Following a Paleo diet is not an easy task. One of the harshest realities that someone who is new to a Paleo diet needs to face is that most of the flours out there are not gluten free and are generally based on grains.
However, there are some delicious alternatives that are friendly to the Paleo diet which can be used to substitute the wheat flour we are all so accustomed to using. Almond Flour is one of them, and we will show you how to utilize it in the kitchen as well as tell you about some pros and cons to using almond flour.
Technically, flour is any food which has been ground into powder, because of this there can be many different varieties of Paleo friendly flours, such as coconut flour, arrowroot, and of course almond flour. These flours are all unique in their own way, but today we will focus on the benefits of almond flour and some of the exceptional ways you can use it in the kitchen.
What Exactly is Almond flour?
There is nothing exceptionally special or unique about almond flour. Just like grain flour is derived from different types of grains, almond flour is derived from almonds after they are ground up into powder. It can be bought in some retail or grocery stores, but most of the time buying it online is the cheaper option.
The number one source of all almonds in the US is California. About eighty percent of almonds used in the US come from California because of its perfect climate, which is very suitable for almond growth. Oddly enough, most people think that almonds are nuts, but this is incorrect. They are actually drupes. A drupe is a fruit with thin skin and a stone like center which contains the seeds. So our beloved almond is actually more closely related to cherries, plums, and olives than any nut.
Almond flour is made from the seed which is inside the almond. The outer hard shell is removed and then the seed is blanched to remove the thin layer of skin around it. The resulting almond seed is then ground up into powder and used as flour. The process is relatively simple and no complicated procedures are required. This is one of the reasons why almond flour is a good choice for the Paleo diet. Fewer chemical baths or complicated procedures needed for the end result means that the final product is more natural and less processed.
We looked up the current price of almond flour on our favorite online retailer site, and you can buy one pound of almond flour for a little less than $8 USD. Depending on where you live, it most likely will be cheaper for you to order it online.
Why should you choose Almond flour?
The number one reason for choosing almond flour over traditional flours is because it is gluten free. This is absolutely wonderful for those who have gluten allergies and need to seek alternatives to gluten-filled foods. The second reason is because almond flour is low on carbs. Traditional wheat flour contains 95 grams of carbs per one cup of flour, while almond flour only has 24 grabs per cup.
This means that almond flour has almost four times fewer carbohydrates in it than wheat flour. Oddly enough, the beneficial nutrients that are found in wheat flour are also located in almond flour. In fact, their nutrient profiles are nearly identical. However, almond flour has a lot more nutrients per serving than wheat flour does, making it a far better choice.
A serving size of almond flour contains about 14 grams of fat, of which only 1 gram is saturated fat. The rest is monounsaturated fats, which are healthy for the heart. Furthermore, almond flour also contains polyunsaturated fats which are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
These Omega-3 fatty acids are known as being one of the “good” types of fat. They are known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and arthritis. The only way to get these fatty acids in your body is through your diet and almond flour can help you to achieve this.
For those of who are struggling with maintaining proper blood sugar levels, almond flour can also help in this department. Almond flour has higher protein and is low on sugar, which makes it an ideal substitute to regular wheat flour. Blanched almond flour is the preferred choice as there have been some negative reports regarding the un-blanched almond flour which claim it to present a few issues.
What is the difference between Almond flour and Almond meal?
Simply put, almond meal is coarser and ground without removing the skin off the almond seed first while almond flour is blanched and ground more finely. You can easily see the ground skin in almond meal while almond flour is whiter with the skin missing.
The absence of skin in almond flour makes its composition a lot better for digestion because the protective elements that are found in the skin of the almond fruit are not part of the flour and your body doesn’t have to digest them. This is a double-edged sword though, because almond skin is also known to contain higher levels of flavonoids. When combined with the Vitamin E found in the meat of the seed, these can reduce cholesterol levels greatly. Without those flavonoids, the effects isn’t as significant.
In the end, the decision is all up to you. We suggest you try using the almond meal for products that are a bit denser such as bread and cookies. If you are planning on making cake, then perhaps the almond flour is the better choice. Experiment with both and choose whichever one suits your cooking style and needs.
What about Coconut flour?
Another fantastic choice for a wheat flour alternative is coconut flour. While there are some minor differences between coconut flour and almond flour, both of them are pretty similar in composition. The major difference is taste. While almond flour will make your creations taste a bit nuttier, coconut flour will do the opposite and add more of a sweet hint to your culinary creations. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.
Nutritionally, the composition of both flours is similar but the levels for each nutrient are slightly different. First of all, coconut flour contains fewer calories than almond flour, with 120 grams per serving in coconut flour versus 160 grams per serving for almond. The same can be said for fats. Coconut flour contains nearly no fats with 4 grams per serving while almond flour contains about 14 grams of fat.
This might be the turning point for some people. Here is where almond flour might show itself as a better choice for some: it contains 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbs per serving. Meanwhile, coconut flour has slightly less protein at 4 grams and much a higher number of carbs at 16 grams per serving.
If you take everything into account and add all things up, the differences aren’t that drastic. But for someone who is looking for specific benefits, the small differences might be enough to influence their choice when picking one over the other. We personally prefer almond flour because of the lower carbohydrates and higher protein, which can help regulate blood sugar levels more easily.
What can you use Almond flour for?
There are really no limitations as to what you can use almond flour for. Pancakes, muffins, banana bread, waffles, you name it…All of these can be cooked with almond flour. The best way to learn how to cook with almond flour is to try it and follow the same rules you would if you were using typical flour, with just a few subtle changes. Most recipes that work for regular flour will most likely require an extra half an egg or one whole egg to work well with almond flour. Cooking temperatures, on the other hand, should be reduced by about 25o F since almond flour cooks faster than regular wheat flour, but you should extend the cooking or baking time by a few minutes as well.
How to store Almond flour
We found that the absolute best way to store almond flour is in your freezer. It’s cold and dark in there which will produce best results. If you want to stay away from cluttering your freezer then choose a cool, dark place with no moisture. As long as you keep the flour away from heat and light then it should keep for at least a year.
Almond Flour In Conclusion
There are a variety of different reasons to switch to almond flour and stop using that traditional wheat stuff full of gluten, but in the end these reasons only matter to each person on their own unique terms. If you see the benefits of using almond flour and think that they could work for you, then you should definitely give it a try.
However, almond flour isn’t for everyone. Most notably, those who are allergic to almonds should obviously stay away. Otherwise, give it a shot. You might just like it.