Wake Up, Ralph!: Almond and Almond Butter Nutrition.

I like to think of the almond as Ralph Fiennes

I like to think of the almond as Ralph Fiennes: a meaty, handsome nugget filled with talent, goodness, intelligence, and raw animal (vegetable?) magnetism. Ralph, however, is very sleepy. He can hardly lift his head off the pillow. Sure, I could ravage him right now; he’d certainly be tasty. But why not dunk him in a bath of cool water to wake him up, so I can experience him at peak goodness? Read on to find out why.

Are almonds good for me?

Yes. Fresh almonds and almond butter are high in protein, vitamin E, calcium, and a plethora of LDL-fighting monounsaturated fatty acids, making them good for the heart and combating arthritis. You can read the USDA nutritional charts for almonds here and for almond butter here.

What is almond butter made of?

Only two ingredients are needed to make delicious almond butter: almonds and salt. Many pre-processed brands of almond butters, however, contain additional oils. Some of these, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, aren’t so good for you, but others, like flaxseed, can actually boost the content of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids. Read the label and don’t buy anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils.

Is raw almond butter more healthful than roasted?

A University of California study states that raw almonds are difficult for the human body to process and that a “significant portion” of available nutrients are never fully digested. Roasting almonds makes them slightly more digestible. However, the high temperatures required for roasting compromises flavor and destroys Vitamin E and other valuable nutrients.

Soaking almonds is the best way to capture their full range of nutrients. To my knowledge, there are no commercial brands of soaked almond butters available; it must be made fresh at home and consumed quickly.

How does soaking almonds make them more healthful?

Almonds, like all other nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid and quite a few other enzymes that keep it from sprouting until it becomes moist. These proteins also happen to inhibit our ability to digest the nut’s full nutrition. If the almond is soaked in salt water overnight, though, the unhelpful enzymes are deactivated while other, more helpful ones are awakened, Good morning, Ralph!. Not only do these freshly bathed nuts have more nutrients available for your dining pleasure — especially B vitamins — but they’re also much easier to digest.

How do I make soaked almond butter at home?

It’s easy! I’ll post about this soon. Refer to this chart for soaking and sprouting times for other seeds, nuts and grains: http://wholerawfoodnow.com/articles/item/18-sprouting-chart

What’s the difference between soaked nuts and sprouted nuts?

Time. Almonds soaked 7-12 hours (or overnight) are referred to as “soaked”. At about the 12 hour-mark they are ready for the sprouting process; sprouted nuts are even healthier and easier to digest than soaked nuts!

I don’t care if they’re healthier, who wants to eat mushy almonds?

No one has to eat mushy almonds. Soaked almonds can be dehydrated to make them crispy again, made into almond milk, or ground into almond butter. I’ll post my almond milk recipe soon — much more delicious and good for you than store-bought!

Even when I soak almonds, I find them hard to digest. Why?

It might be the skins. They’re high in tannins, which are very astringent and hard for some people to digest. Try removing the skins after soaking by blanching them in boiling waterWhen you water has boiled remove it from the heat and add the almonds. for about 30 seconds. (This will also kill any bacteria that may have formed during the soaking process) Pop them out of their skins by pinching the pointy end; keep the remaining nuts wet in warm water as they wait to be de-skinned.

Will I get salmonella poisoning from eating almond butter?

You’re no more likely to contract salmonella poisoning from almonds or almond butter than from most any other food. In response to two almond-related salmonella outbreaks, the USDA enacted regulations in 2007 requiring all U.S.-grown almonds be sterilized by chemical and/ or high heat methods. “Organic raw” almonds need not be fumigated, but should be steam heated. There is one exception to this rule: small-scale farmers can sell untreated, truly raw almonds — but only directly to the consumer.

Many almonds and almond butters processed and sold in the US are labeled “organic raw”, but they’re not totally raw, (Why manufacturers are allowed to label them this way is unclear). Since they’ve been pasteurized, the chances of contracting salmonella are slim to none. That’s a good thing! However, pasteurization can kill valuable enzymes, so the full nutritional bounty is compromised. That’s a slightly less than good thing. (But my inside sourceGuangwei Huang at the California Almond Board, a principal scientist for safety and food quality. claims its only the exterior of the nut that’s been “cooked”)

Is there a healthful alternative to pesticides and pasteurization?

According to Glen Anderson, an almond grower in Hilmar, California, the salmonella outbreaks of 2001 and 2004 were most likely the result of large-scale industrial processing methods. Each variety of almond matures at the same time, but the entire crop can’t be processed immediately. After the nuts are shaken to the ground, they’re swept up along with whatever else might be on the ground — including animal droppings. They’re then deposited in large piles, covered, and left to sit and wait their turn. This moist environment is a perfect breeding ground for salmonella. Smaller-scale family farm growers, like Anderson Almonds harvest and process their crop quickly, greatly reducing the likelihood of the disease occurring. The USDA regulation allows farmers to sell organic, unfumigated, unpasteurized almonds directly to the consumer. After assessing the potential risk, if it’s important to you to have organically grown, totally raw, untreated almonds, buy them directly from Glen or a smaller independent grower you trust. (Call 209-667-7494 to order from Anderson Almonds).

One Response to Wake Up, Ralph!: Almond and Almond Butter Nutrition.

  1. Dani says:

    Very informative post. Almonds are probably the healthiest nut out there 🙂

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