The Problems with Almond Flour

The Problems with Almond Flour  PrimallyInspired.com The Problems with Almond Flour

If you are a regular reader of Primally Inspired, you’ve most likely noticed that I tend to avoid cooking, baking and creating recipes containing almond flour.

In past posts and status updates on Facebook, I’ve touched lightly on the problems that I have with almond flour and why I choose coconut flour for my grain-free baking. Lately, I’ve been receiving questions asking “is almond flour healthy?” Or “why don’t you use almond flour?”

So I decided to dedicate a whole post about some of the problems with almond flour. This information is not always known in the Paleo and grain-free communities, especially if you are new to Paleo or eating a grain-free and gluten-free diet. It still surprises me to still see Paleo recipe after recipe and Paleo cookbooks containing large amounts of almond flour baked goods. I hope this post will help you take a closer look at almond flour and help you make an informed decision whether or not to include almond flour and almond flour baked goods in your diet.

 

Problem #1: Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)

Almonds contain a large amount of omega-6 PUFA’s. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are PUFA’s and they’re both essential to your health, but in very small amounts. As part of a healthy diet, one of the best things you can do is reduce your PUFA and omega-6 intake.

And if you don’t think you consume excess PUFA because you are already eating well and don’t consume industrial oils, there’s a good chance you may be wrong. In this article, Chris Kressler explains why and suggests,

the best approach is to limit n-6 intake as much as possible, ideally to less than 2% of calories” 

On an average 2,200 calorie diet, 2% PUFA means only about 4 to 5 grams of omega-6 per day. This is very low and consuming anything with almond flour will quickly raise the amount to unhealthy levels. Just ¼ cup of almonds or one small serving of an almond flour baked good puts you at the 2% threshold and that’s assuming you aren’t consuming any other forms of omega-6. And when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic.

A diet with excess omega-6:

  • produces an inflammatory response in the body
  • slows down metabolism (hello weight gain!)
  • impairs thyroid function
  • depletes antioxidants

In other words excess PUFA’s = inflammation, weight gain, hormonal problems, and free radicals.  

In fact, Dr. Weil says PUFA’s

“may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body.”

If you are eating Paleo or concerned about eating healthy, you likely go to great lengths to avoid vegetable and seed oils because of the high PUFA content. Yet many of us on Paleo or  grain-free diets consume almonds and baked goods with almond flour to excess and don’t think twice about it.

Solution:

Be mindful of how many nuts and almond flour baked goods you are consuming. A small handful of nuts a few times a week is a healthy solution.

 

Problem #2: Oxidation

Polyunsaturated fats are extremely vulnerable to damage from heat, light, processing, pressure and oxygen. When exposed to these elements for too long, the fatty acids in the oil become oxidized, a scientific term that simply means that the oil becomes rancid.

Not only does this rancidity diminish the nutritional value, but the oxidation of fatty acids produces free radicals.

Under most circumstances, the problem of rancidity only arises when the fats are removed from their natural food package (not eaten in whole form). For example, the hard outer shell of the almond protects the fats from heat, light, and oxygen. Almonds also contain antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin E, that provide additional protection against oxidation. But when the protective coating is stripped and then ground to become almond flour, the delicate, unstable fats begin to become vulnerable to the elements.

If your almond flour isn’t already oxidized by the time you get the bag (from processing or light hitting it on the storage shelf), putting it into a hot oven or hot skillet is a way to cause the fatty acids to begin to oxidize.

Do you know why oxidation is so detrimental to our health? Oxidation creates free radicals. Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston sums it up nicely,

“The problem is, free radicals often injure the cell, damaging the DNA, which creates the seed for disease.”

Solution:

Foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids like almonds and almond flour should be stored in dark place with tightly closed containers in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent oxidation.

If they are not frozen, they should be used within a week of opening to prevent oxidation.

In addition, it’s recommended that these fats should never be heated on the stove or baked, especially with high temperatures or for long periods of time.

Even simpler solution:

Trade in your almond flour for coconut flour. Coconut flour is my grain-free baking flour of choice. Not only does it have a long list of health benefits, but consuming it actually boosts your metabolism. You can find my favorite coconut flour HERE. I also have plenty of grain-free baked good recipes on my blog that use coconut flour. If you have been turned off by coconut flour recipes in the past, please click on these baked good recipes listed below. I’ve been told that these will turn anyone into a coconut flour lover.

 

Problem #3: Difficult to Digest because of Anti-Nutrients like Phytic Acid and Lechtin   

If you are following a Paleo or grain free diet, you probably know all about the dangers of anti-nutrients. In fact, anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins are some of the top reasons we stay away from wheat and grains. The reason phytic acid is so detrimental to our health is that humans can’t digest it. Not only does phytic acid cause digestive upsets by inhibiting enzymes that we need to digest our food, but it also binds to minerals and prevents us from absorbing nutrients. 

But the real kicker is that almonds and other nuts contain more anti nutrients like phytic acid than grains! An almond flour muffin contains almost seven hundred milligrams of phytic acid (source). 

Ramiel Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay, states,

In the context of a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, good fats and lacto-fermented foods, most people will do fine on an estimated 400-800 mg (of phytic acid) per day. For those suffering from tooth decay, bone loss or mineral deficiencies, total estimated phytate content of 150-400 mg would be advised. For children under age six, pregnant women or those with serious illnesses, it is best to consume a diet as low in phytic acid as possible. 

Many people mistakenly think blanched almond flour doesn’t contain anti-nutrients because the skin has been removed. While the almond skin does contain the majority of the anti-nutrients, blanched almonds still contain anti-nutrients that make them difficult to digest and block mineral absorption. If you try to sprout blanched almonds, you’ll see that they will still sprout. That means the enzyme inhibitors that cause digestive upsets and harm were still present prior to sprouting.

Solution:

Soaking and dehydrating almonds and nuts is recommended to reduce these anti-nutrients and make them easier to digest. But keep in mind that many sources seem to think that only somewhere between 10-30% of the phytic acid is removed during the soaking process.

If nuts are causing you digestive upsets or if you struggle with leaky gut or autoimmune conditions, bone loss, tooth decay or serious illness nuts and nut flours are not recommended.

Learn how to properly soak your nuts HERE and HERE.

You can also purchase already soaked nuts HERE.

 

Problem #4 High in Calories

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a fan or advocate of counting calories (read what I do instead HERE). But one mistake I often see from those following a Paleo or grain-free diet is to consume foods on the Paleo list with unabashed excess just because it’s Paleo.

Almonds and almond flour baked goods are some of the biggest offenders. I often see people eating large handfuls of almonds everyday or consuming almond flour baked goods on a regular basis thinking it’s ok and healthy because it’s “Paleo.” If you aren’t losing weight or your health problems aren’t getting any better, take an honest look at your nut and almond flour consumption and see if that may be the case for you.

Almonds are high in calories and can be easy to overeat, especially if you are consuming almonds in the form of almond flour. A small handful of almonds every other day or even every day definitely fits in a healthy lifestyle, but did you know there’s approximately 90 almonds and 720 calories in a cup of almond flour?! That’s a lot of almonds! Not only do most baked good recipes call for at least 2 cups of almond flour, but almond flour baked goods are very easy to eat in excess. That means that 1 almond flour cookie you just consumed has about 30 almonds in it.

Solution:

If you have been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully and/or still experiencing signs of inflammation, but are still consuming almond flour baked goods, almond flour could be the culprit. Try eliminating almond flour baked goods for a month to see if you notice any improvements.

 

But wait a minute! Aren’t almonds a real food and therefore healthy?

Yes! Almonds in their whole form contain many beneficial nutrients and antioxidants and are very healthy! They are a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and riboflavin.  They provide a great nutritional profile of carbohydrates, protein and fat making them an excellent snacking choice.

Almonds can become problematic when you eat them in excess, heat them or don’t prepare them properly, which are all easily done by consuming almond flour baked goods.

Pin this article here:

Problems with Almond Flour  www.PrimallyInspired.com

What do you think about almond flour? Do you include it as part of a healthy diet or do you prefer to use other grain-free flours?

lovekelly

 

 Further web reading:

http://chriskresser.com/how-much-omega-3-is-enough-that-depends-on-omega-6

http://chriskresser.com/another-reason-you-shouldnt-go-nuts-on-nuts

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/nuts-omega-6-fats/ 

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400149/balancing-omega-3-and-omega-6.html

http://www.cornucopia.org/almonds/ 

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/11/everything-you-need-to-know-about-fatty-acids.aspx

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

http://paleodietlifestyle.com/are-nuts-and-seeds-healthy/

FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


41 Responses to The Problems with Almond Flour

  1. Connie says:

    I think you have raised some interesting points here. On the other hand, the article completely ignores some of the positive features of almonds when used in moderation. For example, they are a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and riboflavin.

    There are many good reasons to not rely heavily on one flour. I like to rotate through my flours for different reasons: protein, fiber, flavor, texture, moisture, and structure. I use coconut, almond, tapioca, arrowroot, flax seed, pumpkin seed, chestnut, and grape flours. (Although I understand not all of those might be primal, all are paleo accepted).

    While almonds are moderately high in PUFAs, you can effectively stay within the range of acceptance by most scientists by using no more than a 1/4 cup of almond flour per day if PUFA consumption is of concern to you (approximately 23 almonds), which would give you approximately 3.1 grams of PUFAs. As long as you don’t OD on peanut butter or other nut sources that day, you would be in decent shape to not exceed the 8 gram per day recommended limit of PUFAs. (Of course, that would assume that you are matching your consumption of PUFAs with Omega 3s at a 1:1 ratio as suggested by most Paleo and Primal experts).

    At the same time, while your note about the high calorie count of almonds is valid, unless you are eating the almond flour in whole batches, you’re not going to be consuming a cup or more of flour in one sitting. My favorite cookie recipe, for example, serves 24, uses 2.5 cups of flour and I only eat 2 cookies in one sitting. So I’m only consuming .21 cups of that flour.

    Also, on the same note, coconut flour is very high in fiber. While this is a good thing when consumed in moderation, the high fiber content can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas, and constipation.

    So it really goes back to – use everything in moderation. Rotate around the flours depending on your dietary needs per day, and you shouldn’t run into any of these issues.

    • Definitely, Connie!

      Thanks so much or your feedback! I did touch on the benefits of almonds at the end of the post and say they are healthy :) At the end, I also say the problem is not almonds or even almond flour. I definitely agree with everything you are saying – everything in moderation is so key!

    • Bill says:

      Who the hell eats only two cookies in one serving? When I make cookies, you better grab them quick, because I’m going to eat the whole tray.

  2. Jen says:

    I love your recipes and posts. I do prefer coconut flour but so many recipes call for coconut. Do you have a conversation chart? Thanks

  3. heather mackay says:

    I am new to Paleo diet and I have read tons of things suggesting Almond flour. I’m so confused! Just when I think I have figured out some good things to eat, I read something else telling me not to! :(

    • I think the best thing you can do is listen to your body! If you notice digestive upsets or signs of inflammation, you can try cutting it out for a few weeks and see if it helps. If you don’t have signs of upsets, I am a big fan of everything in moderation :)

  4. Jessica says:

    Help, i hate everything I’ve tried so far with coconut flour. I don’t like taste or texture and I’ve tried a lot of recipes.what else can i use instead of coconut flour?

  5. Tina says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. Do you feel this way for all nuts?

    Tina

  6. Suzanne says:

    Thanks Kelly, great article! My issue is: Almond is the only nut I can eat. And I can handle only a little bit if coconut (allergic reaction).
    I agree, moderation is key. Since I’ve gone gluten and grain free, I don’t bake much anymore either. Thanks for all your research!

    • Thanks for your comment, Suzanne! I see many people consuming nuts in excess and many people tell me that when they reduced or eliminated their nut intake, they experienced better health and less inflammation (myself included!). There is no “perfect” food and my intentions when writing this were to make more people aware of some of the problems with almond flour and be mindful of how much they are consuming – not to totally scare them away from it. Everything in moderation, for sure!!!

  7. April says:

    Good grief… I just switched to paleo this year, bought a huge supply of both coconut, and almond flour, convinced my mother to make the switch… we both feel so much better. Now this? I think they’re right when critics say, “we always find something wrong with something… just give it five years, and they’ll discover it causes cancer, or some other disease…”. :( Feeling very frustrated right now.

    • norma carey says:

      I have been doing paleo for over three years now. I am constantly learning, changing, improving. It is a process. In the beginning, I was frustrated too…thinking I researched and I knew best…only to read something else different. We need to educate ourselves the best we can and make decisions that are best for us. I use the best resources (that is why I am on primally inspired) and make the best decisions and changes. Hang in there. Continue to read and learn.

  8. Kelly says:

    would almond milk be bad too then? my 3 & 4yr olds drink 1 cup a day. Now you have me worried :-/

    • christine says:

      I too would like to know if almond milk is ok? My daughter who is also four is dairy free and drinks almond milk instead. Thanks for any help

  9. Courtney says:

    I much prefer coconut flour. Unfortunately, I know have an egg allergy and coconut flour loves eggs. I have had to go back to almond flour. Have you every successfully made a coconut flour recipes without eggs?? If so, I’d go back to coconut flour in an instant!

  10. Lisa says:

    I love coconut flour and have made some phenomenal cookies with it, but recently I’ve had issues with my gallbladder and coconut flour sent me into a full attack. I keep the almond flour to a minimum and rarely eat baked goods – I tend to use almond flour for coatings. Have you heard of problems with coconut flour and gallbladder or SIBO symptoms?

  11. Lori says:

    What is the substitute for almond flour? Can we substitute cocunut flour for almond flour?

    • Norma says:

      You cannot substitute coconut flour for almond flour. Coconut flour is very dry; almond flour is very moist. They are two totally different flours. You will need to use recipes that are made for the specific flours.

  12. Tara Ferrari says:

    Following

  13. sandra says:

    your concerns with omega 6 in almonds is impressive, but consider the fact that ALL almonds in the US are pasteurized by heat or chemicals for the past 6 years which kills ALL the vital nutrients of almonds, in essence you’re only consuming fiber
    labeling still allows companies to list as “raw” “organic” after pasteurization
    hard nuts should be soaked then dehydrated before consuming which changes the proteins to amino acids for easier digestive assimilation
    “what you eat today, don’t eat again for four days”
    this helps people with food intolerance
    everything in balance, trial and error brings each individual to the place that helps them balance their own system

    • Thank you, Sandra! When I learned about the pasteurization of almonds in the US (I believe I have the article linked in my post under the oxidation/processing keypoint), I was totally shocked! It’s crazy to me that we can still label them as raw and no one knows.

      • Angela says:

        I read an article about the heat and chemical pasteurization too. The article said that you can still get truly raw almonds if you buy direct from the growers stands. By law the growers can not send them out of state unless they have been pasteurized…bummer!

  14. Elizabeth Edwards says:

    Hi, what about almond milk. I’m trying to find healthier substitutions for cow’s milk.

  15. Stacey says:

    I really feel that everything is moderation is key. It never fails, that people will always find something bad in something healthful. Unless you’re consuming an entire 16 oz bag of almonds or an entire batch of cookies on a daily basis, I think you’re ok. Let’s be realistic here.

  16. Victoria Yates says:

    Hi do you mean ALMOND MEAL or ALMOND FLOUR , are you considering ACTIVATED ALMONDS?

  17. Vivian says:

    What is your take on almond milk vs coconut milk? Just wondering. Thanks, I love your post.

  18. Pingback: Weekend Grab Bag O’ Links 12/22/13 | When Paleo Met Sally

  19. Angie says:

    Hi, thanks for the post! I too am wondering if you would consider almond milk a bad choice as well? I switch between almond milk and coconut milk right now, but I only recently started Paleo because nothing else was working for me and I still get stomach discomfort at times and don’t feel wonderful yet, like so many people say they do while on Paleo! I’d appreciate your opinion on the almond milk. Thanks so much for your posts and your recipes!

  20. Jennifer says:

    Great post! Yeah, I think its easy to consume too many nuts on a paleo diet (I have to watch myself!) and almond flour makes it TOO easy. You forget that what you are cooking with is essentially a big pile of ground up nuts. Nuts should be a very small part of our diets.

  21. Iris Armstrong says:

    I’m still learning the Paleo, healthy lifestyle. A great discouragement is the nearly exclusive use of coconut oils and flour, as well as sunflower oil. Allergic to both, I remain confused and frustrated.

  22. Cristy says:

    I also would like to know about almond milk, both my kids have dairy allergy/sensitivity issues ad drink almond milk. What would you suggest and why?

  23. Darlyne Wagner says:

    Is eating lots of peanut butter a cause of indigestion and heartburn? I am just getting started with Paleo and need some help in discovering what is harmful and causative of digestive issues.

  24. Kellie Dawson says:

    I found that almonds, and almond flour, caused major bloating for me. Other people won’t react this way at all. It is definitely a “know your own body” thing. I still have about three pounds of almond flour but I am gradually making the switch to all coconut flour. Here’s hoping I can handle it.

  25. Meagan says:

    What about almond butter? I love it so much but I suppose it’s probably good in moderation as well. Also, do you only use coconut flour for baking? And what do you think about buckwheat? Thanks!

  26. Kayla says:

    This is such a great article! I recently experienced a dramatic drop in my hormones. My platelets, red and white blood cell count, thyroid hormones, estrogen, as well as severe food allergies and intestinal/digestive upset. I’ve been told that it could be a pituitary problem although I’m very into the power of nutrition and the health of the gut, like you are. I’m shocked to hear this info in your article! I’m OBSESSED with almond butter…. not raw. I don’t eat more than 1-2 Tbsp a day but I also drink almond milk because I’m soy and dairy free. I also have really dry skin so I thought omega’s, especially from fish like salmon, are good for you. Is almond milk okay?? If not, what kind of dairy/soy free milk is okay? And are the omegas from fish different than the ones you referred to above? Also, are omega 3′s just as bad? Thank you for being so helpful and informative!

  27. Andrea says:

    Hi Kelly-
    Thank you for the info. I do however love your brown butter chocolate chip cookies!!
    Do you have a conversion/alternative for the almond flour? Have you made them with another flour?

  28. Pingback: Necessary Recovery | Live Fit and Sore

  29. Pingback: The 3 Biggest Paleo Mistakes - Primal Docs

  30. Pingback: Sisters of Spring 2014 P3 and P4 - Page 16 - HCG Diet Info Forums

  31. Linda says:

    I am wondering if anyone got the answers about almond milk.
    I have switched to it, and have adjusted to the taste.

    I am not Paleo, eating low-carb and mostly vegan.

    I really hate that almond milk may not be a good alternative….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Get FREE weekly recipes, nutrition tips, fitness and natural living posts from Primally Inspired!
Click here to sign up!