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 Elana’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 “Okay. I’m full. That’s enough almonds for right now.” As you may know from experience, your body loses that perception and communication when consuming almond flour.
2. 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, PUFASslow 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 aren’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.
3. The fats in almond flour aren’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 environment–like an oven–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.
4. Almond flour is high in oxalates
I’ve already written a helpful overview on oxalates. I don’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