Oh Nuts!

In my quest for knowledge about the food my family eats and my sincere desire to share that information in hopes that it might help others, I have come across many things that are on our table that we believe to be healthy. Several years ago, I consulted with a doctor on the best method of weight loss and was advised to avoid carbohydrates and focus on proteins such as meat and nuts. One type of nut that I began incorporating into my diet was and still is a favorite of mine: almonds. Almonds are an excellent source of protein as well as other essential nutrients such as Magnesium, Fiber, Potassium, and others. There is evidence to support that almonds may contribute to cardiovascular health as well as have other benefits. So, almonds are a good thing, right?

Question Everything

Normally, if someone begins a sentence with “While I was on Facebook…”, I immediately dismiss the rest of what is said. On occasion, though, I do find valuable tidbits of information on my Facebook feed, and today was one of those days. A story popped up about the dangers of almonds. My curiosity got the best of me, and I just had to look. Since one of my mantras to my students is to question everything, I thought that I would take my own advice and investigate further rather than blindly buying into the story’s claims. I didn’t like what I found.

The Almond Solution

From what I could gather from several sources, almonds (and many other nuts) became a health hazard at some point in the past. One incident where salmonella (food poisoning) was linked to almonds resulted in a massive recall. Food poison may be very dangerous especially for young children or older adults. To ensure that almonds were safer for human consumption, two possible solutions were offered:

  • Heating the almonds to a temperature that kills salmonella.
  • Fumigation of almonds in a sealed container.

The first of the treatments for killing salmonella is simply heating the almonds up to 200 degrees to kill any salmonella that might be present. The latter of the two remedies involves the use of Propylene Oxide, a chemical that has been banned for food use in several other countries but continues to be used in the United States despite the fact that it is a known carcinogen (may cause cancer). You may have heard of other uses for Propylene Oxide like being a fuel additive or a component of polyurethane.

Don’t Eat Propylene Oxide

Here’s the thing. Most almonds that are not certified organic are treated with Propylene Oxide as it is cheap and readily available. If you’re currently eating nuts that are not certified organic, I sincerely hope that you will consider the following problems that this chemical can cause:

  • eye irritant
  • skin irritant
  • the death of tissue on contact (so people working with this chemical should not touch it)
  • central nervous system problems (nerve problems)
  • cancerous tumors when ingested (proven in mice already)
  • declared by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a “probable human carcinogen”

Can I get an “oh my?!” This substance is toxic with a capital T! While a soap box is not a position that I tend to take on any subject, my research has led me to a place where I feel compelled to continue to ask questions about the quality of our foods. I can’t help but wonder why this type of food treatment is being allowed.

I have been guilty of passing by warnings closing my eyes to the truth that is out there. I am guilty of feeding my family the things I write about. I am guilty of eating and drinking what seems to me poison that kills us all slowly. The first step to changing those mistakes is to learn all that I possibly can so that I can make an educated decision.

Final Thoughts

As I continue to research and write about WTF? What’s That Food?, I find myself reflecting on people close to me that have either had cancer and recovered from it or were beaten by the disease. Nearly everything that I have researched to this point has “carcinogen” attached to it. It is no wonder that it seems we hear about cancer more and more. While I’m not going to run out and do years of scientific studies to prove that yes, there is a link between what we eat (even those things we believe are safe and healthy) and our health or lack of health, I see a pattern already emerging in the few products I have already researched. I’m interested in seeing what further research will bring.

I hope that you found this information helpful. I also hope that you, the consumer, will consider what you buy at the local supermarket (and even the farmer’s market as it applies). I believe that consumers have the power to improve the food system by purchasing safer foods resulting in a clear message being sent to manufacturers, farmers, grocers, and anyone else involved in the processing and sale of foods.  As always, I encourage readers to do their own research. Question everything – even me!

Other Articles:

WTF? What’s That Food

WTF? My Diet Soda

WTF? My Weight Control Oatmeal

WTF? My Convenient Nutritional Shake