Why Almond Flour?
With hundreds of paleo almond flour recipes on Elana’s Pantry, I am asked this question everyday. Almond flour is highly nutritious, easy to use and readily available. For those of us watching our glycemic index, almond flour is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and low in sugars.
Unlike other alternatives to wheat flour, almond flour is moist and delicious. After having tested just about every gluten-free flour out there, I can save you a lot of time and hassle when I say that almond flour is far superior to other flours in terms of taste, nutrition, and ease-of-use.
NOTE: In all of my almond flour recipes I use blanched (almonds that have had their skin removed) almond flour. I do not recommend using unblanched almond flour.
I avoid purchasing almond flour retail at all costs! It is more than $15 per pound in the grocery store. If you purchase it online it is generally less than half of that including shipping. Yes, still expensive, but packed with protein and flavor, so for me, worth the cost.
NOTE: One example of almond flour you will find in retail stores is Bob’s Red Mill. This product yields poor, runny results when used in my recipes; compared to other almond flours it has a very coarse texture. I do not recommend using Bob’s Red Mill almond flour in my recipes.
I store almond flour in gallon or half-gallon glass mason jars. I keep one jar out in a cabinet and the others in the freezer. Using almond flour straight out of the freezer is an exercise in clumpy frustration, which is why I leave one out. How long does almond flour stay fresh, before it goes bad? I keep mine refrigerated for up to 6 months, sometimes longer. Freezing seems to extend the shelf life even more.
A Closer Look at the Almond
The almond is native to an area stretching from the northern Indian subcontinent westwards to Syria, Israel, and Turkey. It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and more recently transported to other parts of the world, notably California.1
The almond seed (or fruit) is not a true nut, but a drupe. The almond is actually the seed of the fruit that grows on almond trees, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruit with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. Almonds are available throughout the year. Almonds are most fresh during the mid-summer season.2
California is currently the only state in the US that commercially produces almonds. It produces 80% of the world’s almonds due to its Mediterranean-like climate.3
- Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.4
- Researchers who studied data from the Nurses Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30% reduction in heart disease risk. Researchers calculated even more impressive risk reduction–45%–when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats (found primarily found in meat and dairy products).5
- In addition to cholesterol-lowering effects, the consumption of almonds may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the antioxidant action of vitamin E found in almonds, as well as the LDL-lowering effect of the monounsaturated fats found in almonds.6
- In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of almonds contain almost 99 mg of magnesium (that’s 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), plus 257 mg of potassium.7
- Almonds appear to not only decrease after-meal increases in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up free radicals.8
Other potential health benefits of consuming almonds include improved complexion, improved movement of food through the colon, and the prevention of cancer.9
According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition eating almonds reduced the glycemic index (GI) of the meal and subjects’ rise in blood sugar in a dose-dependent manner – the more almonds consumed, the lower the meal’s GI and the less the rise in the subjects’ blood sugar after eating.10
“It’s all the components working together,” explains Gene Spiller, Ph.D., director of the Health Research and Studies Center in Los Altos, California. “It’s the fiber, the unsaturated fats, the arginine, the plant sterols and other phytochemicals. They all work together to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.”11
Buying and Storing
Almonds that are still in their shells have the longest shelf life. If purchasing these, look for shells that are not split, moldy, or stained. Shelled almonds that are stored in a hermetically sealed container will last longer than those that are sold in bulk bins since they are less exposed to heat, air, and humidity. If purchasing almonds in bulk bins, make sure that the store has a quick turnover of inventory and that the bulk containers are sealed well in order to ensure maximum freshness. Look for almonds that are uniform in color and not limp or shriveled. In addition, smell the almonds. They should smell sweet and nutty. If their odor is sharp or bitter, they are rancid.13
If you want almonds with a roasted flavor and texture, choose those that have been “dry roasted” as they are not cooked in oil like their regular roasted counterparts. Yet, even when purchasing “dry roasted” almonds, it is important to read the label to be sure that no additional ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup or preservatives have been added. Also note, It is not only much cheaper to roast your own almonds, they will taste better as well.14
I have a popular tutorial, called How to Roast Almonds, that teaches you how to make your own fresh roasted almonds in under 10 minutes.
Since almonds have a high fat content, it is important to store them properly in order to protect them from becoming rancid. Store shelled almonds in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place away from exposure to sunlight. Keeping almonds cold will further protect them from rancidity and prolong their freshness. Refrigerated almonds will keep for several months, while if stored in the freezer, almonds can be kept for up to a year. Shelled almond pieces will become rancid more quickly than whole shelled almonds.15
Eat More Almonds
To get more almonds in your diet, you might try drinking them. All natural almond milk is a dairy alternative that’s high in protein and good fat. It’s a good source of calcium and 100% lactose and cholesterol free. Found in health food stores, it can be used for cooking and lactose intolerance, and it’s lower in calories than other non-dairy drinks.16
I have a super easy tutorial called How to Make Almond Milk, that teaches you how to make fresh almond milk from scratch. My readers find it very helpful, and it’s a great way to get more of this healthy nut into your diet!