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5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour

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Almond flour is a little darling of grain free, Paleo/Primal, and low carb baking. It easily rivals conventional flour in its ability to produce tender and fluffy baked goods. Unfortunately, almond flour has numerous detrimental health consequences. It is important to understand these aspects of almond flour, so you can make the decision to avoid almond flour or choose to use almond flour with judicious moderation.

  1. Almond flour skews perception about quantity
    Get this: A cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds! I calculated that by dividing 640 calories in a cup of almond flour by 7 calories in an almond. Almond flour disguises the consumption of the nuts.

For example, this ever-popular Almond Flour Pancake recipe from Elanaâ??s Pantry calls for 1 1/2 cups of almond flour and yields about 4 servings (or 2-3 servings, if you have a hearty pancake appetite).

There are about 135 almonds in the entire batch, and 33 almonds per serving (for 4 servings). That is like 3 big handfuls of almonds, eaten at one sitting!

Imagine sitting down and mindfully chewing 33 almonds at one meal. After perhaps a big handful, your body would tell you â??Okay. Iâ??m full. Thatâ??s enough almonds for right now.â?? As you may know from experience, your body loses that perception and communication when consuming almond flour.

  1. Almond flour is very high in inflammatory PUFAS
    About 30% of the fat in almonds is polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 6 or PUFAs). Unfortunately, our modern diets tend to overburden our bodies with polyunsaturated fats which leads to numerous health issues.

Here are a few reasons why it is important NOT to go overboard with polyunsaturated fats.

PUFAS in suppress mitochondrial energy production. In non-chemistry language, PUFAS slow down the metabolism

PUFAS encourage an inflammatory response in the body, while omega-3s generally suppress inflammation

PUFAS cause digestive issues by impairing the action of certain digestive enzymes

PUFAS slow down thyroid function

PUFAS inhibit detoxification enzymes

PUFAS deplete antioxidants in the body

PUFAS inhibit production of progesterone and androgens while activating production of estrogen. This encourages estrogen-dominancy in the body and this contributes to many health issues like weight gain, PMS, hormonal acne and more.

Polyunsaturated fats arenâ??t inherently evil, only harmful when consumed in excess. The consumption of almond flour is an easy way to overload the body with a detrimental amount of PUFAS.

  1. The fats in almond flour arenâ??t heat stable
    Okay, quick chemistry reminder. Saturated fats have single bonds between all the carbon molecules of the fatty acid chain. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond replacing a single bond in the carbon chain. Polyunsaturated have more than one double bond in the carbon chain.

Double bonds are more unstable than single bonds. The more double bonds in a fatty acid, the more unstable it is (polyunsaturated is the least stable, followed by monounsaturated, followed by saturated being the most stable). When the double bonds break, the fatty acid undergoes a process called oxidation.

Processing, heat, light and pressure all cause these double bonds to break. Raw (or soaked and dehydrated) almonds have their polyunsaturated fats intact, and so the only fat issues are those discussed in the previous section. But putting almond flour in a hot environmentâ??like an ovenâ??is going to break some of those double bonds and create oxidized fatty acids.

Why are oxidized fats bad? In a nutshell, oxidized fats = free radicals. Free radicals = cell damage. Of course, we will inevitably have some free radicals in our body. Fortunately, we can consume sources of antioxidants (like fresh fruits and veggies) to combat free radical damage. But if too much oxidized fats, like from large amounts of almond flour, are consumed, our body is depleted of antioxidants and damage to body cells ensues.

Want to know what fats are safe and healthy to heat? Check out my Guide to Choosing and Using Good Fats.

  1. Almond flour is high in oxalates
    Iâ??ve already written a helpful overview on oxalates. I donâ??t want to repeat the whole article here, at the risk of making this post even longer.

If you are a bit overwhelmed with almond info, here are the main points about oxalates:

They are primarily an issue for those with leaky gut , gut dysbiosis, arthritis and behavioral issues like A.D.D

Almond flour has a ton of oxalates

Read my full oxalate post here.

  1. Coconut flour is healthier than almond flour
    When it comes to grain free baking, coconut flour is my top choice.

Unlike almond flour, the fat in coconut flour is primarily saturated fat. That means it is safe to heat and it is not toxic to the body. The coconut oil in coconut flour is a veritable superfood, celebrated for weight loss, candida control, metabolism boosting and more. While the fats in almond flour slow metabolism, the fats in coconut flour actually speed up metabolism!

Additionally, a littles goes a long way. Coconut flour seems pricey at first, but it stretches. One batch of my popular Coconut Flour Pancakes with Gelatin use only 1/4 cup of coconut flour for 2 generous portions.

Want to get started with coconut flour? First, here is the brand of coconut flour I recommend at a great price.

Second, remember not to over-do the coconut flour. I limit myself to 2-4 tablespoons of coconut flour per day, mostly because it can be pricy when consumed in abundance. But more importantly, coconut flour is very high in fiber and that is not necessarily a good thing. Please read my post, Is a High Fiber Diet a Health Hazard? for more info.

Third, it is important to start with reliable recipes when using coconut flour. Two of my favorite introductory recipes are:

Paleo Cornbread Muffins

Onion and Herb Biscuits

What about phytic acid?
As you may know, phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that prevents your body from absorbing minerals. Almonds, like all nuts and seeds, have high levels of phytic acid if they arenâ??t soaked and dehydrated. But in almonds, most of the phytic acid is in the brown skin which is removed before the almonds are processed into flour. So phytic acid is a minor issue when it comes to almond flour. You should, however, consider the health detriments of phytic acid if you are using another nut/seed flour that is not made from soaked and dehydrated nuts.

Almond flour and MODERATION
Almond flour should be used in judicious moderation. Perhaps that means one almond flour treat once every couple of weeks. For example, I use my homemade Sunflour, which has the same issues as almond flour discussed in this post, for baking maybe once a month. Maybe set aside the almond flour just for special occasions. I would also suggest giving your body a break from almond flour for a month, and see if you feelâ?¦ different. You may feel more energy or have less pain and inflammation. You may not. Weâ??re all unique, so you have to experiment and discover what best fuels your body.

Do you bake with almond flour? Have you used coconut flour? Which do you prefer?

Sources:

Peat, Ray. Suitable Fats, Unsuitable Fats. 2007. raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsuitablefats.shtml

Enig, Mary. Know Your Fats. 2000. Bethesda: Bethesda Press.

Fallon, Sally and Enig, Mary. Nourishing Traditions. 1999. Washington DC: New Trends Publishing.

Thanks for that, J. I like your posts. Are you a paleo eater?

That info comes from a site that sells coconut flour, which is good stuff, but harder to cook with.

Almond flour is an excellent replacement for wheat flour and that sales pitch above has too many inaccuracies to even get into. Here’s just one: your body cannot even absorb a lot of the calories in almonds, so the calorie info is incorrect.

[quote]Chris Shugart wrote:
That info comes from a site that sells coconut flour, which is good stuff, but harder to cook with.
[/quote]
Are you saying the blog is owned by a coconut flour company or that the author of the blog is using biased data?

I think the bias in her argument is prevalent but the blog post still looks at a so called “health food” in a scrutinizing light. Most people will ditch something like wheat flour for any other flour sold in a health food store so it’s nice to at least try and break them down.

Either way, thank you for your feedback I will look into the digestibility of calories found in almond flour.

[quote]alin wrote:
Thanks for that, J. I like your posts. Are you a paleo eater?[/quote]
I eat a paleo style diet when I am interested in shedding some pounds. I have found through trial and error that I can’t attack the gym with the same zeal while eating paleo so I don’t do it while trying to push the envelope.

I hadn’t noticed before, until your post, that almonds actually are relatively high in linoleic acid, making up about 25% of the total fat content: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:7B6b3nxsUKwJ:www.almondboard.com/Handlers/Documents/FINAL%20Almond%20Nutrient%20Comparison-%20page%201and%202.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiuCtJJUInGvPC_AIv7M5eb55XGI8inwA1Deyz1bCTHJXNc8UbilqywIyoI39D5d_Xslhr5AhCeRBHD8LU7w7DW-GL96mlbS4UQddAffosUMgX4b49NhOBy8N5BDILYPlYO2M9e&sig=AHIEtbR3HUDg7jaNic3DT9HqUgsm0AP1BA

This is not a reason to avoid the food entirely, but it is a reason to not consume it in very high quantity.

Almond flour is tasty. I’ve been sticking more to rice flour for the carbs lately but I just can’t buy in that almond flour is bad for you.

When I was initially losing weight and low carb I felt great, even with lots of almond flour. So regardless of what I read, i’d probably continue to use it.

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]alin wrote:
Thanks for that, J. I like your posts. Are you a paleo eater?[/quote]
I eat a paleo style diet when I am interested in shedding some pounds. I have found through trial and error that I can’t attack the gym with the same zeal while eating paleo so I don’t do it while trying to push the envelope. [/quote]

Many Paleo dieters find that get much better results with performance and gaining muscle when they add peri-workout nutrition drinks like Plazma, Anaconda or Surge and some additional non-wheat carbs from whole foods, such as rice. Paleo is great for inactive, very overweight people, but those seeking high performance in the gym and wanting to gain muscle are better off with a mixed approach. (And yep, I did Paleo for about a year: stayed leanish, but muscle gains and PRs all but stopped. The key for me was to instead fix my nutrient uptake mechanisms with Indigo-3G so I could easily handle more carbs.)

Related story: My father in law needed to lose a lot of fat for medical reasons and I gave him one rule: no wheat. I sent him some almond flour to use for breads and treats, and he’s lost 30 pounds so far.

I have no fear of almond flour, though of course it’s not a low calorie food (not being a skinny female yogi like the blogger, this doesn’t bother me), just a great sub for wheat in recipes. Very filling, and I believe you’d have to expose it to very high heat for an extended period of time to really damage the fats. No worries on my end.

Oddly, the lady who wrote the blog sells wheat on her site (or gets a kickback at least through a referral program) and yet she preaches against it.

As for her omega-6 fears, it’s not that cut and dried. Good article from Dr. Mike Roussell here: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/are_omega6_fats_really_that_bad

All that said, coconut flour is good stuff too, just a little trickier to sub into standard recipes. Buckwheat flour (not a grain but a fruit seed technically) is also good for certain uses.

You can use almond flour to eat handfulls of almonds in one sitting without getting full? This sounds useful

[quote]anime wrote:
You can use almond flour to eat handfulls of almonds in one sitting without getting full? This sounds useful[/quote]

Haha, pretty brilliant for those trying to gain weight, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

To Chris, you say that we aren’t going to be able to digest every calorie in the almond flour, I totally buy that about regular almonds, but how do we account for the refinement process?

Sometimes the refinement process makes things more digestible which could possibly increase the overall calories in almond flour vs. whole almonds.

Is this a splitting hairs subject, or is it more an enzyme thing where we don’t have the sort of stomachs to digest the material properly? Cheers! Maybe we can uncover easy ways for healthy bulking if the former is the case.

@Severiano:

It’s possible that the fine grinding of almonds means we absorb more calories from them. Some almond flour has the skins removed as well (blanched.) “Some of the fat remains intact within the almonds’ rigid cell walls” the studies conclude, so that makes sense that you’d get more cals if those cells walls are broken down.

Still, not a big worry. I want those calories. I want those healthy fats. I want those satiating, filling effects. I don’t want wheat flour or a blood sugar crash.

This is true with all nuts BTW. Pistachios are the same way, having around 5% fewer calories than listed in labels. Almonds, whole at least, were about 20% lower. But to me, fat loss, long term leanness, and health are all about overall food selection, not counting calories for life. For example, maybe one food is lower calorie than the other, but the lower calorie food also triggers cravings later in the day, or spikes insulin when you don’t want it to, or targets the opiate receptors in the brain with exorphins making it very hard to stop eating the lower calorie food. The higher calorie alternative may have none of those effects, depending on the source. So it all comes out in the wash in the long run.

I think the blogger missed a lot basically. Demonizing almond flour in favor of coconut flour is silly, and profit driven in her case. Both are great in different applications; neither are evil.