Is Almond Flour Safe to Consume?
An article appeared recently, 5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour.
This article by Lauren at Empowered Sustenance brought out a few good points. Does this mean we are done eating almond flour muffins?
Let me start by saying the best way to eat nuts is to buy them raw, soak them, and then dehydrate or roast them yourself so that you control the temperature.
By keeping the nuts whole and intact, the fats are protected from oxidation. Oxidized fats will be found in roasted almond butter and almond flour or almond meal. Oxidation contributes to inflammation, leading to a decline in health.
Soaking reduces the anti nutrients that are present in nuts, making them more digestible. Nuts make a great snack and hold a lot of nutrition, so it is worth keeping them in your diet.
Almonds are a wonderful, nutrient-dense food.
They have Vitamin E, magnesium (the relaxing mineral) and potassium. Almonds help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce heart disease risk, and help with weight loss.
One study of 8865 people showed that those who consumed almonds twice a week were 31% less likely to gain weight than those who ate no almonds.
It is easy to over eat these delicious nuts, and I suggest measuring out 1/4 cup servings and enjoying one to two servings a day at most.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids vs Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fatty acids are called “essential fatty acids” because our body can not make them and we must consume them in our diet.
Omega-3 (O-3) fatty acids
are very beneficial to health, lowering the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. O-3 fats play an important role in brain function, eye health and mood.
When deficient in O-3 fats you may experience dry skin, dry eyes, fatigue, poor memory, vision and nerve problems, heart problems, mood swings, depression and poor circulation.
O-3 fats are anti inflammatory. The standard American diet is lacking in O-3 fats. Although some plants and nuts have O-3 fats, the fats from wild caught fatty fish (salmon, sardines, cod) and grass-fed animals are more readily available for the body to use.
Here are 61 Benefits of Omega-3 Fats published by Green Med Info.
High triglycerides? Patients with high triglycerides can lower their values by as much as 40% by taking 2-4 grams of EPA + DHA per day.
- Eat wild Atlantic salmon, sardines, cod, and Atlantic mackerel. Enjoy grass-fed beef and free range chickens/eggs. Avoid farm-raised fish, especially talapia which typically comes from China.
- Supplement with 3 grams of EPA+DHA from quality sources like Nordic Naturals and Carlson Cod Liver Oil with Lemon (1 Tbs per day) or Perque EPA/DHA capsules.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The O-6 fatty acids are also essential and good sources are found in nuts.
Unfortunately, most O-6 fats come in to the Standard American Diet in the form of industrially processed vegetable oils and processed food. They contribute to inflammation and result in heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. (UCCS.edu)
Even with all the careful preparation to make the nut more digestible, the issue of Omega-6 fats is one reason we want to moderate the amount of nuts we consume.
Chris Kresser’s article, How Too much Omega-6 and Not Enough Omega-3 Is Making Us Sick, shows that it is the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in our diet that is more important that a specific amount:
Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1.
It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.
Today we are consuming O-6:O-3 as much as 25:1 instead of the lower 1:1 ratio of our ancestors.
The foods that contribute the highest amount of Omega-6 fats to our diet are refined vegetable oils. Almond flour is taking the hit in the article mentioned earlier, but is it justified?
The first change I recommend is to make sure that the inflammatory vegetable oils are out of your diet. If you eat out frequently, buy bottled salad dressing and other processed food, then you are likely consuming more omega-6 oils than you realize.
The following chart is from Chris Kresser’s article above.
Avoid the pretty yellow vegetable oils found on grocery store shelves. Instead opt of extra virgin olive oil, raw coconut oil, and organic butter (Kerrygold is grass-fed too).
So what does all this mean for almond flour lovers?
When we eat nuts, I recommend 1/4 cup once or twice a day, at most. Nuts like almonds are a great food and have health benefits when we moderate the amount.
Soaking nuts in water has been recommended to reduce the anti-nutrients (phytate) and for some people this is the difference between stomach pain and easily digesting nuts.
I like to use grain-free flour to make an occasional treat and for people new to the Real Food, Paleo or Primal eating plan I think they are a nice transitional food option as we move away from grains.
I also see that for some people grain-free flour foods can replace the foundational real food that needs to comprise our healthy diet: 6-9 servings of vegetables per day, clean protein, plenty of healthy fats, and raw fruit, seeds and nuts.
If you find yourself eating almond flour pancakes for breakfast, almond flour muffins, scones and cookies for snacks, almond flour bread for lunch, and almond flour goodies for an after dinner dessert … then it is likely to be problematic for you.
Coconut flour is an alternative flour that can be used to make many treats. It may be a little better than almond flour because of the stability of its saturated fat, but coconut flour is high in fiber. People with gut issues like SIBO, dysbiosis and leaky gut may not be able to have coconut flour.
My take-away from the article is just a reality check.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I eating enough Real Food (fresh vegetables, healthy fats from butter/coconut oil/olive oil, clean animal protein) or are these treats becoming a bigger part of my diet?
- Do I routinely consume wild caught fatty fish like salmon and sardines, grass-fed beef and free range eggs to increase my omega-3 fatty acids?
- Do I take 1 Tbs daily of a quality cod liver oil like Nordic Naturals or Carlson Cod Liver Oil?
Focus on increasing the Omega-3 foods in your diet as you also focus on decreasing the Omega-6 foods. Start by getting the refined vegetable oils, grains and legumes out or greatly reduce them. Then think about how often you use almond flour or how often you are consuming nuts.
Eating healthy can be very simple, 3 meals a day and a snack in between if needed. Try to always eat clean animal protein, 1 Tbs added fat, 2 servings of vegetables at every meal.
How often can we eat almonds and almond flour?
I do not have a rule or know how often it is safe to enjoy almond flour. The article says once a month, but I do not see any hard evidence.
Maybe it can be enjoyed more frequently, especially if we are eating high amounts of fatty fish and other omega-3 animal foods to help balance the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids o omega-3 fatty acids.
Again, the best way to enjoy nuts is to soak them in water to make them more digestible and lower the phytates. These soaked nuts can be used to make nut milks or the soaked nuts can be dehydrated if you prefer a crispy texture.
Watch the quantity of nuts you consume and use nut flour in moderation. If you have digestive issues that you are working on, this may not be the time to eat any nut flour. Be faithful to supplementing with quality cod liver oil and eating fatty fish.
Remember, when we have higher levels of omega-3 we have a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and diabetes.
If you are concerned about your ratio of omega-6 to omega:3 because you want to reduce inflammation and avoid the diseases of modern civilization, you can always get your omega levels tests. The test is called Complete Fatty Acids Profile.
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