Alrifai Glutamates

Our thoughts on Glutamates (MSG)

What are Glutamates (MSG)?

Monosodium glutamates (MSG) is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods and food additives.

How is it made?

MSG occurs naturally in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheeses. People around the world have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. For example, a historical dish in the Asian community is a glutamate-rich seaweed broth. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from this broth and determined that glutamate provided the savory taste to the soup. Professor Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year.

Today, instead of extracting and crystallizing MSG from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This fermentation process is similar to that  used to make yogurt, vinegar and wine.

Is MSG safe to eat?

MSG added to food is safe. The FDA considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions.

How can I know if there is MSG in my food?

The FDA and the European Food Safety board require that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate.

Al Rifai’s Position on MSG

We believe in unadulterated natural snacking. We dry roast our products without adding any oil or fats in the process. In 2017 we decided to remove all glutamates from our products and we did it.

Now all our prepacked products and the one you buy from our stores are MSG FREE.


Cheers to healthy snacking and a longer life.

Macadamias – Find out why they are good

When you think of macadamia nuts, Hawaii might come to mind. This nut is actually native to the continent Down Under. This explains why the fruit is also known as the Australian  Nut.

These are some of the most sought-after nuts in the world, so they can be expensive. This has driven up commercial production in other balmy areas like South Africa and Central America. The trees thrive if there’s sufficient water. Introduced in Hawaii in 1881 and soon afterward in California, Hawaii is now the world’s largest exporter. A 10-year-old macadamia tree might produce up to 22 kg and increase indefinitely.

The husks are composted for fertilizer.  In Japan, the oil is used in the cosmetic industry to make soaps, shampoos, and sunscreens. The remainder can be used in animal feed. Macadamias are a tough nut to crack, as the saying goes. Containing at least 72 percent oil, they’re encased in a leathery, green husk that splits open as the nut matures.

Al Rifai macadamias roasted in shellHealth benefits

As a natural, whole food, macadamia nuts contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals with significant health-boosting potential. They contain high amounts of vitamin B1 and magnesium. Just one serving nets 58 percent of what you need in manganese and 23 percent of the recommended daily value of thiamin.

Raw nuts contain a number of nutrients along with a healthy amount of monounsaturated fat. Macadamias are relatively low in carbs and protein (containing two percent per one-ounce serving). They are high in oleic acid and omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid, the same fatty acid found in olive oil. In fact, of the 21 grams of fat found in macadamia nuts only three grams are saturated fat.

Studies done on Macadamias

Clinical trials and studies demonstrated that the fatty acid profile of macadamia nuts beneficially affect serum lipids/lipoproteins. This results in a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, a Journal of the American College of Nutrition study found that people who ate nuts benefited in other ways, including:

  • Lower systolic blood pressure
  • Less likelihood of having two of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure and low HDL (good) cholesterol (for nut consumers)
  • Less likelihood of having four risk factors for metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose, and a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome

Another reason why nuts are beneficial is that many of them, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and peanuts, contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with coronary heart disease. Nut consumption is also associated with a reduced incidence of diabetes in women, gallstones in both men and women. It has also benefits onoxidative stress, inflammation, and vascular reactivity.

It’s also important to note that macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs and can cause weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, tremors, and hyperthermia.

Al Rifai offers a selection of dry roasted macadamias and raw as well.

AL RIFAI NUTS Conveyor the best lebanese nuts and kernels

Does roasting nuts affect their nutrition profile?

Since 2005, researchers from Harvard University have shown that men reduced their cardiovascular risk by eating nuts regularly. These men have either suffered a heart related disease or healthy. By replacing less healthy snacks with nuts rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and fiber lowers cholesterol. Omega-3 fats in nuts may prevent irregular heart rhythms. Those rich in arginine may improve the function of your blood vessels. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, is found in nuts to fight off free radicals. The question is, do the same benefits apply if you buy roasted nuts compared to those not roasted?

Roasting and Heat Treating of Certain Nuts

Roasted nuts may be more appetising than the raw ones. You may want to consider buying some specific types. You should consider their raw forms instead on your next trip to our store. Chemical analysis of raw and processed pistachios are published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” in 2008. The Results from the study reveals an increase of lipid oxidation. This indicates the roasted nuts compared to the raw ones has higher oxidation. Also, the results from the heat treated nuts show an increase of trans fats. Your diet should limit this type of fat.

Roasting Cashews Increases Their Antioxidant Activity

Some nuts, such as cashews, you want to buy roasted. The “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” published a study by the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, on the antioxidant activity of roasting cashews in May of 2011. The results shows an increase in the absorbency and scavenging capabilities of the antioxidants in cashews, leading to an increase in the power of reducing oxygen radicals in these nuts. There is also a higher yield in the phenolic compounds and flavonoids. The cashews roasted at 130 degrees Celsius for 33 minutes contains these powerful antioxidants.

Heat Treated Peanuts Are Better Than Raw

We know that thermal processing alters the antioxidants composition in peanuts. The roasting of peanuts may still be a better choice for you as their antioxidant activities are preserved or enhanced after processing. In September 2010 “Plant Foods For Human Nutrition” displays results from a study where scientists from the University of Georgia finds that the antioxidant activity increases the most by oil roasting peanuts compared to dry roasting them and that raw peanuts had the lowest amount of antioxidants. From another study in 2007 from the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” shows that boiling peanuts compared to dry or oil roasting them, had significantly the highest total flavonoid and polyphenol content, suggesting that heat-treated peanuts are better than the raw variety.

Almonds Are Better Raw

On the other hand, you may want to choose raw almonds. In March 2011, the “Journal of Food Science” reveals that almonds roasted over 140 degrees Celsius can damage their cellular structures and degrade their quality, making them more susceptible of releasing oil during storage. Roasting almonds above 130 degrees Celsius encourages acrylamide formation, a product with links to causing cancer. In another study from the “Journal of Food Science” in 2007, the amount of acrylamide formed increases as the color of the almonds gets darker as they roast. We know that Almonds originating from Europe have less acrylamide than those from the US because the asparagine levels are much lower.

AL RIFAI Activated Nut Sheets

What are activated nuts? Are they good for you?

Nuts are super nutritious, and packed full of vitamins and minerals. They are also very appealing in taste. Nuts are surprisingly versatile in the Lebanese cuisine. They work equally well in sweet and savoury dishes.  You can even use them to make non-dairy milk, butter, and cheese. Plus they are used to make the most amazing raw desserts.

Nuts are available to buy in two forms, raw or roasted. You must have been hearing a lot about the term “activated” nuts, and recipes advised using activated nuts. What is activated nut? And more precisely, why would you bother when (most) nuts are perfectly tasty in their raw state?

The scientist in us wanted to know more. We looked into the data and searched some sources and here are the facts.

Nuts in their natural state

Nuts grow on trees, and have a hard shell that takes a good set of nut crackers plus some considerable hand strength to prise open. Commercial farmers can use machinery to crack them open. The resulting nut once the case is removed is the raw nut.

It’s worth clarifying that raw in this instance means uncooked. Raw in the raw food sense means not heated above 46ºC. This can be a little confusing, for example with cashew nuts, which are often steamed open. These nuts are still referred to as “raw”, since they are uncooked, but they are not strictly speaking raw in the raw food sense as the steaming would have involved heating them above 46ºC.

Nuts and phytic acid

As well as all their nutritional goodness, raw nuts also contain phytic acid, or phytate. Phytate is the molecule that plants use to store phosphorus, and it is particularly high in bran, seeds and nuts.  Once digested, the phytate in raw nuts, which cannot be digested by humans as we do not have the phytase enzyme, binds to minerals, particularly calcium, iron, and zinc, but also magnesium and manganese, preventing us from absorbing them in the gastrointestinal tract. Phytate has been described as an anti-nutrient for this reason.

As well as binding to minerals, phytate is also thought to inhibit digestive enzymes such as pepsin (here), trypsin (here) and amylase (here). This is why large quantities of raw nuts can be hard to digest.

Whether you should worry about phytic acid depends on how much you intake. If you just eat a small handful of raw nuts a day, it’s probably no big deal. But if you’re vegan and eating huge quantities of almond butter, cashew cheese, you eat a vegetarian diet packed with lentils and whole grains, or you’re anaemic or suffering from calcium or iron deficiency, then you may want to consider reducing your phytate intake. That doesn’t mean cutting back, it just means preparing your nuts (and also pulses and other wholegrains) a little differently.

All of the ways described below are ways of preparing nuts so as to reduce the phytate levels and make the nuts easier to digest, and allow us to absorb more nutrients.

Roasting Nuts

Roasted nuts are probably the most readily available nuts after raw nuts. Roasting reduces the phytate content of nuts, although there’s not much research available regarding specifics of how the nutritional content of nuts changes when you roast them. It is also thought to improve their digest-ability.

Because nuts contain polyunsaturated fats it’s thought that roasting at lower temperatures are better. Also, nuts which contain asparagine, such as almonds, need to be kept below 130°C to avoid producing acrylamide, which is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Most of the Al Rifai products are roasted at this temperature.

AL RIFAI Activated Almonds in Water

Soaking nuts (or “activating” them)

Another option for reducing the phytate content of raw nuts is to soak them. Soaking is a precursor for germination, and the seed uses enzymes to break down the phytate. Soaking time can vary depending on which nut you’re soaking, but overnight is a general guideline.

If you soak the nuts for long enough, they should begin to sprout (germinate). I have never tried this but expect it would take several days. The water should be changed every 12 hours or so (more if it is a very hot day) to help prevent them rotting.

You can eat nuts that have been soaked. They are still crunchy but have a more “crisp” bite than a crunch. Nuts are great for adding to salads or snacking on, but will only keep for a couple of days. They won’t work in recipes that call for raw or roasted nuts though because they are too wet. To enable them to be suitable for baking, they need to be dried out.

Dehydrating nuts

Dehydrating is a method of drying soaked nuts out without cooking them, and uses low temperatures for long periods of time to achieve this. There is a specialist piece of equipment called a dehydrator that can be used, or a fan oven at a low temperature (lower than 50ºC) with the door ajar to allow the moisture to escape, or even leaving them in the sun. Dehydrating nuts takes upwards of 12 hours. Once dried out the nuts resemble raw nuts in flavour and appearance but have more crunch and are slightly drier.

If nuts aren’t dehydrated for long enough then they can go mouldy inside because of the moisture that remains.

Activated nuts

In some health food shops you can buy activated raw nuts. These are nuts that have been soaked (activated) then dehydrated and packaged for sale. They are considerably more expensive than ordinary raw nuts because of the extra time and effort that has gone into preparing them.

The Conclusion?

All this preparation is taking place to make nuts easier to digest, and that can’t be a bad thing. That said, it does require a bit of effort, and if you don’t notice any problems eating raw nuts you’ll probably think it’s not worth the trouble. However, consider this. Whilst you may think it sounds like a modern fad, most traditional cultures soak, sprout and ferment nuts and grains and have done for centuries. It’s not that it’s been invented, more re-discovered. Also, nuts don’t come ready shelled in convenient packs at the supermarket.

We recommend that you soak  nuts if you are adding them to a salad and planned far enough in advance!