Category Archives: Nuts and Drupes

Roasted vs. Raw Almonds: Which Are Healthiest And Most Cardioprotective?

As part of the Dr. P Heart Nuts Project, the skeptical cardiologist has been trying to determine what constitutes the best and most cardioprotective almonds.

Previously I decided  that i would not be consuming or handing out almonds pasteurized with propylene oxide (PPO). PPO was used as a racing fuel before being banned and is used in thermobaric weapons (one of my least favorite weapons of mass destruction) and in making polyurethane plastics and is a recognized carcinogen.
Since 2004 almost all “raw” almonds consumed in the US have been treated with PPO.

Cardioprotective Almonds: Best Raw or Roasted?

There are two issues with roasting: are we destroying good nutrients and are we creating bad chemicals?

Effects of Roasting on Good Nutrients

The cardioprotective component of nuts and almonds is presumed  related to phytochemicals, especially phenolics and flavonoids which may act as antioxidants. But truly we don’t know with any certainty which of the many potentially beneficial components-minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, proteins are helpful. And we have little understanding of how roasting, steaming, soaking, fermenting, germinating, or fumigating affects the cardioprotective components.

In terms of measurable important macronutrients, vitamins and minerals there is no significant difference between roasted and raw nuts.

One study  compared consuming roasted versus raw hazelnuts on various cardiovascular parameters. Compared with baseline, consuming both forms of hazelnuts significantly improved HDL-cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 concentrations, total-C/HDL-C ratio, and systolic blood pressure. These changes would be expected to result in improved cardiovascular outomes.

One argument I hear frequently from patients worried about weight gain is that nuts are very energy dense and therefore will contribute to weight gain if added to the diet or consumed as a snack.

In the roasted versus raw hazelnut study:

However, no evidence for weight gain was observed with the consumption of either raw or dry roasted, lightly salted hazelnuts in the present study, and in fact, small reductions in weight were observed. Results of the present study further add to previous research, which suggests that regular nut consumption results in either no weight gain or less weight gain than predicted This may be explained by dietary compensation, inefficient energy absorption, and an increase in metabolic rate.

Thus, neither roasted nor raw nuts contribute to weight gain.

I particular like one line from the conclusions of this study:

both forms of nuts are resistant to monotony

Really! That is tremendously reassuring because I have always worried  about my nuts getting bored.

Bottom line: Probably little change in the good components of nuts and almonds with roasting.

Effects of Roasting Almonds on Increasing Bad Chemicals

About a third of almonds and nuts are consumed in roasted form because a majority of people prefer the taste created by the Maillard reaction during roasting. Almonds can be roasted at home and the typical recommendation is an oven temperature of 350 degrees which corresponds to 177 degrees Celsius.

An analysis from the Winnipeg Health Authority found that roasting at temperatures higher than 140 degrees Celsius has some potentially worrisome consequences:

Lipid oxidation

-High heat used during the processing of nuts has the potential to develop lipid oxidation products, which include trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids, while not present in raw nuts, were found to be significantly higher in roasted pistachios, peanuts, and almonds (0.5-0.9g/100g).
-Trans fat is known to increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol, leading to increased cardiovascular disease risk.
-While roasting temperature was found to substantially increase lipid oxidation, roasting time had less of an effect on lipid oxidation. It is therefore recommended to roast nuts at a moderate temperature (130-150°C), for a longer period of time, rather than roasting at high heat for a shorter period of time (reference here)

Acrylamide

-Acrylamide has been identified as a probable carcinogen to humans. The amount of free aspargine in almonds makes them more susceptible to the Maillard reaction, which results in acrylamide formation. Time and temperature are known determinants of acrylamide formation in foods. Hence, darkly roasted almonds were found to have a much higher amount of acrylamide than lightly roasted almonds. The amount of acrylamide that is initially formed after processing was found to decrease over time. Acrylamide content of almonds therefore differs widely depending on roasting time and temperature, as well as length of time after processing.
-It was observed that almonds processed under roasting temperatures of 140-180°C led to the accelerated production of acrylamide. It is therefore recommended to roast almonds below 140°C

The acrylamide study authors noted that:

Almonds of European origin contained significantly less free asparagine and formed significantly less acrylamide during roasting as compared to the almonds from the U.S. Roasted hazelnuts contained very little acrylamide because of the low content of free asparagine in the raw nut.).

Bottom Line: Roasting almonds has the potential for creating some bad chemicals which might negate their beneficial effects.

I asked Whole Foods (my typical almond source) about the roasting process for their roasted almonds and they responded thusly:

“PPO and chemical methods of pasteurization are against our Quality Standards. Our almonds are pasteurized with steam. Our almonds are roasted with canola oil at 148 degrees (celsius).”

Yikes! Canola oil! 148 degrees! (When I asked Whole Foods did they really mean 148 degrees Celsius, the response was , no, I meant 148 degrees Fahrenheit. The skeptical cardiologist wonders.)

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The first sack of cardioprotective nuts from Dr. Pearson’s nutshop. There are from the Superior Nut Company. I’m still working on the packaging. They are raw and not treated with PPO.

It appears even Whole Foods roasted almonds have the potential for containing harmful acrylamides and trans-fats therefore when the skeptical cardiologist starts handing out packets of his cardioprotective nuts the almonds will be raw and they will be from Spain just like the almonds consumed in the landmark PREDIMED study that established their heart benefits.

Happy Thanksgiving!I hope you are able to stay resistant to monotony during this festive season.

-ACP

Speaking of resisting monotony, did you know this about thermobaric weapons?

“The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique–and unpleasant…. What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs…. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents.”

 


 

The Name For The Nuts Poll: Part Deux

The results of my request for reader input on naming the mixed nuts based on the PREDIMED study I plan to give out to my patients are hot off the presses.

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The winner of the pre-specified names was “Pearson’s Health Nuts.”

Second place went to my personal favorite “Dr. P’s Stroke-bustin’ Nuts.

However, readers submitted some suggestions not in the poll:

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And I had one patient bring in her suggestion with a design already created!:

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and one sketch out her suggestion on what appears to be a post-it note:

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I’ll term this heart (symbol)NUTZ in the poll

Consequently, I’m soliciting your input into a revised poll that incorporates some of the newer suggestions.

There is much excitement here at mixed nut central because the non-fumigated raw almonds have arrived!

Polldaddily Yours

-ACP

 

 

 

Raw Almonds From The Gas Chamber or: A PPO Most Investors Should Avoid

In my previous post highlighting the marketing hype, silliness, and duplicity surrounding Kind bars, I revealed that the skeptical cardiologist would soon begin issuing bags of special stroke-busting  nuts to his patients.

I solicited a catchy name for the sacks.

One reader suggested:

“The Snack” or “Snack?” No one will forget that name.. In the center of a small heart shape on the front of the package will be shown the type of nuts (either written or better as a picture.. )

Another:

How about “Pearson’s Health Nuts?” It could refer to both the nuts and the eaters.

Another:

“Nuts About Nuts!”

The logo is a kindly cardiologist, in a lab coat, peering over the top of his glasses, with a stethoscope draped around his shoulders.

Another

Call it Pearson’s delight!!! I always keep a bag of nuts mixed with raisins, m&ms, almonds and cashews. Have done this for last 3 years. But some times I over eat them. But better than junk food..hope this is ok

(Raisins and M & Ms are right out! Too much sugar)

I’ve created a poll that I would appreciate your voting on. I can guarantee this will be less controversial than the Presidential election.

Raw Almonds: Straight From Fumigation

While exploring where to obtain the best walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts for these “yet to be named” snacks, I discovered that the vast majority of almonds consumed in the US have been pasteurized by fumigation with an organic chemical called propylene oxide (PPO).

Because of two salmonella outbreaks involving almonds from California, the FDA mandated in 2007 that all California almonds had to be pasteurized either by a steam process or by PPO. Since the PPO process is cheaper, the vast majority of non-organic almonds have been sprayed with PPO. Both PPO sprayed and steamed almonds are marketed as “raw.”

Although I’m not fanatical about choosing organic (with the exception of dairy) I really don’t like the idea of eating things that have been sprayed with PPO.  PPO is primarily used to make polyurethane plastics. The CDC says:

“propylene oxide is a direct-acting carcinogen”

Several online sources state that PPO has been banned in “Canada, Mexico, and the European Union” including this Almond fact sheet from cornucopia.org

https://www.cornucopia.org/almond/Almond_Fact_Sheet.pdf

but it’s more accurate to say that these countries have not approved PPO fumigation.

Consequently, I’m getting my almonds from nutsinbulk.com. They are selling almonds from Spain, grown organically, and they promise there will be no PPO consumed.

Once my nuts arrive and I get them in appropriate sacks with appropriate labels, I’ll start handing them out to my patients.

If anyone has advice on creating such labels and sacks feel free to comment below.

Amandinely Yours

-ACP

P.S. Here’s what the CDC says about PPO

Studies in animals have demonstrated that propylene oxide is a direct-acting carcinogen. B6C3F1 mice exposed by inhalation to propylene oxide developed hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas of the nasal mucosa. F344/N rats exposed to propylene oxide in air developed papillary adenomas of the nasal epithelium. Degeneration of the olfactory epithelium and hyperplasia of the respiratory epithelium were induced in the nasal cavities of Wistar rats exposed to propylene oxide by inhalation. Squamous cell carcinomas of the forestomach developed in rats administered propylene oxide by gavage. Although epidemiologic data are not available from workers exposed to propylene oxide, the findings of cancer and other tumors in both rats and mice treated with propylene oxide meet the criteria established in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Cancer Policy [Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1990.112] for regarding propylene oxide as a potential occupational carcinogen. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health therefore recommends that occupational exposures to propylene oxide be reduced to the lowest feasible concentration.