There is so much talk about the dangers of sugar and sweet snacks that more and more people are opting for the healthier alternative of trail mix, nuts and berries. These are filling, have a great taste, and can be both salty as well as sweet, covering both snacking needs. But do we really know enough about these snack foods? What do you know about almonds, for example? Do you know the difference between raw and roasted almonds? Is one better than the other?
Raw almonds are the fruit of the almond tree. Although we refer to them as nuts, almonds are drupes, not true nuts. Therefore, each has an outer hull surrounding a seed and another shell. The species is native to the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent.
The almond fruit is about 1-2 inches long. This includes the hull (the outer covering) and the woody shell (the inner covering), which protect the edible seed within. In stores we find them in their shells, shelled, or blanched (meaning their seed coats have been removed through a hot water treatment).
One ounce of raw almonds (approximately 23 almonds) provides 163 calories, around 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of monounsaturated fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 5.6 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
Raw almonds are shelled seeds just as they come from the tree. To keep their “raw” status, thermal treatment of any kind is out of the question. However, pasteurization became mandatory after a salmonella scare. The USDA requires a special fumigation process to eliminate all risk of contamination.
People object to the pasteurization process for two reasons. First, it destroys the enzymes along with the contaminants. Second, the process is done either by steam or by PPO (propylene oxide), a cheaper option labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency as a possible carcinogen.
Roasted almonds are almonds roasted in oil, with or without added ingredients such as salt, sugar, starch, or preservatives. For homemade roasted almonds, try baking raw almonds in the oven until they are nice and dry.
One ounce of dry roasted almonds provides 169 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14.76 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1.4 grams of sugars. These numbers vary according to the ingredients added while roasting.
Raw vs Roasted Almonds
So what is the difference between raw and roasted almonds?
Nutritionally speaking, the difference between them is not that substantial. This means that people have to chose between the PPO pasteurization process (for raw almonds) and dry roasting (for roasted almonds) to eliminate bacteria such as salmonella. The latter option is considerably better. Some claim that not all vitamins and minerals survive the roasting process, while others say that the nutrients are not affected that much.
However, there is a difference in taste between the two. Raw almonds have a fleshy texture and a slightly bitter taste. Roasted almonds have a smoky taste and a crunchy texture. Also, in the case of roasted almonds, taste depends on the ingredients added during the roasting process.
As far as digestion goes, raw almonds are more difficult to break down. Their rigid texture leaves a large part of the fiber undigested. Since roasted almonds are easier to digest, they also release more nutrients into the body.
|Raw almonds||Roasted almonds|
|Shelled almonds removed from the hull and pasturized||Shelled almonds that have been roasted; can be dry roasted or roasted with added ingredients|
|Can be sold as “Raw” and sometimes are pasteurized with PPO (propylene oxide), which is a possible carcinogen substance||Must mention on the label the type of roasting process; can also be roasted at home|
|Fleshy texture||Crunchy texture|
|Slightly bitter taste||Smoky taste; salty or sweet, according to the added ingredients|
|Hard to digest||More easily digested|
|1 oz provides 163 calories||1 oz provides 169 calories|