What Raw Almonds Really Means
What does raw, pasteurized and roasted really mean? What effect is there of different processing methods on nut nutrition?
Almond Pasteurization and Raw Almonds
In 2007, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with help from the Almond Board of California, passed a law requiring all almonds sold in commercial quantities to undergo pasteurization in order to prevent salmonella contamination.
That means that just about every almond eaten in the United States has been pasteurized.
The most common form of pasteurization consists of using steam to kill any surface bacteria that might be on the almonds.
Our concern was what that did to the nutritional value of the nuts themselves.
The steam is only applied to the almonds for a short time - less than 60 seconds and this means that while the surface is heated, the internal almond "meat" is not. At least that's what experts say. The Almond Board of California even conducted extensive testing to see what effect this treatment has on pasteurized almonds. They determined that it does not change the nutritional value at all. Other independent third parties have also confirmed that pasteurization doesn't change almond nutrition.
We wanted to find our for ourselves if this was true so we had lipid peroxidation tests performed on several types of almonds to see what effects different processing methods have on almond nutrition.
Testing Raw Unpasteurized Almonds - Pasteurized Almonds - Toasted Almonds - Dry Roasted Almonds
When we looked at the testing results it became clear that there was no significantly measurable difference between the unpasteurized almonds and the pasteurized almonds. The levels of damaged fats was about the same and within the margin of error for the test. So we ended up verifying what the Almond Board of California and other third parties have been saying - the pasteurization step doesn't measurably change the degree of damage to the most fragile part of the nut - the fats inside them.
We also tested a toasted almond - a nut that has had a little bit of heat applied to it to remove some of the moisture and make the almond a bit crunchier. This is a very small amount of heat and it too is applied for a short time - much less than used in dry roasting. Here we saw a bit more lipid peroxidation than in the prior two versions but it was still very low.
Lastly, we looked at the dry roasted almond test results and it was clear that this type of processing has a LARGE effect on the nut and does indeed increase the levels of damaged fats to a much higher degree. The dry roasted almonds stood by themselves in terms of the amount of damage their tests showed.
What did we learn and how to we apply it at Legendary Foods?
As a result of this test, we use pasteurized nuts that have not had any additional heating wherever possible. This ensures product safety while offering the best possible fat in the nuts themselves.
The word "raw" is not a term regulated by the USDA. The nut industry considers pasteurized nuts that have not undergone any further processing to be raw. We have chosen to follow this convention with our nut products but we make it very clear on our packaging and website whenever we use the term "raw" that our nuts have undergone pasteurization for safety reasons. We do this because just as we always like to know what we are eating we want to make sure that our customers do too.
In the case of our seasoned nut products, we have chosen to use toasted almonds instead of raw or dry roasted because toasting removes a bit of moisture and adds a bit of crunch without creating the damage (and off flavors) that dry roasting does. Legendary Foods makes seasoned nut snacks and flavored nut butters that are good for you and not just "better for you". Maximizing healthy, undamaged fats is a big part of that equation for us and that's why we don't use dry roasted nuts in any of our products.