So what’s the deal with almonds?


Last weekend I prepared three desserts for Easter, each of them using almond flour. It was my first time baking with almond flour – as in, I didn’t even get to try all of my creations before serving them to my discriminating family – but the recipes I found looked so delicious and received so many positive reviews that I didn’t even think twice. But I was met by a few disappointing responses by my family members when I asked them to test out my treats: “I’m afraid of all the fat from the almond flour,” “I’m trying to be healthy,” and of course, the scrunched-up-nose face.

And yet, not a single one of my family members refused my aunt’s famous strawberry cream pie which – I’m sure it was absolutely delicious and the perfect Easter treat, but it paled in comparison to my desserts in terms of nutrition! I didn’t understand why everybody jumped to the conclusion that my totally natural, almond flour, agave, and coconut oil-based treats were so bad for you. Sure, they certainly aren’t the best things you can eat – but hey, they are still desserts, and they are about as healthy as you are going to get for a decadent dessert.

So I decided to do some investigating so that I can prove to my family almond flour is, indeed, a healthier alternative to wheat flour. Blanched almond flour is made entirely from blanched (skinless) raw almonds – a great alternative to people who don’t always like the gritty texture of coconut flour or who have an allergy to it. And like coconuts, almonds are dense with nutrients, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Here are some facts I found from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle :

Eating about 23 almonds a day is an easy way to incorporate many crucial nutrients into your diet. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, almonds are a significant source of protein and fiber, while being naturally low in sugar. One 23-almond serving packs 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol or salt. Of all tree nuts, almonds rank highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin content by weight. There are 160 calories in 23 almonds. While many of these calories come from fat, it is primarily the healthy unsaturated fats and not the unhealthy saturated kind.

Heart Health:
According to the FDA, eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the nutrients in almonds help contribute to increased heart health. For one, almonds are rich in magnesium, which is critical in preventing heart attacks and hypertension. Several clinical studies have also shown almonds can be effective in reducing bad cholesterol and preserving healthy cholesterol, which plays a major role in heart health.

Weight Maintenance:
Nuts, like almonds, are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber, protein and fat content of almonds means it only takes a handful to keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t have the urge to overeat. According to “Fitness” magazine, the magnesium in almonds helps regulate blood sugar, which is key in reducing food cravings. Almonds may even be able to block the body’s absorption of calories, making them the ultimate weight-loss-friendly snack. Because almonds are naturally high in calories, it’s important to limit your serving size to the recommended 1 ounce, or 23 nuts.

Other Health Benefits:
Almonds may also promote gastrointestinal health and even combat diabetes. The high fiber content of almonds gives them prebiotic properties, which contributes to health in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances, which serve as food for the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and help maintain a healthy balance. According to a study by the American Diabetes Association, a Mediterranean diet incorporating nuts, such as almonds, helps fight diabetes even without significant changes to weight, physical activity or caloric intake.

So what’s the verdict? Yes, almond flour, like all things that aren’t lettuce and water, should be eaten in moderation. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that a serving size here and there is a great way to incorporate healthy fats, protein, and nutrients into your diet.  So if you are going to feed your body with sweets and treats – nothing wrong with that, I know I would be a grumpy cat if I didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth a little bit every day – feed it with the right ingredients.

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