Almond Flour: The Gluten-Free, Heart-Healthy Flour Alternative

Almond flour - Dr. Axe

People love almond meal because it’s a gluten-free flour, and it’s also a great choice for anyone on a low-carbohydrate diet. If you’re a following a paleo diet or looking to bake without grains, almond flour is pretty much a must-have in your pantry as well. This flour is made of almonds and only almonds, which are first blanched to remove the skin and then ground up to a very fine consistency.

As we know, almonds nutrition is highly impressive. The awesome thing about almond flour is that it’s simply ground-up almonds so it gives you all of the original almond’s health benefits. One cup of this flour contains about 90 almonds and provides more than 100 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin E. It’s super versatile and can be used in all kinds of baked foods. It packs a potent punch of nutrition, unlike a typical gluten-rich, overly processed flour that does nothing good for your health.

Science has shown that almonds are a natural powerhouse when it comes to heart health, blood sugar management and even some types of cancer. Studies have also found that the almonds that make up its namesake flour are even better than complex carbohydrates when it comes to losing weight and maintaining a slimmer waistline. (1) Let’s check out this amazing flour works as a healthier flour option.


5 Health Benefits of Almond Flour

1. Boosts Heart Health

More than 65 percent of the fat in almond flour is monounsaturated, which is excellent for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and good overall heart health. Additionally, scientists find that almond consumption can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy.

Study subjects consumed 50 grams of almonds daily for a month, and the results were highly positive for their heart health. Whether you’re eating whole almonds, almond flour or almond meal, this research out of the U.K. shows that eating almonds significantly increases the level of antioxidants in the bloodstream, improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure. All of these health markers are key to a properly functioning heart and can reduce the likelihood of heart disease. (2)

2. Helps Discourage Cancer Formation

Researchers at the University of California conducted a study to evaluate the effect of almonds and almond meal on colon cancer cells. They found that whole almonds and almond fractions reduce aberrant crypt foci in an animal model of colon cancer. Aberrant crypt foci are clusters of abnormal tube-like glands in the lining of the colon and rectum and are some of the earliest colon changes that may lead to colon cancer.

According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that almond consumption can decrease the risk of colon cancer and almonds’ high healthy fat content is related to its anticancer ability. (3) This research shows why almonds are among the best cancer-fighting foods around.

3. Aids in Managing Blood Sugar for Diabetics

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that for healthy individuals, almonds decrease postprandial glycemia (post-meal blood glucose levels), the presence of insulin in the blood and oxidative damage. Researchers gave subjects controlled meals based either around almonds, potatoes, rice or bread. They found that participants’ blood sugar and insulin decreased after eating the almond meal. Antioxidant levels in the blood also increased after the almond meal. (4)

In general, almonds are a smart choice as part of a low glycemic, diabetic diet plan, which can help decrease the incidence of diabetes incidence as well as the risk of coronary heart disease.

4. Encourages Healthy Waistlines

A randomized, 24-week study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders evaluated the effects of almonds versus complex carbohydrates on 65 adults who were either overweight or obese. Half of the study participants consumed a low-calorie diet plus three ounces of almonds per day. The other half of the group ate a low-calorie diet plus their choice of complex carbohydrates each day. Both groups consumed the exact same amount of calories and protein.

When the study concluded, the almond-eaters showed a 62 percent greater reduction in weight, a 50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference and a 56 percent greater reduction in fat mass compared with the carb-consuming group. Researchers also concluded that their findings suggest that a low-calorie diet including almonds improves health issues (like obesity) associated with metabolic syndrome. (5)

5. Improves Energy Levels

The combination of healthy fats, macronutrients and micronutrients make almond flour an excellent energy booster. Specifically, the flour contains energy creators like riboflavin, manganese and copper. The riboflavin (vitamin B2) in almonds plays an essential role in energy production, red blood cell creation, cellular function, growth and development. (6)

It also contains the trace minerals manganese and copper. These two minerals are crucial co-factors of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase. This key enzyme deactivates free radicals in the mitochondria (power generators within our cells), which ensures that our energy keeps flowing. (7) When you use almond flour as part of a generally healthy recipe, it doesn’t just taste good, but it can provide a steady source of fuel that also won’t make your blood sugar spike.

 

Almond flour vs. coconut flour vs. wheat flour - Dr. Axe

 


Almond Flour vs. Coconut Flour vs. Wheat Flour

It’s really pretty impossible to say whether almond or coconut flour is healthier or better than the other. It really depends on your needs and goals, but I definitely recommend almond and coconut flour over wheat flour. Almond flour is extremely healthy but has a bit more calories and fat than coconut flour, while having fewer carbs and grams of fiber. The higher calorie and fat content isn’t a bad thing, and this makes it a great choice for those on a low-carb diet, ketogenic diet or higher fat diet.

If your No. 1 priority is a low-carb diet, then almond flour is a perfect choice for you. If you’re not so concerned about carbs, then you can opt for coconut flour, which has slightly more carbs, or you can opt for wheat flour, which has has a much larger amount of carbs than almond and coconut flour. For a quarter-cup serving, a typical almond flour has six grams of carbohydrates while coconut has around 16 grams and all-purpose wheat flour has about 24 grams.

If you’re looking for a gluten-free flour, then you can choose either almond or coconut flour because they’re both completely free of gluten. You definitely don’t want wheat flour, which contains gluten.

Almond flour is an especially good source of vitamin E. It also contains iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium and other minerals. Coconut flour is good source of iron, manganese, copper and several other minerals. All-purpose wheat flour contains low levels of iron and B vitamins, while a true whole wheat flour is richer in nutrients.

Coconut flour has less overall fat in the form of a saturated fat called lauric acid, which is great for the immune system. Almond flour is high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can be inflammatory in large amounts.

Wheat flour is lower in fat than almond and coconut flour, but the mix of high carbs and low fat makes wheat flour a poor choice for anyone looking to keep blood sugar levels low. If you’re a diabetic or just generally concerned about maintaining a low glycemic diet, almond or coconut flour are definitely better choices than wheat flour. Almond flour barely has one gram of sugar per serving, while coconut flour has about four grams of sugar and more carbs — so almond flour is the smartest choice for diabetics.

Coconut flour and almond flour both have a significant amount of fiber. Coconut flour mainly contains inulin fiber, which can be hard on some people’s digestive systems since it is a FODMAP, a class of carbohydrates that rapidly ferment in the colon and can produce gas and digestive issues for some people. Meanwhile, almonds are considered a moderate FODMAP, but almond flour contains phytic acid, which is a known gut irritant in large amounts. Wheat flour’s main potential gut irritant is gluten.

When it comes to digestion, you might find you feel better using almond flour rather than coconut flour or vice versa. If you have a really weak digestive system, you might find that all three cause problems. (8)


How to Use and Cook with Almond Flour

You can purchase almond flour at your local grocery store, health store or online. When purchasing almond flour, it should really only contain one ingredient: almonds. When you add almond flour to baked goods, it makes them more moist and adds a great nutty taste. Baked goods made with almond meal tend to be calorie-dense.

Almond flour cookies, almond flour muffins, almond flour bread... the list really goes on and on for what you can do with almond flour. It’s predominantly used in baked goods but can also be used to replace bread crumbs in a healthier take on chicken tenders. It’s also great for coating fish.

Almond flour can typically replace wheat flour in a recipe in a one-to-one ratio. However, if you substitute almond flour for wheat flour, keep in mind that you will likely require additional egg or other binding agent to make the recipe successful. Also, know that your end result will be flatter when you use almond flour rather than wheat.

When you use almond flour in baking, don’t let the texture of your batter alarm you. Almond flour batters are usually thicker than wheat-based flours as well as other gluten-free flours. Resist adding more liquid to the mixture or you’ll likely end up with a final product that won’t bake through. You’ll also waste precious flour.

If you’re making a cake, then almond flour is the best choice for a light texture. However, if your recipe is more forgiving (like brownies or cookies) then it really doesn’t matter if you choose almond meal or flour.

If you think that you can just substitute almond flour for coconut flour or vice versa, you should know that coconut flour sucks up a lot more moisture than almond flour. So when you use coconut flour, the recipe needs more wet ingredients overall to prevent a dry end product. While coconut flour has a more neutral, slightly sweet flavor, almond flour and almond meal taste exactly like what they both are: almonds. This almond flavor can make a tasty and interesting addition to all kinds of recipes.

It’s best to keep almond flour in the refrigerator to preserve freshness between uses.


Almond Flour Recipes

Almond flour is great for making cookies, cakes and other baked goods. It’s also useful in different meals or even coating for things like chicken tenders. One of my favorite ways to use almond flour is in my nutrient-dense Almond Flour Pancakes Recipe.

Other great ways to use almond flour include:

The healthy dessert options go on and on, but you can also use almond flour as the gluten-free flour in main courses, like my Bacon-Crusted Chicken Tenders Recipe.


Almond Flour Nutrition Facts and Origin

An almond is the seed of the fruit that grows on almond trees, a deciduous tree that has fragrant white to pale pink flowers. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut, but in botanical terms, it’s actually considered a drupe.

The terms almond flour and almond meal are often used interchangeably. However, the nut’s flour is typically much more finely ground and has a more uniform consistency compared to almond meal.

What is almond meal? Almond meal is pretty much a courser version of almond flour that’s almost always made from almonds with their skins intact, which results in flecks of the almond skins in the meal. Products labeled almond flour are made from blanched almonds, which means that the skins are removed.

A quarter cup (28 grams) of a typical almond flour contains about: (9, 10)

  • 160 calories
  • 6 grams carbohydrates
  • 6 grams protein
  • 14 grams fat
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 13.6 milligrams vitamin E (45.3 percent DV)
  • 65.2 milligrams magnesium (16.3 percent DV)
  • 1.1 milligrams iron (6 percent DV)
  • 57.4 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
  • 160.4 milligrams potassium (4.6 percent DV)

Almond flour also contains significant amounts of manganese, riboflavin, phosphorus and copper.


Almond Flour Potential Side Effects

If your body is not used to processing large amounts of fiber, almond flour may lead to an upset and/or bloated stomach. If you’re following a low-FODMAP diet, almond flour contains a moderate amount of FODMAPs so it’s recommended to limit serving sizes.

If you’re allergic to almonds, you should certainly avoid almond meal and flour and any products containing either one. An almond allergy is typically part of a general tree nut allergy, which includes cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts and others.


Almond Flour Final Thoughts

Almond flour is a healthy as well as versatile baking ingredient. Whether you’re following a paleo diet, low-carb diet, diabetic diet, gluten-free diet or you’re just looking for more nutrition in your flour, almond flour is definitely worth trying. It’s great in cookies, cakes and breads, but it can also be used in place of bread crumbs for fish, chicken and more.

Almond flour isn’t low in calories, but its nutrition profile makes it well worth the caloric intake. Consumed in moderation, almond flour provides you with all of the incredible health benefits of almonds, like boosting hearth health and energy levels while warding off cancer and extra pounds on your waistline. I highly recommend trying almond flour and using it in combination with other nutritious, gluten-free flours like coconut.

Read Next: Coconut Flour Nutrition, Benefits & How to Use It!


From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.


Josh Axe

Dr. Josh Axe is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips and healthy recipes in the world...Sign up to get VIP access to his eBooks and valuable weekly health tips for FREE!

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