almonds have also proven their benefits against the risk of heart disease, helping to improve the fat levels in our blood and increasing our overall heart health. In 2014, a group of scientists conducted research and found a link between almonds and the following effects on our bodies:
- Improvements in blood flow
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Improved levels of antioxidants
All those who participated in the study were healthy males ranging from the ages of 20 to 70 years old, consuming a total of 1.7 ounces of almonds each day for four weeks. The scientists believe that these results were due to the healthy fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants present in the almonds, along with fiber which helps to satiate the appetite. Experts recommend incorporating a handful of almonds per day to achieve the same results.
4. Lowers Cancer Risk
A study in 2015 revealed that individuals who consumed more almonds had a two to three times lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who didn’t eat as much. The study concluded that “almonds appeared to have a protective factor against the development of breast cancer.”
5. Reducing Blood Sugar
There’s also evidence to suggest that almonds can help to lower blood sugar levels. People with health problems such as type 2 diabetes will have low levels of magnesium in their bodies which is a common deficiency in those who find it difficult to manage blood sugar levels. A study in 2011 saw both fat levels and blood sugar levels improve in 20 individuals with type 2 diabetes after eating 60 g of almonds each day over a span of 12 weeks.
6. Weight Management
Almonds are among the healthiest nuts since they are low in carbohydrates but also provide healthy fats and protein, and are also a high-fiber food. According to research from 2015, almonds are a great snack in the morning since they can leave you feeling full. As such, those who consume almonds can maintain a healthy weight; almonds can also promote weight loss while preventing weight gain.
7. Better Bone Health
All kinds of almonds, including whole almonds, organic almonds, fresh almonds, and natural almonds provide a high nutritional value and contain the following:
- Vitamin b
- Vitamin K
All of these provide many nutritional benefits and contribute to healthy bones. As such, experts recommend consuming almonds to get the most out of these much-needed nutrients.
Different Types of Almonds
Almonds are usually divided into two main species which also share many similarities in their genes — sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are named as such due to their highly bitter taste and are grown both in the wild and in commercial settings. These are mainly used for making bitter almond extracts or pastes and aren’t usually found in stores.
Unfortunately, raw bitter almonds contain glycoside amygdalin, a poisonous substance that breaks down into various compounds when consumed and can then lead to cyanide poisoning. While studies suggest that ingesting 4-5 almonds won’t do much harm to the average human adult, eating 50 raw bitter almonds can result in death. Furthermore, even small amounts can have the same effects on young children.
Fortunately, hydrogen cyanide (one of the harmful components of almonds) can be eliminated by exposing the seed to high temperatures. For example, you can decrease the amount of cyanide in a bitter almond by baking, boiling, and microwaving.
On the other hand, sweet almonds will provide a hint of a nutty flavor and are usually found in your grocery stores or in almond products like marzipan or nougat. While raw sweet almonds will still contain some amygdalin, this amount is as much as 1,000 times lower compared to bitter almonds. With such a small amount of amygdalin, sweet almonds are generally considered safe for consumption.
Below are just some of the most common questions about eating raw almonds.
Can I Eat Raw Almonds?
Most people can eat raw almonds or they can be used in sweet and savory dishes. However, almonds aren’t just great as a toasted snack but also come in many forms such as almond oil, almond butter, almond flour, almond milk, and more. While most people will think they’re a true nut, almonds are actually seeds from almond trees.
Which are Better, Raw or Soaked Almonds?
Soaked almonds can provide better nutrient absorption compared to roasted or raw almonds. This is because they will be easier to chew and will be softer for our digestive tract to break down.
Is It Safe to Eat Raw Almonds During Pregnancy
Due to a number of potentially harmful bacteria, pregnant women are cautious about consuming any kind of raw food. However, they won’t have to worry about this when it comes to eating raw or roasted almonds since neither carries a risk of any contamination. The only difference between the two will be the change in texture and flavor.
Start Eating Raw Almonds Today
If you’re looking for healthy foods to try, why not get started with almonds? There are various ways to eat and enjoy them, and you can certainly benefit from almond nutrition! Just be sure to follow dietary guidelines and come up with an ideal daily portion to make sure you get the most out of these wonder seeds!
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