DEAR DR. BLONZ: Are there any health benefits from eating raw almonds, as opposed to roasted ones? Does oil roasting them add many calories from fat, compared to dry roasting? Also, is it best to store raw nuts in the refrigerator? -- T.N.P., via email
DEAR T.N.P.: Roasting nuts, or any food, for that matter, helps to bring about flavor-enhancing chemical reactions. This can be accomplished with or without the use of oil.
Dry roasting utilizes only hot air, and is done in specially designed ovens. Salt, paprika or other flavorings can then be added. Although dry-roasted nuts do not contain additional oils from the roasting process, this does not amount to a large difference in overall fat content. Half the weight of the raw nut -- and over 70 percent of its calories -- come from its oils. Honey-roasted nuts will contain less fat per serving, but only because some of their weight comes from the added sugars.
In terms of nutritional value, any high-heat process will destroy some thiamin (vitamin B1), but the other nutrients are relatively unharmed.
Nuts tend to be packaged in airtight bags or containers. They should be stored that way and kept in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and the slow oxidation of the oils. Refrigeration in a sealed container for raw nuts, or any nuts, makes sense as it effectively slows these damaging processes to an even greater degree. This is less of an issue if the nuts will be gone within a month after opening. But look to refrigeration if you want to store these perishable foods for longer periods of time.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I appreciated your recent article concerning oils, but the term "room temperature" is vague. Please advise me of what you consider the temperature range for "room temperature." The reason for my request: My elderly parents keep their house between 85 and 95 degrees F, day and night, during our dry, hot, 100-degree California valley summers to save on electricity. Believe me, this is not what I consider a comfortable room temperature. My pleas to keep whole wheat flour and other whole grains, seeds and oils in the fridge during the long summer months fall on deaf ears, as they point out they have clearly been storing them at "room temperature." -- K.F., via email
DEAR K.F.: In the U.S., the temperature cited as "room temperature" is usually 68 degrees F, and the range commonly used is 68 to 72 degrees F. It is not a precise measure, and I have seen the range expressed in Centigrade as 20 to 25 degrees C (68 to 77 degrees F).
If one were in the tropics or in a desert climate in the U.S., room temperate would, of course, be higher. The guidelines for food storage in hot climates is different, as exposure at "room temperature" there would hasten spoilage. If there is no stated recommendation to refrigerate the product in question, it makes sense to at least store perishables in a cool place in the house. If there is no such place, perishables should be kept in the fridge. If this is not practical, my advice is to buy perishables in smaller containers. Please pass this on to your parents.
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