. . . But most of us can't get raw almonds anymore! Most food-calorie charts list an ounce of almonds as 165-170 calories. But a new, and more accurate, way of measuring calories has found that almonds provide only 129 calories per ounce, about 24% less. Published last August in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this study used a way of measuring calories that takes into account the rigid structure of cell membranes in almonds that apparently locks in some fats and keep them from being digested. This same factor may mean that other nuts and plant foods are lower in effective calories than we’ve assumed. Last year, the same lab found that pistachios provide 6% fewer calories than had been thought. The problem with almonds, however, is that it’s far healthier to eat them raw, since heat damages their essential fatty acids. But it’s become impossible for most of us to get raw almonds. Most US almonds are grown in California. In 2007, the Almond Board of California (ABC), representing the country’s largest almond growers, colluded with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to require that all almonds be sterilized. This was in response to two salmonella outbreaks that were traced back to large almond growers. No problems have ever been found in almonds grown by small, organic almond growers, who are a lot more careful in the way they grow and treat their almonds. For example, their healthier soils grow sturdier and more pathogen-resistant almonds. Also they don’t leave mounds of harvested almonds on the damp ground under tarps for months at a time, essentially creating incubators for pathogens. Yet the new demand for pasteurization requires them to pay for a costly additional procedure that only devalues their product! Now all US almonds sold as “raw” are pasteurized (sterilized) with either toxic chemicals (some of which are suspected carcinogens and have been banned in Europe, Canada, Mexico and many other countries) or with heat up to 160 degrees. So at best these “raw” almonds are partially cooked, and at worst they are toxic. The only exceptions allowed are raw almonds sold directly to the consumer by the grower (which you can buy at farmers’ markets if you’re lucky enough to live in California) or raw almonds imported from foreign countries. Organic standards forbid chemical treatment, however there is a suspicion that some almonds labeled “organic” are in fact chemically treated. Farmers, consumers, and consumer organizations like the Alliance for Natural Health and Cornucopia are challenging the new requirement. If you’d like to get an update on the fight to bring back truly raw almonds and/or add your voice to those who are complaining to the USDA, click here.
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