The Dirty Secret of Almonds

Given that I write every day on wellness, you would imagine it would be hard to shock me. Yet, every day I am surprised by how a mix of marketing and a lack of application on our part can result in misinformation. Recently, someone randomly asked me why almonds are priced differently. I had to admit ignorance. My subsequent research taught me a lot.

There is broadly three type of almonds. Mamra, Gurbandi, and Californian. Their prices are all over the place. Grown in Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East, Mamra almonds account for just 4% of the almonds sold. Gurbandi is also cultivated in the same geographic area as Mamra and forms a small portion of all almonds consumed. The Afghans consider it an essential food. California almonds account for almost 85% of all almonds sold. Since Californian almonds are mass produced and have higher yields, the prices are significantly lower. However, California almonds have a dirty secret.

In 2007, it became illegal to sell raw almonds in California. An outbreak of Salmonella occurred in Canada that was traced back to the almonds sold in California. This lead to the Department of Health Safety of California mandating that all almonds produced in California mandatorily had to be treated. The treatment could either be exposure of the almonds to 200 Degrees heat or fumigation of the almonds with propylene oxide gas. I had to look up propylene oxide gas. In a previous avatar, it was used as racing fuel. In another avatar, it is used to produce plastics. Even Wikipedia classifies it as potentially carcinogenic.

In any case, as you would know by know, heating any natural product that is oil bearing such as almonds exposes it to the risk of turning rancid. Therefore, in both cases, you run the risk of getting cancer. Apparently, you would do not want to trade a better lipid profile with a potentially carcinogenic product. Sometimes cheap may not be better.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.

2 thoughts on “The Dirty Secret of Almonds

  • September 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

    What if they are rinsed in vinegar water for 15 minutes?

    • September 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Vineeta if you are referring to Californian almonds being soaked there are potentially a few problems. First almonds need to be soaked over night to remove the skin. Second once you chemically process something it is hard to determine the effects of cleaning on them. You are best either eating good quality or eating a substitute that gives you the same nutrients.

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