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.