The Pros and Cons of Almond Flour: Rebuttal to “5 Reasons To Avoid Almond Flour”

November 23, 2013 in Categories: , , , by

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I get asked surprisingly often to rebut or respond to posts or articles that criticize or question either some aspect of the paleo diet or some frequently used ingredient.  I have to be honest:  I don’t like writing rebuttals.  In part, because I don’t enjoy engaging in discussions with people whose minds are already made up.  In part, because too often what aspect of the paleo diet that is being criticized isn’t even representative of mainstream paleo (which I consider myself to be part of).  When this is the case, my rebuttal usually goes something like “I agree completely with those points, but that’s not a paleo diet” (a good example is my rebuttal to the Weston A Price Foundation Summer 2013 Newsletter which you can read here).  In part, I dislike writing rebuttals because I always like to go to the science and sometimes the science doesn’t actually give us the answer (although I love talking about papers, study design, conflicting results, and implications for human health, as long as we can agree to continue to reevaluate our positions as new science is performed).  In part, because I’m just not a confrontational type person and I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and entitled to share their opinion (even if the way they share it is offensive and personally insults me), and I’m a strong believer in self-experimentation: if you find something that works for you, awesome.  But I digress…

This rebuttal isn’t about an attack on the paleo diet (or whether being leaner and fitter would give me more credibility… oh, sorry, there’s that tangent again…).  It’s quite simply a response to a question that I get asked several times per week:  is almond flour a good choice?

5-reasons-to-avoid-almond-flour-1024x768Lauren from Empowered Sustenance, who I deeply respect, published a compelling article titled “5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour” in April of this year.  The overarching message of this post is that coconut flour is a better choice than almond flour for paleo baking.  I have been asked so many times what my thoughts are on this article that I decided it was time to actually publish an official response.  I’m going to address the 5 reasons provided in the article, point by point.

Reason 1. Almond flour skews perception about quantity

I agree, but I think this applies to all flours.  Pre-chewed food (which is what ground almonds are) definitely skews your ability to perceive how many calories you are consuming.  However, this applies to any flour.  Almost anything you make with any flour or flour substitute is going to be physically easier to chew and swallow than if you were eating the whole food source of that flour.

Another related issue that the article doesn’t get into is food reward.  Almost anything you bake with any flour, almond or otherwise, is going to be highly palatable (meaning that you will choose it over other, whole foods), typically relatively high carbohydrate too.  This stimulates dopamine release, which actually affects your hunger hormone signals and leads to you wanting to eat more (or, at least it does in some people).  In fact, research shows that one of the most effective strategies to lose weight is to make food bland and unpalatable.

Overconsumption is a problem with any treat, paleo or not.  And, it’s the reason why we always recommend that paleo baked goods be consumed in moderation and only occasionally.  I don’t think this is a compelling argument against almond flour so much as an argument to make treats a treat.

Reason 2. Almond flour is very high in inflammatory PUFAS

I agree 100%.  My extensive research into the roles of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) versus omega-6 fatty acids (AA) tells me that addressing gross imbalances in intake of these polyunsaturated fatty acids is one of the most critical things you can do to improve your health.  And the fact is that almost all nuts and seeds are very high in omega-6 fatty acids (the exceptions are coconut, macadamia nut, and walnut).

If you choose to consume any nuts or seeds (whether a flour or whole), or poultry for that matter, it’s important to balance that omega-6 intake with plenty of seafood.

Reason 3. The fats in almond flour aren’t heat stable

I disagree.  If you were cooking with almond oil, this would be true.  But, research shows that polyunsaturated fats are much more heat stable when part of the whole foods (including the unadulterated seed, but also ground into meals and flours).  The best research into the heat stability of polyunsaturated fats in baked goods comes from the study of flaxseed meal and research shows that only an extremely small percentage of the fats are oxidized during cooking. Researchers speculate that the reason the polyunsaturated fats in flaxseed meal are resistant to heat is because they are not isolated but rather are present in a matrix of other compounds that the flaxseeds contain (i.e., when they are bound to proteins, carbohydrates, other fats, fiber etc. that are part of the ground up seed).  In addition, the presence of antioxidants in the whole ground seed reduces fat oxidation.  These natural antioxidants include lignin fiber (rich in phenols, see this post) and vitamin E which nuts and seeds are particularly rich in.

Furthermore, the internal temperature of baked goods rarely exceeds 160F, which is well below the smoking point of even the most easily oxidized and unstable fats.

Reason 4. Almond flour is high in oxalates

I disagree, not that almonds are high in oxalates but that this might make them a bad choice.  Oxalates are an anti-nutrient found in nuts, seeds, many vegetables (like spinach and rhubarb), and grains.  Oxalic acid binds to minerals (forming oxalates, or oxalic acid salts), most notably calcium (forming calcium oxalate), and thus prevents the mineral’s absorption in the body. The concern with high intake of oxalate-rich foods is that this might contribute to calcium oxalate crystal formation, which is: a major component of the most common type of kidney stone; implicated in gout; and the problematic crystal deposited in joints in microcrystalline-associated arthritis.

Traditionally, a diagnosis of kidney stones comes with the recommendation to follow a low-oxalate, low protein diet.  However, the scientific research doesn’t support this and recommendations are starting to change to reflect new understandings of the key players in kidney diseases:  low dietary calcium, high fructose intake, gut dysbiosis, and chronic stress.  Actually, research shows that higher oxalate diets reduce your chances of developing kidney stones.  Even once you have developed kidney stones, low oxalate diets don’t appear to help (and as an aside, urine oxalate content which has long been used to assess kidney stone risk doesn’t actually appear to correlate at all!).  What does seem to help?  Increasing calcium ad eating more fruits and vegetables.

 Reason 5. Coconut flour is healthier than almond flour

I mumble mumble.  Eh.  I don’t agree but I don’t strongly disagree either.  Not that I think almond flour is some magical source of nutrition, but I don’t see coconut flour as a clearly better substitute.  The article’s arguments about the fats being more heat stable is moot after you read my response to reason #3.  It is true that a little goes a long way and this is owing to the fairly remarkable ability of coconut flour to absorb liquid.  The reason why coconut flour is so good at absorbing liquid is that it is extremely high in inulin fiber, a highly soluble and viscous and highly fermentable fiber.  Inulin is a FODMAP and may be a problem for people dealing with SIBO, leaky gut, FODMAP-intolerance, and IBS.  (you might want to read this post and this post from my Fiber Manifesto about the differential effects of insoluble and soluble fiber, which also warns against diets overly high in soluble fiber).

Reason 6. Yes, I’m adding one.

(although this is really only the second strike against almond flour) Actually, there’s a very compelling reason to limit consumption of almond products (including whole almonds, almond butter, and almond flour) that is not discussed in this article: the cyanogenic glycosides content.  Hydrogen cyanide, which is highly toxic, is released from cyanogenic glycosides when plants that contain them are chewed and digested (through an enzyme that is also present in the plant).  Almonds have a particularly large amount of cyanogenic glycosides.

One Big Pro: Nutrient Density

This isn’t an argument for or against almond flour, but rather a comparison between four commonly used paleo flour substitutes.  You already know that I’m a big fan of nutrient density.  I dislike the whole “almond flour is high in protein” argument because plant proteins are nowhere near as easy to digest as animal proteins.  But almond flour and other nut and seed flours definitely have compelling amounts of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients, and while not all of these are particularly bioavailable (nuts and seeds also have phytates, which bind minerals, although as the article points out, these are concentrated in the skins which are typically removed before nuts and seeds around ground into flours), I think this is probably the best argument for or against a particular flour (or food in general!) that you can make.  (By the way, the probiotic bacteria in your guts liberate many of the minerals from phytates and oxalates and other anti-nutrients present in your foods, so having good digestion in combination with a healthy diversity gut bacteria is one of the best things you can do to optimize the nutrient absorption from your food.)

This table compares the vitamins and minerals that nuts and seeds have a significant amount of.  I also included a breakdown of the types of fats, fiber and calories per 100g.  Because flours made from these are not in the USDA database, I used the whole (blanched when available) nut and compared against dried coconut (basically, the thing that is ground up to make flour).  Keep in mind that you typically use less coconut flour (between one quarter and one half, depending on how finely ground it is and the exact recipe it’s being used it) than other nut or seed flours.

nut flour compare table

From a nutrient-density perspective, I think coconut is actually the clear loser (although, it’s true that those medium chain triglycerides are very healthy).  And, I guess if your evaluation of the health of a treat was based purely on calories, coconut would win based on the fact that you can get away with using a fair bit less.

 Final Thoughts…

I don’t think almond flour is a terrible flour.  And I don’t think coconut is a better choice (not that I think you should avoid coconut flour either).  But, just like everything in our diets, I think variety is important.  You get different nutrients in different quantities from different foods.  And the best thing you can do to protect yourself from nutrient excesses or deficiencies is to eat variety.  So, mix it up.  Almond flour, sunflower seed flour, and hazelnut flour can be used interchangeably.  Other great options are chestnut flourpumpkin seed flour, ground walnuts, and there are some great non-nut options too, like pumpkin powder, plantain flour, and various starches (arrowroot, tapioca, sweet potato, kuzu, water chestnut).

And remember that this whole discussion is about optimizing nutrition for a treat.  If a treat really is just a treat, meaning you eat them occasionally and in moderation, the overall impact of suboptimal ingredients (providing you aren’t eating something that will actually hurt you, say by increasing intestinal permeability or stimulating the immune system) is pretty minimal.

Arzoz-Fabregas M, et al, Chronic stress and calcium oxalate stone disease: is it a potential recurrence risk factor?  Urolithiasis. 2013 Apr;41(2):119-27.

Arzoz-Fàbregas M, et al. Chronic Stress and Calcium Oxalate Stone Disease: Influence on Blood Cortisol and Urine Composition. Urology. 2013 Oct 12. pii: S0090-4295(13)01067-4.

Fink HA, et al Recurrent Nephrolithiasis in Adults: Comparative Effectiveness of Preventive Medical Strategies [Internet].

Guseva DA, et al. [Antioxidant activity of vegetable oils with various omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids ratio]. Biomed Khim. 2010 May-Jun;56(3):342-50.

Hardman CA, et al. Dopamine and food reward: effects of acute tyrosine/phenylalanine depletion on appetite. Physiol Behav. 2012 Mar 20;105(5):1202-7.

Hyvarinen HK, Pihlava JM, et al. Effect of processing and storage on the stability of flaxseed lignan added to bakery products. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jan 11;54(1):48-53.

Knight J, et al, Metabolism of fructose to oxalate and glycolate. Horm Metab Res. 2010 Nov;42(12):868-73.

Manthey FA, et al. Processing and cooking effects on lipid content and stability of alpha-linolenic acid in spaghetti containing ground flaxseed. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Mar 13;50(6):1668-71.

Marickar YM. Calcium oxalate stone and gout. Urol Res. 2009 Dec;37(6):345-7.

Okombo J, Liebman M. Probiotic-induced reduction of gastrointestinal oxalate absorption in healthy subjects. Urol Res. 2010 Jun;38(3):169-78.

Taylor EN, Curhan GC. Oxalate intake and the risk for nephrolithiasis. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2007 Jul;18(7):2198-204.

Taylor EN, Curhan GC. Fructose consumption and the risk of kidney stones. Kidney Int. 2008 Jan;73(2):207-12.

Volkow ND, et al. Reward, dopamine and the control of food intake: implications for obesity. Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Jan;15(1):37-46.

Wanasundara PK and Shahidi F. Process-induced compositional changes of flaxseed. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1998;434:307-25.

Xu H, et al. Kidney stones: an update on current pharmacological management and future directions. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2013 Mar;14(4):435-47.

Zheng H, Appetite control and energy balance regulation in the modern world: reward-driven brain overrides repletion signals. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Jun;33 Suppl 2:S8-13.

Comments

Such a fair, informative article! I know rebuttals can often turn into arguments but I really appreciate people like yourself taking the time to give another side of a story. I agree that almond flour isn’t the big bad it (and other flours) can be made out to be, but I do put it on more a ‘safe treat’ category, than something to eat in abundance.

Thanks for your “rebuttal.” I remember being skeptical about all the points when I first read the other article. I take everything with a grain of salt, and I appreciate you researching the points and posting about it. I completely agree with your conclusion that we need to eat everything in moderation anyway, so which flour is “better” is kind of a non-issue if you eat a varied diet with few sugary treats. Also, thank you for posting examples of other alternative flours. I had never even heard of some of them!

Thank you for posting a well-articulated, “scientific approach” article on this topic. It’s so helpful to have this perspective of other researchers to share with the more outspoken anti-Paleo nurses in our research program. :)
Maryjean Gregory

Great article Sarah. When first starting with my cookie recipes I used macadamia nuts as a base instead of almonds. The cost is considerably higher, but the fatty acid profile is significantly better. Always a balancing act though when trying to sell a product. Not sure if there’s a market for a $5 Paleo cookie.

I’d love to know how much almond flour and almond butter you think is ok to eat a day or a week. I only eat almonds 5 days a week b/c I heard that helps to avoid becoming sensitive to a food… but I think I’m eating too much. I’ve tried cutting out almond flour but then i just eat more almond butter. I’m doing GAPS and nursing and can’t eat eggs or dairy…. so almonds/cashews seem to be a great way to make sure I’m getting enough calories in a day… that and fruit are my snacks…. but lately they hurt when I go to the bathroom (sorry if TMI)….so I think I’m eating TOO much (I eat about a jar a week of almond butter). I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and I’m sooo thankful for finding your website! Love that everything you write is based on research and scientifically accurate!

Thanks, especially for the information in #3 and #4. I don’t bake much but always wondered if the oils in almond flour, flax seed meal, etc. were safe to bake with. I’ve also been wondering about oxalates. I seem to develop calcifications in my joints which sometimes cause pain. I’ve wondered if eating foods high in oxalates could cause that.

{sigh…} I’m one of those people that would overeat ANY baked good, paleo or not. My body doesn’t understand “moderation” in treats, so I pretty much have to avoid all baked goods, no matter what type of flour they have. :(

As for nuts, I think that hazelnuts may actually be better “balanced” than walnuts. Their dominant fat is monounsaturated, and their omega-6 amount is actually pretty small. Walnuts have a high percentage of omega fats, and I’ve heard their form of omega-3 doesn’t convert well in our bodies – so their actual ratio of omegas that we can use isn’t really very good. Just a thought.

Same here i dont eat hardly any almond flour as I can no longer digest grains at all, so i eat what i can eat. Just because she has a PHD i dont really find her article any more informative i want to see real scientific proof not just a theory based off of what???
Rhett

Great article! Your reaseach skills are amazing. It’s these types of articles that make me keep coming back to your site and recommending it to others.

I had read the other blog post, so this is an interesting response. Unfortunately, I am someone whose stomach seems to not be able to handle nuts (I don’t know if I’m allergic, but I have a very strong reaction – digestively), but coconut in moderation seems okay… so I always appreciate paleo recipes that aren’t almond flour based. But, obviously, that doesn’t mean almond flour might not work for others.

Yet again a fantastic article Sarah! I really respect the time and effort you put into these extensive research articles.

Though, I do wonder why you are favoring “Almond Flour” instead of i.e. “Quinoa” flour, especially considering the really high inflammation factors of the first and the apparently non-issue of Oxalates on the latter.

If I cannot eat Quinoa then what can I replace it with to get enough carbs ? I get insanely fatigued when I cannot eat carbs due to ketogenesis.

The AIP or Paleo diet didn’t alleviate my chronic fatigue at all. I actually grew more tired the less carbs I ate. When I introduced Quinoa it gave me a surge of energy. I was able to do sports again and I could finally study !

I thought this was the dreamcarb for me but sadly I developed pelvic problems/prostatitis due to the oxalate content of the Quinoa. Or at least, that is what I thought.. since your article I do not know what to think. Or to eat for that matter :/

ps. I tried using Almond flour but without eggs it is almost impossible to cook with.

AIP should not be low carb. Sweet potatoes, winter squash, plantains, parsnips, taro root, lotus root, cassava (needs to be soaked for 24 hours before cooking) are all very dense carbs. Less dense would be things like jicama, rutabaga, turnips, beets, carrots, pumpkin, bamboo (soaked), water chestnuts, kohlrabi, celery root, Jerusalem artichoke… all of these should be included in your diet (unless you are also doing low FODMAP in which case sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, and jicama are out).

Sadly the carbs from mentioned vegetables simply did not provide my body energy, most likely due to the relatively low carb levels. I also get massive low blood sugar problems when working out if I just eat carbs from veggies. I have not eaten fruits in years due to previous candida and blood sugar sensitivity.

Remo- As Sarah said below, quinoa is not allowed on paleo. If you aren’t doing paleo then it would be fine, but as you have already noticed, it can cause some problems like grains do.

Also, paleo and AIP is not supposed to be low carb. You lose energy from a variety of things, carbs just being one of them. She gave you some good high carb suggestions below which you say didn’t work… due to relatively low carb levels? If you aren’t eating enough carbs that would be why you felt better with the quinoa. Because it is a carb source. You need to increase your intake of these carby vegetables to feel the effects. No low carb here! :)

If you get low blood sugar problems then maybe you should also look into higher sugar vegetables? Or increasing your fats and proteins.

Quinoa can exacerbate candida just like starchy vegetables can, so if you are eating both of those there shouldn’t be any reason to avoid fruit.

Oh, and if you are following AIP, nuts and thus almond flour is not allowed anyways. Check out the whole9life.com forums and there are some really good suggestions for getting really energy dense foods for workouts and combating fatigue. Squash or sweet potatoes along with coconut butter I think is usually one of the highest recommended ones, and is also AIP.

I used flax and almond flour early on when starting paleo, but I’ve recently stopped using both since trying to limit my intake of phytoestrogens. I know almonds aren’t nearly as bad as flax seeds in that regard (or even as bad as garlic . . . sadly), but it’s another thing some people might want to consider when it comes to flours.

How much of inulin / FOS / coconut flour are allowed in AIP ? I don’t think I can find inulin amounts in foods, how much of each inulin rich foods(chicory, jerusalem artichoke, coconut, etc) can an average person eat without it being harmful rather than helpful ?
Thank you very much

I also don’t think I can find FOS amounts in foods, how much of each FOS rich foods can an average person eat without it being harmful rather than helpful ?

Sunflower seeds seem more nutritious but don’t you think they have too much linoleic acid ? What ratio of EPA+DHA/Linoleic acid or Omega 3/Omega 6 do you think is good ?
Also, what do you mean walnuts are an exception to having too much omega 6 among nuts and seeds ? Here’s nutrition info of walnuts:
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3138/2
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3137/2
Black walnuts have 33 grams and English walnuts have 38 grams of linoleic acid in 100 grams. Is it because the 9 grams of alpha linoleic acid in 100 grams English walnuts ? Isn’t alpha linoleic acid something we shouldn’t be trying to include in our diets because only about 5.5% of it is converted to EPA and DHA and that it is highly unstable ?
Are there some nutrients in some seeds or nuts that makes them worth eating though they have too much linoleic acid ?
Thanks

ALA just isn’t very useful. No nut flours will help with omega-3s, and many will skew omega-6. But how much you include really depends on the rest of your diet, rather than vilifying one nut or seed over another.

I think the nutritional info for coconut flour is overstated as It’s made from the leftover pulp AFTER extracting coconut oil, not from shredded coconut. It’s pretty much just fiber, it’s only advantages are it’s very low-carb and since you add a bunch of eggs to your recipe, the item becomes nutritious due to the eggs. Not a rebuttal, but I posted my thoughts on when coconut is preferable to almond based on cookiing qualities, which is my criteria.

Hi Sara,

Nice article – I’m actually not a fan of nut flours (I prefer the starchier ones, like cassava) but I was surprised that oxidation was low even when the nuts are ground.

Anyway, for me, reason #2 is enough to keep me away from it. I really try to limit my omega-6 intake – actually, I try to balance omega-3 and omega-6 while still keeping my total PUFA intake low (those can be really problematic). I’ll have a couple of whole almonds now and then, but that’s about it :)

I have always soaked/partially sprouted and dehydrated almonds before consuming them to reduce the oxalates. Does this actually reduce them? Is it even necessary?
Thanks.

Thank you so much for this post and your entire blog. I’ve taught Biology and Anatomy/physiology for ten years and am a firm believer in science literacy. I’ve had psoriasis since I was six (I’m now 36), asthma since my teens, and just this year have been diagnosed with undifferentiated mixed connective tissue disease and have tested positive for Lupus. My research into diet and autoimmunity the past few months has been relentless and somewhat disappointing until I discovered your blog this morning. So many other blogs I have come across publish information with incomplete research to support claims. You are EXACTLY who I have been looking for! For months I’ve said I want someone to show me the SCIENCE behind all this. I will use your information to further fine-tune my newly-adopted anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I go back in May and hope to prove my rheumatologist- who said diet won’t help – wrong! As a fellow woman of science may I say I have great respect for your work. As a teacher I often hope I really do make a difference in the lives of others and feel good when students tell me I have done so. So I must tell you that you make a difference and I appreciate you. I feel like you gave me a wonderful Christmas present! Many thanks!

As always, thank you so much for your very thorough articles!! Something which has perplexed me since her 5 reasons to avoid almond flour article came out is the PUFAs. I seem to be extremely sensitive to inflammatory foods; but I can tolerate (and enjoy) almonds yet walnuts cause me inflammation. Opposite of what it should be. I just don’t get it. But, at least it works for me. :)

Hi Sarah, I am new to your blog. Found this article interesting! I wonder, what’s your take on chickpea flour? Or just plain ground-up cooked chickpeas? Sorry if this is an “old topic”. Like I said, I am new to the world of paleo….

Well, chickpeas are a legume so have protease inhibitors and agglutinins, but when processed and cooked, those are reduced. I’m not super enthusiastic about it and there’s certainly a few studies looking at the agglutinins in chickpeas showing biological activity which is definitely something to be wary of. That being said, I’m a huge fan of self experimentation so if you’re healthy and you want to try it and see how you do, I think that’s great.

Love this !! Thanks for sharing:) I resist it because its so dang expensive..$10 for a small bag seems crazy. Plus I was consuming such a large amount of almonds I started having repeated outbreaks of cold sores! Sounds crazy I know but I did a little research and turns out the almonds were the cause!

I love reading your posts as I like your scientific approach. I am currently doing the AIP protocol to heal eczema (and my leaky gut). In less than a month I can already see my eczema getting better, and so I feel hopeful that this is the healing diet I have been in search of. My big wondering, though, is whether everyone in the Paleo community will always be Paleo-ers, or if people will find that after doing Paleo for 2 years (or however long to heal) they will see the benefits of small amounts of grain in their diet. I wonder if you have had any personal thoughts about this. I know that because you are “The Paleo Mom” there would be issues if you started to eat some grains. But still, I can’t help but wonder if there’s validity in going Paleo for an extended time to heal, but once we are healthy if we can’t handle grains again (so long as we don’t go back to poor grain heavy diets which is what I used to eat). Perhaps you have already written about this in a previous post. I have ordered your book, and look forward to reading it once it arrives. Thanks for sharing all that you have learned! I know so many of us have benefitted from your own journey and research.

One more thing–early on when I stopped eating wheat I started eating lots of almonds. Whole almonds, almond flour pastries, etc. And then my body started reacting to the almonds and they caused my eczema to flare up. So I have not been able to eat almonds for about a year now. Tested them again a few months ago after avoiding them for several months, and after 2 days of eating almond scones my eczema was flaring. So it does amaze me that others can eat them and have no problems. But I’ve seen many people who, like me, start eating lots of almond products and then later start reacting. So now I would always suggest that people not “over-consume” almond products and hopefully they will not start to react to them. (Almonds in moderation so you can keep eating them).

One thing that wasn’t addressed in either article: the fact that SOAKING almonds changes their chemical makeup, thereby making them easier to digest in several ways. If you soak a nut, then dry it, it is more beneficial and more used by the body as opposed to just being irradiated or roasted.

I appreciate your thoughtful response to the article, Sarah! The respect is mutual, as I’ve always deeply valued your opinion and thorough research.

Your post has left me chewing over the heat-stability of almond flour, and I will say that I didn’t consider the heat-stability difference between almond oil and almond flour. I definitely appreciate your research on this point!

I think the main point of disagreement here is that I think the cons outweigh the pros, and you think the pros outweigh the cons. Also, I wrote this post when my audience was much smaller and targeted it specifically for those with digestive disorders (my audience was largely those on the SCD/GAPS diet). I believe that those individuals with damaged guts need to be more careful about nut flour consumption. I’m happy to disagree with you and flattered that you would address my post in an article. As I explain in the article, I believe that almond flour should be used for special occasions.

Also, to clear up any potential confusion for readers here, last week (or maybe two weeks ago?) I did change the oxalate point to the enzyme-inhibitor content of almonds. This was because I agree that oxalates are not problematic for most people, although it it still something I occasionally bring to the attention of my readers because it can help them troubleshoot any lasting digestive symptoms once they’ve already made changes to their diet. I would be curious to hear what your thoughts are on the enzyme-inhibitor content of almond flour baked goods. I don’t think it is a problem when individuals snack on a handful of fresh nuts, but coupled with the large quantity of almonds that can be consumed in baked goods, that’s were I think it can be a strain on the digestive tract.

Hugs,
Lauren

<3

I love being able to have a constructive conversation about the merits of a food with an intelligent and thoughtful person! THANK YOU! I think this is an interesting discussion and because there are both pros and cons, I think it’s important for the consumer to educate themselves and make a decision based on their own health, health challenges, and overall diet and needs. I fully admit that I am using almond flour less and less in my own baking in large part because of my concerns over the omega-6 content and cyanogenic glycoside content–although I’m not cooking more with coconut flour. Instead, I’m experimenting with other nut flours and starches and even more with mashed root vegetables and dehydrated fruits and veggies.

It’s interesting that you mention the fiber in coconut flour possibly being a problem. I can handle nut flours just fine, but whenever I have even a little bit of coconut flour, I get this kind of yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach… it’s not crazy bad or anything, and not like the horrendous gut pain I get when I have wheat and that sort of thing… it’s kind of like a hollow feeling, but at the same time, it makes me feel kind of full, and not hungry at all… not great language, I know. ;) But it’s a totally new sensation, I’m not sure how to describe it! Does this sound like it could be a fiber or FODMAP sensitivity? I’ve never considered that before, because I’ve never had such a specific reaction to a non-wheat food like that…

Many people have commented on the site about having various degrees of sensitivity to coconut. In The Paleo Approach, Sarah discusses coconut and advises people to keep coconut consumption moderate (excluding coconut oil). — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

I believe the take home message in this post is that there is not an issue with minimally processed almond products in moderation, but that variety is also important (please see last two paragraphs of post). — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

“If you choose to consume any nuts or seeds (whether a flour or whole), or poultry for that matter, it’s important to balance that omega-6 intake with plenty of seafood.”

Could you please explain further why you mention poultry?

Great info! Thank you! I really appreciate your perspective. I’m assuming limiting the consumption of nut milks goes hand in hand with this discussion? Thanks in advance.

Yes, at the end of the post Sarah summarizes by saying that what is important is that nut products are not the majority of your diet and that variety is also important. Also, store bought nut milks may contain additives which are a gut irritant for some people. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

At the end of the post Sarah summarizes by saying that what is important is that any type of nut products are not the majority of your diet and that variety is also important. Also, store bought nut milks may contain additives which are a gut irritant for some people. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

Reading this article is bittersweet…been on AIP for about a month and discovered these AMAZING almond flour cookies. I was eating WAY too many of them. Last week I ordered 5 bags of almond flour at an awesome cost. I have no willpower when it comes to cookies and such, especially after 35 years on the SAD. So this article will keep me from eating a dozen a day :-) I’ll make half a batch once in a while and eat them only on Tuna Steak Night :-) Ha! Thanks for the awesome info, as usual.

Excellent article. I too was eating probably too much almond products, milk, flour etc. so I knocked that off. I really didn’t pay attention to how much I was consuming. I have cut my goodies down tremendously as I find it costly and empty calories a wast of time. I am trying to use other alternatives in the milk and flour ranges. There are so many now than before. But they are all expensive but you need variety. So I am basically sticking to whole foods period.

Since I have cut Almond anything down to once a month, I do feel better. One needs to use different sources of seeds and nuts if your going to use them, and in moderation. I am sure that what the nuts are sprayed with, would make a difference too. Organic is best of course. I am going to try soaking them as I haven’t done that yet.

I really need to look into the inflammatory foods list as I am trying to get my blood pressure down and arthritis in control. I have used coconut flour but find it difficult to work with at first. I also feel like it’s just a “filler” (lots of fiber) in my stomach. I want food that stays with me and satisfies me. I do love coconut oil and use it a lot, along with California Virgin Olive Oil.

Hi Sarah,
Thank you for the excellent, balanced comments on the pros and cons of almond flour. So many food issues can become overly heavy in terms of fervent opinions and very light on rationality.

I’ve been concerned for awhile about the heavy use of almonds in gluten-free baking, but as with everything, balance seems to be the key, along with the most important thing: doing what works for our own body.

But a key issue that hasn’t been mentioned here is that nuts/seeds and almonds in particular are very high in the amino acid arginine and low in its counterpart amino, lysine. Arginine-rich foods support the replication of herpes family viruses, such as epstein barr, while lysine impedes this process (hence lysine supplements are sometimes used to counteract flare-ups, though this can cause other imbalances if used excessively).

Personally I’ve had a viral flare-up caused directly by over-enjoying (1-2 handfuls/day) almonds for one or two weeks. This effect seems to occur for people with weak immune systems (I have had CFS for a long time) and/or those with a particular susceptibility to one or more of the herpes family viruses. Animal foods are rich in lysine (especially some dairy), but personally I don’t tolerate meat (triggers inflammation) or dairy well, so a balancing act is required to enable small amounts of nuts/seeds to be tolerated.

Thanks for your highly informative blog.
May we all find our way to thriving, regardless of the state of our digestion!

Funny. No mention of mold. That’s a huge con in my book.

The biggest con is overconsumption, in my opinion. Do you think it’s fair to post so many “baked good” recipes, then advise people to use restraint? I fully understand self-control — but I feel this is a fair question.

Your perception about oxalate is completely wrong. You have cherry picked and misinterpreted the cited articles. I know all too well about oxalate issues and hyperoxaluria. You fail to understand that calcium oxalate is not just prone to be stored in the kidneys but can be stored almost anywhere in the body including eyes, lungs, bones, joints, liver, and gallbladder. Telling people to consume higher oxalate foods is dangerous and you clearly don’t understand this disorder nor equipped to give advice to people suffering from it.

I suggest you start reading the work done by Susan Owens.

Hi,

Your last argument is invalid, as almond flour is made from sweet almonds which don’t contain very much hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is something you should worry about when eating bitter almonds.

one con was forgotten… too much almonds in ones diet (or any nuts in that matter) can cause an intolerance to that food. Myself and many close friends were substituting almonds for many things years ago, almond milk, flour, all of it and in the end we all ended up with allergies/intolerances to it. Being paleo I use to eat many eggs as well, I am also intolerant to eggs now, they showed up very high in my allergy test. Over exposure to foods can cause lots of problems and so many recipes use almond!

I absolutely loved this article. I was dumbfounded though when you said “plant proteins are nowhere near as easy to digest as animal proteins.” Paleo and Vegetarianism in my mind has always been a voice and preference. I would like to read stats on this more regarding meat being easier to digest.

Before I was a serious athlete. I remember feeling sick and bloated after any meal with meat, yet a huge and widely varied mixed salad never made me feel that way!

There is also an environmental reason to limit almond consumption. Almonds require much water to grow. Almonds sold in North America are grown almost entirely in California, a state that is experiencing its worst drought in history. Most almonds in California are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, an inland region that has a desert climate. The water situation is becoming very dire. One small farming community in the Valley, Easton has had a few businesses close because the wells are going dry. It’s my hometown.

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