Lately I’ve received a number of emails with questions concerning the high omega-6 levels in almond flour and the related concerns about this causing inflammation and other health issues. There’s a lot of science wrapped up in this issue but rather than link you out to a bunch of stuff to read I’m just going to give you my simplified answer.
The key to the “omega” issue is balance. Here, I am ONLY addressing almond flour in regards to almond flour baked goods which often have up to 1/4 cup or more of nuts per serving. Because of this some people are suggesting that we shouldn’t eat these tasty baked goods. I say, it depends!
Since I have no intention of giving you a full education on this omega fatty acid ratios today, if you would like to read more on the topic of omega 6/omega 3 ratios, check out this article by Chris Kresser. That said…..
YES, almond flour is high in Omega-6’s and can cause inflammation when eaten in excess or when consumption is out of proportion to the appropriate omega 6/omega 3 ratio. Of course this is the case with many nuts and seeds and let’s not forget….a host of other foods. And then of course there is the issue of some believing almonds are not so healthy when heated, roasted, baked and such. But to be honest this argument could be made for most foods especially any smoked or even cooked meats done at a high heat such as frying, grilling, baking and more. Despite this issue, many of us still include moderate amounts of these kinds of “cooked” foods in our diets…because we like them.
So you see this issue over almond flour (one of the oldest used mediums for great pastries) will not be deterring me from making and posting great gluten and grain-free almond flour recipes on my blog.
Nuts themselves can be a great part of a healthy diet. But when it comes to nut flour baked goods, and I think we all know this….sweets, breads, cakes and the like should always be eaten sparingly and in moderation regardless of their gluten/grain-free/Paleo status because…. A treat’s a treat, no matter how “well dressed” it is.
So How Much Almond Flour Can I Eat Safely?
It is important though for us to remember that nuts are a concentrated food, making one small handful of them enough for your daily intake. (I think that’s like half an almond flour cookie. Kidding….ok, maybe I’m not.) We easily ingest more than this amount when eating an almond flour muffin or say a few cookies or a slice of cake. This doesn’t mean we have to black list almond flour from our lives and the lives of others. We just have to keep it in it’s rightful place.
The way I approach it is, if eating almond flour makes you feel bad, then eat less of it or don’t eat it all. This is especially true if you have any inflammatory or auto immune issues, like I do. Even with my diet being extremely rich in omega 3’s, I have to watch my intake because of my inflammatory condition. But really, almond flour baked goods shouldn’t be “everyday food” anyway. However if you are eating a healthy balance of veggies and high omega-3 foods you should be fine with nuts (in reason) and able to handle a cookie here or a treat there without being too concerned. Only you can know what works for you and your body.
Really, this is part of a much larger worldview with regards to healthy living. For every ‘best’ there is always a ‘better’. What I mean is that you will never satisfy the quest for healthy living. There will always be a “better way” to do any given thing. This can be a terrible trap if it’s not moderated by a solid understanding of your long term goals. Without that, your quest for perfection can quickly consume your life leaving you unable to move, breath, sleep or in this case, eat. In order to navigate this “healthy living” path you must first establish your purpose for doing so.
What’s Your Goal?
For some people, the goal is to lose weight. For others, it’s to heal, feel better, gain discipline or even just try something new. And there are still others who just want to find a great tasting gluten/grain-free treat to share with their kids on a birthday or Christmas morning.
We all come to the table to eat. But we all come with different goals and needs.
We must ask ourselves: What am I coming to the table for? This answer will make all the difference in finding the right balance of nutritional choices for you and your family.
To quote myself, (yea I’m that kinda girl….)
“The secret to vibrant living is not in what you do or don’t eat. It’s learning to hold your health in one hand and your joys and passions (or celebrations) in the other, and sometimes we delightfully find that they are one and the same.”
So that’s it, almond flour’s dirty little secret. Ok, so it’s really not all that secret and it’s not that dirty either. But it does present some challenges and possibly some much needed redefining of our diets if we’ve gotten a little too “treat happy”. As for me, I’ll still have my almond flour at the end of the day (or month) and eat it too!
Note: There are other nut flours out there that are lower in omega 6 than almond flour. However, the issue remains the same. Nut flours and even coconut flour based recipes are often very high in calories and sugar and should not be our “everyday” foods. Instead we should focus on nourishing our bodies with healthy fats, pastured meats, fish, eggs, fresh veggies and fruits.