Cashews and nuts — what to buy and what not to buy

Although soybean oil has some health benefits, what the manufacturing industry has done to it outweighs the benefits.

by Karen Langston — 

You have patted yourself on the back for choosing cashews over a chocolate bar. And you earned that pat. Sort of. You can only celebrate your choice if you did one important thing — did you read the ingredient list posted on the back of the package? If you did not, you may be in for a shock. In fact, the chocolate bar might have been the better choice.

Would it not be wonderful to live in a world where what we see is what we get? Unfortunately, we do not. Yet all of us need to take responsibility for getting the whole story; that means not only reading the ingredient list, but also understanding what the ingredients mean. Here is a great example of not getting what you think you are getting.

This particular package of cashews has questionable ingredients (and if you had a peanut allergy, this product might cause some serious health problems, including death): cottonseed oil, soybean oil, peanut oil and salt. Sounds OK, right? Read on.

Often partially or fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant after harvest of the lint. The oil is then refined to remove gossypol, a naturally occurring toxin that protects the plant from insect damage.

Cottonseed oil was the first oil to be hydrogenated and was originally intended for candle production, but was found useful for nonfood products such as cosmetics, explosives, insecticides, rubber and soap. It was first introduced as a food product in Crisco® shortening.

Since cotton crops are under less chemical regulation than other crops used specifically for food, many pesticides and/or chemicals can be sprayed on cotton crops that are illegal for use on food crops. Because it is the seed of the plant that is being manufactured into oil, legal loopholes in the regulation of food and chemicals by the FDA are permitted. Pesticides and/or chemicals could resist processing and find their way into the food, allowing for unacceptable levels of pesticide and chemical residues. You are what you eat.

Soybean oil is produced from the cracked soybean, adjusted for moisture content, rolled into flakes and then the oil is extracted with hexane — a colorless flammable liquid alkane derived from petroleum and used to extract edible oils from seeds and vegetables. Hexane is also used as a special-use solvent and as a cleaning agent.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure by humans to high levels of hexane causes mild central nervous system (CNS) effects, including dizziness, giddiness, slight nausea and headache. Chronic (long-term) exposure to hexane in the air is associated with polyneuropathy in humans, with numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache and fatigue observed. Neurotoxic effects have also been exhibited in rats. No information is available on the carcinogenic effects of hexane in humans or animals.”

Although soybean oil has some health benefits, what the manufacturing industry has done to it outweighs the benefits. Most soybeans grown in North America are genetically modified, and scientific data are beginning to surface about the potential of genetically modified (GM) soybeans having the ability to alter our intestinal flora, which is responsible for keeping our immune systems healthy.

Genetically modified plants require extra pesticides/herbicides and chemicals to keep super bugs, which have become genetically modified themselves, from attacking the plants. This allows for contamination into and on the plant during growth and harvest.

Soybeans are an important global crop, used for farm animals and the food industry. This is of concern because research and documents are revealing that soy consumption has been linked to numerous disorders, including infertility, increased cancer, infantile leukemia, type 1 diabetes and precocious puberty in children who are fed soy formula.

Hundreds of epidemiological, clinical and laboratory studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline and breakdown, reproductive disorders, immune system breakdown and even heart disease and cancer.

Peanut oil has beneficial properties of oleic acid and omega-6 linoleic acid; however, high amounts of omega-6 cause inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is responsible for most disease, ailments and conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The bigger concern is that peanuts become contaminated with Aspergillus flavus, a mold fungus that releases aflatoxin, which can cause a deadly reaction in some people. If you suffer from inflammatory type conditions such as gout, arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, you need to steer clear of all peanut and peanut oil products.

There are acceptable products out there, and they are easy to find with a little detective work on your part. Disregard the marketing language on the package and flip the product over and read the truth. If there are questionable ingredients and you cannot pronounce some of the words or do not know what they are, put the package down and walk away.

Look for nuts that are raw, as they contain all of their beneficial health properties. If you cannot find raw look for dry roasted. Dry roasted means that the nut has not been fired in questionable cheap oil. Sea salt is a better choice over salt or sodium. If you cannot find nuts with sea salt, purchase nuts without added salt.

Avoid all nuts containing the oils mentioned above including canola, which is another controversial genetically modified plant that has caused a lot of grief for farmers. You can read more at: or

Avoid additives and preservatives such as sulfites, nitrates and nitrites. They are the most poorly tested and may cause allergies and sensitivities, and are carcinogenic.

Do not give up on choosing healthy snacks — arm yourself with knowledge, flip to the back of the package and make healthy, conscious decisions. The more we avoid products with questionable unhealthy ingredients, the more we send a message to the manufacturers that we are not going to take it anymore.

Companies spend thousands of dollars trying to market to our tastes. The trend for 2010, according to food processing magazines, was that consumers are getting back to the basics. They want natural foods with natural ingredients. Now is the time to take a stand.


Karen Langston is a Chief Body Reorganizer and extreme nutritionist in Phoenix., or 623-252-HEAL (4325).

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 5, October/November 2011.

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