Almond flour is one of the best gluten free substitutes available. It is readily available, easy to make, easy to cook with and delicious. Nutritionally, almonds are full of our heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and rich in vitamin E, magnesium and fibre. Almond flour is low in carbohydrates and sugar, and is a far more nutritionally dense option than some other common gluten free flours, such as potato starch, corn starch or tapioca.
Where and how
Almond flour and almond meal are available at your local market, health food store and in the baking aisle of most supermarkets. To make your own, simply blend raw almonds in the food processor. You can also make your own from the pulp of homemade almond milk – find out how here!
Meal v flour
The difference is that almond meal is ground whole almonds, whereas almond flour is blanched almonds with the skin removed. Both are interchangeable in most recipes, however the texture and appearance will be different.
Quantity is important
Something to consider with almond flour, and almonds in general for that matter, is quantity. Although heart healthy, almonds also contain omega-6, an inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Why is this a problem? In short, the key for optimal health is getting the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFA right. It is not about eating as much omega-3 as humanly possible, but rather, offsetting the imposing presence of omega-6.
In today’s world, a “good” omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is 4:1. Our ancestors maintained a 1:1, whereas some Western diets can be as high as 25:1 – just one of the reasons behind the high prevalence of chronic disease!
This is not to scare you off almonds by any means. In my opinion, the key is to keep your omega-6 intake low by:
- Removing seed oils i.e. margarine, canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, safflower oil and corn oil.
- Eliminating processed food products, deep fried food and refined sugar.
- Cooking only with saturated fats i.e. butter, ghee, coconut oil or animal fat.
Importantly, ensure you eat an overall anti-inflammatory diet: one that not only contains omega-3, but antioxidants, phytonutrients and you guessed it – an abundance of natural foods. Read more about the best anti-inflammatory foods here.
And lastly, variety is key. Use coconut flour. Snack on walnuts. Try your smoothie with water instead of almond milk if you’re also having an almond flour muffin. And as I always say, keep your sweets treats for once or twice a week, even if they are gluten and refined sugar free.
Perspective is everything. Foods should be valued on their entire nutritional value and your overall intake quantified as a sum total. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Eat almonds and use almond flour in moderation, and throw your margarine in the bin please!