7 Reasons To Limit Almond Flour Use (+ what to use instead for grain-free & keto baking!)
If you’re doing a lot of low-carb/keto, paleo, or grain-free baking, chances are, you’re using a lot of almond flour. But is almond flour the best choice? Especially if it’s making daily appearances in our diets? Consider these 7 reasons to limit almond flour use and consumption.
It’s no secret that the Paleolithic diet has been around for a very long time.
And I’m not just talking since the early 2000s when everyone decided grains and beans were the devil and eating a Paleo diet was the way to go.
I’m talking about the actual Paleolithic diet — the one that’s over 10,000 years old.
This is the diet of our true Paleo ancestors — and this “diet” would’ve varied from place to place and people group to people group.
For instance, people living during the Paleolithic times in what is now modern-day Turkey or Egypt would’ve eaten completely different diets than the people living at the same time in what is now modern-day Norway or Alaska.
However, several things were common among our paleo ancestors:
- They would’ve hunted for wild game and fished for wild fish and seafood (if they lived near water).
- Certainly, they would’ve foraged for whatever wild berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs were in their area.
- They likely migrated to follow their food, especially if they lived in an Arctic region or region where water dried up/froze and animal and plant life along with it.
- Sugar would’ve been non-existent in their diets. Many of these people may have found beehives and gathered honey, but never as a staple food.
- They would’ve scavenged for food, eating things most of us wouldn’t dream of: lichen, bugs, tree bark, and even rodents.
One thing I know NONE of our true Paleolithic ancestors were doing?
Baking grain-free cookies, brownies, cakes, waffles, muffins, and pancakes with almond flour!
(Or really any grain-free flour… because flours and baking didn’t exist until agriculture entered the world, around 10,000 years ago.)
I’m not dissing almond flour.
Really, I’m not.
Goodness knows, I’ve got a bag sitting in my pantry right this minute and I’ve made my fair share of grain-free brownies, cakes, muffins, and waffles. Heck, I even have a keto dessert cookbook where 90% of the recipes are made with almond flour!
This isn’t a post about returning to a true paleo diet either. Because that’s next to impossible given our current food system.
And, most of us live in neighborhoods where foraging for wild plants and hunting all of our own game is made difficult either because there is no wildlife left where we are or because we have jobs and families and lives that take up a fair bit of our time.
This is a post about limiting our use and consumption of almond flour.
And, you might wonder, “What the heck is so wrong with almond flour? I mean, isn’t it better than wheat or gluten or high-carb flours?”
It’s not that there’s anything “wrong” with almond flour.
If you need to be on a grain-free diet because you don’t tolerate grains or have celiac disease or find that a low-carb diet works best for your body, then grain-free flours like almond flour are a god-send.
However, I believe almond flour is way over-used. And our over-use of it is likely causing the very things we’ve set out to prevent: like weight gain, digestive upset, and inflammation.
So, I have 7 reasons to limit your use of almond flour. Notice, I’m not saying “7 reasons to stop using almond flour altogether”?
Just maybe read through these things, and if you decide I make some good points, you can make the informed decision to limit your use of almond flour, too.
Alrighty, here we go!
#1 — Almonds are not sustainably farmed.
Since 1965, American almond consumption has increased ten-fold.
The state of California is the only state that produces almonds because their cool winters and mild springs are perfect almond-growing weather. In fact, 82% of the world’s almonds come from California.
Unfortunately, the state that produces almost all of the world’s almonds — that are used for snacking, almond milk, almond butter, and yes, almond flour — has been in the worst drought in its recent history for several years.
Each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to grow, y’all.
The ground in the San Joaquin Valley, where most almonds are grown, is already sinking each year due to groundwater depletion, so additional wells farmers are building to irrigate new orchards may have devastating long-term impacts for California and its residents who rely on groundwater as a source for drinking water.
This problem is compounded by pesticide use in the production of commercial almonds, which has been known to contaminate already limited water sources and contribute to the toxification of drinking water for people in California’s farming communities. According to the Pesticide Action Network, the USDA Pesticide Data Program has found residues of nine different pesticides on almonds, five of which are toxic to honey bees, posing yet another threat to the environment. (Source.)
Imagine how many gallons of water it must take to produce a pound of almond flour. Or a carton of almond milk. Or a jar of almond butter.
Friends, with the impact that almond farming is having on groundwater, the salmon population in rivers, and honeybees, it’s worth it to reconsider our use of almond flour (and milk and butter).
Perhaps we’re relying on it too much?
#2 — Almond flour is high in phytic acid.
Unless you’re buying sprouted almond flour, or unless you’re soaking and dehydrating almonds (or buying them) and making your own almond flour, almond flour is high in phytic acid.
What’s phytic acid, you ask?
Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient. It occurs naturally in all seeds — grains, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts, like almonds.
Phytic acid serves a big purpose for the seed — protecting it until it’s planted and germinates, ready to grow into a new plant that will eventually produce more of its kind.
However, phytic acid is NOT beneficial for humans. In fact, it’s very hard on our bodies and can cause gut issues, tooth decay, and nutrient deficiencies.
Because phytic acid’s purpose is to protect the seed, it binds to nutrients, holding on to them for the time when the seed is ready to grow into a plant. So, it binds to phosphorus and calcium and magnesium and other trace minerals and vitamins when we eat foods high in phytic acid.
What does this mean for our bodies?
Well, a diet high in foods that are high in phytic acid means, over time, that person will likely experience…
- gut dysbiosis — signs include gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhea
- tooth decay — because these minerals are prevented from getting into our teeth and bones
- nutrient deficiences — again, because our bodies aren’t absorbing the nutrients if they’re bound to the phytic acid
Also, Nourishing Traditions is a cookbook/information book that is invaluable for learning proper food preparation techniques so as to reduce phytic acid in foods.
The exception? Blanched almond flour.
Blanched almonds have had their skins removed — and the skin is where the majority of the phytic acid is found.
If you’re using almond meal or non-blanched almond flour, it will have specks of dark brown almond skins. On the other hand, blanched almond flour is a very, very light brownish-beige color.
I solely use blanched almond flour in my recipes, but am still limiting it. (This is the blanched almond flour I use.)
#3 — Almond flour can be constipating.
Actually, nuts in general, eaten in high quantities are constipating.
And, I’m not just talking about nut flours. Nut milks, nut butters, granola containing nuts, energy bars with nuts… our modern “paleo”/”grain-free” diets are generally higher in nuts.
Way more nuts than our actual Paleolithic ancestors would’ve eaten.
Which can be problematic for our bowels.
If you’re doing a lot of grain-free baking with almond flour and notice that you’re a bit backed up, try eliminating nuts, nut butters, and nut milks for a few days and see if your regularity is restored.
#4 — Almond flour is high in poly-unsaturated fats (PUFAs).
Poly-unsaturated fats contain Omega-6 fatty acids — fatty acids which are essential to our health. In small amounts.
A diet high in PUFAs is inflammatory, meaning…
- free radical damage
- gut dysbiosis
- hormone imbalances
- slower metaboslism
The Standard American Diet is one we all know is high in PUFAs because it is high in processed foods and vegetable oils.
However, a “paleo” or “grain-free” diet that heavily relies on almond flour pancakes, waffles, cookies, breads, and brownies is also going to be high in inflammatory PUFAs.
It’s recommended that no more than 2% of your daily diet be Omega-6 fatty acids. If you’re eating around 2,200 calories per day, that 2% is literally a small handful of almonds.
If you’re eating a diet that’s high in baked goods made with almond flour, you’re getting more than that 2% and could be causing inflammation in your body.
#5 — Our perception of how many nuts we’re eating is skewed… big time.
One slice of cake, one muffin, one pancake, or one waffle made with almond flour contains more than a small handful of almonds.
So, according to point #4 above, a small handful of almonds (or other nuts — most are high in PUFAs) is really all you need per day.
However, there is WAY more than a small handful of almonds in an almond flour brownie or slice of cake or muffin. (I mean, if you’re serving tiny muffins, tiny brownies, or tiny pancakes, you could argue that you’re still within the guidelines.)
Generally, people aren’t making smaller pancakes, muffins, or slices of cake out of almond flour. It’s all “normal” size — which means a LOT of almonds.
You would never sit down and eat that many almonds as a snack, yet consuming them in baked form skews our perception of the quantity of almonds we’re actually eating.
#6 — It’s expensive.
Nuts in general are expensive. Nut flours are expensive. Heck, grain-free flours are expensive!
Coconut flour is an exception here. In comparison to almond flour, cassava flour, tiger nut flour, and other grain-free flours, coconut flour is relatively cheap. (You almost never use more than 1/2 cup of coconut flour in a regular recipe.)
For instance, the almond flour I use (yes, I still use it) — Bob’s Red Mill Superfine Blanched Almond Flour — costs $8.33 per pound if buying from Amazon (which is a very decent price).
On the other hand, a pound of the coconut flour I use — Wildly Organic — is just $5.99. AND, rather than using a cup or more per recipe, you use 1/4 to 1/2 cup. (You can get that coconut flour for $5.39/pound when you use my 10% discount code NOURISHING on your Wildly Organic purchase!)
Recipes with almond flour will never, ever be cheaper to make than recipes with coconut flour.
Now, I’m not advocating that you throw out your almond flour and start baking everything with coconut flour.
I love grain-free baking with cassava flour, too. Even though it is more expensive than coconut flour, it also boasts health benefits that coconut flour does not have. (Try my Paleo Orange Muffins made with cassava flour!)
#7 — It’s not safe for nut-free school zones.
Food allergies are on the rise. Awesome parents and schools have teamed up to make more and more schools safe for students with life-threatening food allergies to foods like nuts and peanuts.
So, nut-free schools are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
If your family follows a grain-free diet, and you do a lot of baking with almond flour, chances are you can’t send your child to school with those paleo cookies or show up at a class party with your favorite almond flour cupcakes. (Psssst! Here are over 40 Keto Baked Goodies Made Without Almond Flour!)
Still, it’s important to be able to provide your child with nourishing snacks and lunchbox treats that are grain-free — just not made with almond flour.
What grain-free flour(s) should we use instead?
Well… that depends…
Are you sticking to a low-carb/keto grain-free diet?
Or just grain-free?
Since I’ve limited my almond flour use and generally make keto baked goods, coconut flour is my go-to.
Coconut flour is naturally low in carbs — lower than almond flour, in fact! (Coconut flour has 2 net carbs per 1/4 cup; almond flour has 3.)
It’s also rich in fiber and contains virtually no phytic acid. Coconut flour is much gentler on the digestive system and doesn’t contribute to constipation the way almond and other nut flours can.
Plus, it’s way less expensive! Per pound, coconut flour is almost half the price of blanched almond flour: $5.99/pound vs. $8.33/pound!
So, if you’re grain-free AND low-carb, coconut flour is the way to go. <– My coupon code NOURISHING will save you 10%!
If you’re grain-free but NOT low-carb/keto, you have a few more options:
- cassava flour — awesome for gut health because it contains resistant starch
- tiger nut flour — also great for the gut because of resistant starch; cons are that it’s more expensive and recipes with tiger nut flour aren’t easy to find
- plantain flour — yep, flour made out of dried plantains. It’s high in resistant starch as well, but the downside is that recipes are hard to find.
- cricket flour — believe it or not, dead, ground-up crickets are a “flour”. I actually have some in my pantry, but I’ve never used it because I don’t know how! You’ll never find a recipe made with only cricket flour; and it’s expensive.
- arrowroot flour — I mention this only because it technically is a nut-free, grain-free flour. But it’s not nutrient-dense and VERY high in carbs. I only use arrowroot to thicken sauces and gravies; never as a baking flour.
- beans — I love and use both navy beans and black beans in many recipes. No, beans are not “paleo”, but they are grain-free and recipes using beans as the base for brownies, cakes, and more are easily found. I also soak them first to reduce phytic acid.
Grain-Free Baked Goodies Made Without Almond Flour
- Salted Caramel Mocha Brownies (grain-free, nut-free, dairy-free) (black beans)
- Keto Matcha Moringa Donuts (coconut flour)
- 6-Ingredient Paleo & Keto Flourless Chocolate Torte (no flour)
- Paleo Anti-Inflammatory Spice Cookies (cassava flour)
- Keto Chocolate Coconut Donuts (coconut flour)
- Best Keto Fudgy Brownies with a Secret (coconut flour + cauliflower)
- Ooey Gooey Allergy-Friendly Brownies (cassava flour)
- Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Cake (navy beans)
- Paleo Orange Muffins (cassava flour)
- 40+ Keto Baked Goodies Made Without Almond Flour
I hope this has given you a few things to think about when it comes to your grain-free baking.
I challenge you to evaluate your use of almond flour without bias. It is something you’re baking with on a weekly basis? Are you consuming almond flour baked goods daily or more than once daily?
Are almond flour muffins, pancakes, and waffles making appearances on your breakfast table several days per week?
Maybe you’re consuming way more almonds than you thought… Hey, it’s an innocent mistake. 🙂
Perhaps you’ll realize that maybe you need to reduce your reliance on almond flour — in favor of nourishing yourself with lots of pastured protein, leafy greens, healthy fats, and colorful veggies and fruits.
Your body and your budget will definitely thank you!