First and foremost, while I think some of the anti-carb hype is just that – hype – I also think that too many refined carbohydrates do not do a body good. So why not just use whole grain flour, you ask. I’ve done that. And, frankly, in spite of hours of experimentation in the kitchen, I’ve yet to make a whole grain version of anything that had a texture that was pleasing. And the whole point of baking, as far as I’m concerned, is to produce treats that people want to eat.
So… what are the benefits of almond flour? Here are a few of them:
Almond flour is gluten-free. People who have celiac disease or those wishing to reduce gluten in their diets can use almond flour. In general, almond flour produces a better result than so-called “gluten-free flour mixes.”
Almond flour is low on the glycemic index. Almonds have a GI of 15 on the glycemic index, which runs from 0-115.
Almonds are high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which I wrote about in Three Cheers for Olive Oil. MUFAs confer a number of health benefits: they protect the heart, raise good cholesterol (and lower bad) and keep cognitive function high.
Almonds are packed with nutrients. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, a 1/4 cup serving of almonds supply nearly 25% of the RDA for magnesium, 45% of manganese and vitamin E, 22% of tryptophan, 20% of copper, 17.6% of vitamin B2, and 16.8% of phosphorous. This serving also provides nearly 8 grams of protein.
Almonds may help you lose weight. Yes, you read that correctly! Although nuts and seeds tend to be high in fat and calories, a study in the January, 2007, edition of Obesity showed that “After adjusting for age, sex, smoking, leisure time physical activity, and other known risk factors for obesity, participants who ate nuts two or more times per week had a significantly lower risk of weight gain… than those who never or almost never ate nuts.”
Simply put, almonds are a powerhouse seed (yes, seed; they are not truly nuts). But there are a couple of caveats.
Almond meal is not almond flour! Don’t try baking with almond meal or your baked good will be heavy and mealy. Almond meal consists of whole, skin-on, almonds that are ground up. Almond flour consists of finely ground, unskinned, blanched almonds. The texture of almond flour is light and moist. It is especially wonderful in things like breads and muffins, where a moist texture is desired.
Almonds are high in oxalates. If you are prone to kidney stones or have another kidney or gallbladder condition, check with your health care provider before increasing your almond intake.
If you plan to do a lot of baking with almond flour, I recommend buying it in bulk. It can be stored in the freezer indefinitely (although you’ll need to let it thaw before using it). I store most of my supply in the freezer and keep several cup-fuls in the refrigerator. This allows me to have enough ready-to-go almond flour so I can bake when I want, while getting the benefit of buying in bulk.
A final note: I’ve read on several sites that Bob’s Red Mill almond flour does not produce a good result. I can’t attest to this personally as I’ve never used this brand. What I can tell you is that I use Honeyville Almond Flour and find the quality, service and price all good.