Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is there cyanide in almonds or am I just paranoid

Someone, somewhere (OK, it was probably on the Pecanbread e-mail list) mentioned that cyanide was present in some almonds.

Well, you know the research junkie can't let THAT comment slide!

So I went checking around. The almond wiki page mentions that wild almonds used to have cyanide, but apparently there is a common mutation that causes them not to have cyanide.


But then I found another page that said sweet almonds are OK, but bitter almonds are the bad ones.

Also, it says, that when bitter almonds are used for food, the cyanide is removed:

Amygdalin is hydrolyzed to yield glucose, benzaldehyde, and hydrocyanic acid. The production of cyanide defines cyanogenic glycosides. Enzymatic release of cyanide can occur in the presence of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme found in the seeds and in the human intestine. 6 When the cyanide component is removed, the resulting oil is referred to as bitter almond oil and consists mostly of benzaldehyde. This oil is toxic when consumed in large amounts.

OK, so, what the hell is benzaldehyde? Doesn't sound good.

Oh, wiki saves the day again!

While it is commonly employed as a commercial food flavourant (almond flavour) or industrial solvent, benzaldehyde is used chiefly in the synthesis of other organic compounds, ranging from pharmaceuticals to plastic additives. It is also an important intermediate for the processing of perfume and flavouring compounds and in the preparation of certain aniline dyes.


So. Guess I should avoid that stuff...OH WAIT.

My little bottle of Nielsen Massey Almond Extract has... bitter almond oil.


Well, that's going in the garbage then. Gold standard of flavor, my butt. Rar.


Betty said...

I wanted to ask you about how almonds are either steam treated or more commonly POP treated (chemical that was banned for use on race cars because it was too toxic). Have you researched that? I'd really like to learn what you think and know about that. I just started SCD for myself and I was kinda thrown for a loop learning this.

Many THanks, Betty

Susan said...

Hi Betty,

My understanding is that those regulations only apply to almonds being sold as raw. So if you are purchasing almond flour or almond meal, you need to check if it was made with raw almonds, and how they were treated if they are raw.

There have been outbreaks of salmonella from raw almonds in the past, so the almonds are being sterilized in some way to reduce the risk. I would definitely choose the steam processed almonds! Why we have to jump to another chemical is beyond me.

Betty said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for replying to me! I'm still trying to sort this all out. I did call the Honeyville grain people and their flour is made from POP treated almonds.

Where do you get you flour from? I'm really torn with what to do.

Thanks again.

The SCD girl said...

Hi Betty,

Well, right now we don't use almond flour! We are still on stage 2.

Why don't you try some of the SCD shops, like Lucy's kitchen? They should be able to tell you at least how the almonds were treated. Hope that helps!

Alex Tessier said...

Cyanide, believe it or not, is a dietary expectation within biologically rational quantities. Cyanide within the body is transformed into another substance called, 'thiocyanate'. Sickle cell anemia is a thiocyanate deficiency disease. Do you see what I'm getting at? Hundreds of foods we consume daily contain dietary cyanide. Provided that we don't overwhelm our natural capacities to process it safely, there is no danger. Cyanide is not an accumulative toxin.

If willing, have a read of my own blog at