By Ryan Raman
Almond flour is a popular alternative to traditional wheat flour. It's low in carbs, packed with nutrients and has a slightly sweeter taste.
This article explores the health benefits of almond flour and whether it's a better alternative to other types of flour.
What is Almond Flour?
Almond flour is made from ground almonds.
The process involves blanching almonds in boiling water to remove the skins, then grinding and sifting them into a fine flour.
Almond flour is not the same as almond meal, despite the fact that their names are sometimes used interchangeably.
Almond meal is made by grinding almonds with their skins intact, resulting in a coarser flour.
This difference is important in recipes where texture makes a big difference.
Summary: Almond flour is made from blanched almonds that are ground and sifted into a fine flour.
Almond Flour is Incredibly Nutritious
Almond flour is rich in nutrients. One ounce (28 grams) contains (3):
• Calories: 163
• Fat: 14.2 grams (9 of which are monounsaturated)
• Protein: 6.1 grams
• Carbs: 5.6 grams
• Dietary fiber: 3 grams
• Vitamin E: 35 percent of the RDI
• Manganese: 31 percent of the RDI
• Magnesium: 19 percent of the RDI
• Copper 16 percent of the RDI
• Phosphorus 13 percent of the RDI
Almond flour is particularly rich in vitamin E, a group of fat-soluble compounds that act as antioxidants in your body.
They prevent damage from harmful molecules called free radicals, which accelerate aging and increase your risk of heart disease and cancer (4).
Magnesium is another nutrient that's abundant in almond flour. It's involved in many processes in your body and may provide several benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced insulin resistance and lower blood pressure (10).
Summary: Almond flour is incredibly nutritious. It's particularly rich in vitamin E and magnesium, two important nutrients for health.
Almond Flour is Better for Your Blood Sugar
Foods made with refined wheat are high in carbs, but low in fat and fiber.
This can cause high spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by rapid drops, which can leave you tired, hungry and craving foods high in sugar and calories.
Conversely, almond flour is low in carbs yet high in healthy fats and fiber.
These properties give it a low glycemic index, meaning it releases sugar slowly into your blood to provide a sustained source of energy.
It's estimated that between 25–38 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency, and correcting it through diet or supplements may significantly reduce blood sugar and improve insulin function (12, 13, 14).
In fact, almond flour's ability to improve insulin function may also apply to people without type 2 diabetes who have either low magnesium levels or normal magnesium levels but are overweight (1, 15).
This could mean that almonds' low glycemic properties and high magnesium content may help control blood sugar in people with or without type 2 diabetes.
Summary: Almond flour may be better than conventional flours for your blood sugar, as it has a low glycemic index and is rich in magnesium.
Almond Flour is Gluten-Free
Wheat flours contain a protein called gluten. It helps dough stay stretchy and capture air during baking so that it rises and becomes fluffy.
People who have celiac disease or a wheat intolerance cannot eat foods with gluten because their body mistakes it as harmful.
For these individuals, the body produces an autoimmune response to remove gluten from the body. This response results in damage to the lining of the gut and can cause symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, skin rashes and tiredness (16).
Fortunately, almond flour is both wheat-free and gluten-free, making it a great alternative for baking for those who can't tolerate wheat or gluten.
Nevertheless, it's still important to check the packaging of almond flour you buy. While almonds are naturally gluten-free, some products may be contaminated with gluten.
Summary: Almond flour is naturally gluten-free, making it a great alternative to wheat flour for those who have celiac disease or a wheat intolerance.
Almond Flour May Help Lower LDL Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (17).
It's well known that high blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels are risk markers for heart disease.
An analysis of five studies including 142 people found that those who ate more almonds experienced an average decrease of 5.79 mg/dl in LDL cholesterol (19).
While this finding is promising, it might have been due to other factors than simply eating more almonds.
For example, participants in the five studies did not follow the same diet. Thus, weight loss, which is also linked to lower LDL cholesterol, could have varied across the studies (20).
Although several studies show that correcting these deficiencies may help decrease blood pressure, they aren't consistent. More research is needed in this area to make stronger conclusions (23, 24, 25).
Summary: The nutrients in almond flour may help reduce LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. The current findings are mixed, and more research is needed before making a definite link.
How to Use Almond Flour in Baking and Cooking
Almond flour is easy to bake with. In most baking recipes, you can simply replace regular wheat flour with almond flour.
It can also be used in place of bread crumbs to coat meats like fish, chicken and beef.
The downside of using almond flour over wheat flour is that baked goods tend to be more flat and dense.
This is because the gluten in wheat flour helps dough stretch and traps more air, which helps baked goods rise.
Summary: Almond flour can replace wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio. Because almond flour lacks gluten, baked products made with it are denser and flatter than those made with wheat products.
How Does It Compare to Alternatives?
Many people use almond flour in place of popular alternatives like wheat and coconut flour. Below is information about how it compares.
Almond flour is much lower in carbs than wheat flours, but higher in fat.
Unfortunately, this means almond flour is higher in calories. However, it makes up for this by being incredibly nutritious.
One ounce of almond flour provides you with a good amount of your daily values for vitamin E, manganese, magnesium and fiber (3).
Almond flour is also gluten-free, while wheat flours are not, so it's a great option for people with celiac disease or a wheat intolerance.
In baking, almond flour can often replace wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio, although baked products made with it are flatter and denser because they lack gluten.
Phytic acid, an antinutrient, is also higher in wheat flours than almond flour, which leads to the poorer absorption of nutrients from foods.
It binds to nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and reduces the extent to which they can be absorbed by your gut (27).
Although almonds naturally have a high phytic acid content in their skin, almond flour does not, as it loses its skin in the blanching process.
Like wheat flours, coconut flour has more carbs and less fat than almond flour.
It also contains fewer calories per ounce than almond flour, but almond flour contains more vitamins and minerals.
Both almond flour and coconut flour are gluten-free, but coconut flour is more difficult to bake with, as it absorbs moisture very well and can make the texture of baked goods dry and crumbly.
This means you might need to add more liquid to recipes when using coconut flour.
Coconut flour is also higher in phytic acid than almond flour, which can reduce how many nutrients your body can absorb from foods that contain it.
Summary: Almond flour is lower in carbs and more nutrient-dense than wheat and coconut flours. It also has less phytic acid, which means you receive more nutrients when you eat foods containing it.
The Bottom Line
Almond flour is a great alternative to wheat-based flours.
It's incredibly nutritious and provides many potential health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and improved blood sugar control.
Almond flour is also gluten-free, which makes it a great option for those with celiac disease or a wheat intolerance.
If you're looking for a low-carb flour that's rich in nutrients, almond flour is a great choice.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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