Several months ago while on stage at KetCon, one of the largest keto-based conferences in the world, I informed everyone I will never eat almonds again.
Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right?
Well, imagine telling a group of people, all focused on eating a low carb diet, that one of the staple ingredients they use to replace flour in so many of the recipes they love may somehow be bad!
To be clear, I was answering a question posed by someone in the audience in the context of talking about the dangers of plant oxalates and, almonds are one of the highest oxalate containing foods in the grocery store! Almonds are not a health food.
I heard some of the crowd gasp and I saw others leaning over to whisper to the person seated next to them. I thought certainly I had put my foot in my mouth and was slightly nervous about the backlash I would encounter after my talk.
Sometimes the Truth is Hard to Hear
But, it was the truth and it is our goal to empower people to nourish themselves. So, regardless of the repercussions it was worth it.
To my surprise, what I returned to our table in the exhibitor hall was something completely different than I expected.
Instead of a mob of angry keto-ers or, worse, a complete absence of customers due to some impromptu boycott, there was a line of people eagerly sharing their own stories about battling with oxalates and wanting to learn more. Some were even in tears recalling the years of pain and suffering they endured as a result of this nasty plant toxin.
Almonds – My Go-To Snack
For years, almonds were my go-to snack. And, why not? They are “natural”, low in carbs, high in protein, crunchy and tasty. We could buy huge bags from big box stores like Costco and BJs for a relatively cheap price. And, they are incredibly versatile – you can eat them, use them in cooking, grind them into flour, or even extract a milk-like liquid from them to use as “milk” substitute. You can even make a candy like paste called marzipan with almonds! I LOVE marzipan so much that several years ago our family even visited a traditional marzipan shop in Berlin to see how it was made and taste the treats they made from it.
Almonds and all nuts are a health food, right?
Nuts were supposed to be guilt free and something to feel good about. How could they be bad? Well, my daily snacks of almonds caught up to me and created all sorts of oxalate toxicity issues with my health (more on that soon). When you get down to the nitty gritty and think about it, it makes complete sense.
Nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are the plants’ babies and the plants will do anything they can to protect their progeny to ensure their legacy. Plants do this by engaging in chemical warfare with the outside world through the production of toxins.
Fortunately, many of these toxins can be dealt with through different food processing approaches such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and/or leaching. However, one toxin, oxalates, seems to be very resistant to detoxification strategies.
The best way to deal with oxalates?
Minimize or avoid them. That’s it. That simple.
And almonds are at the top of the no-touch list along with other high oxalate foods such as spinach, swiss chard, rhubarb, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.
Just ¼ cup of almonds, a mere 22 nuts, contains over 120 mg of oxalates.
To put that in perspective, a recommended low oxalate diet means consuming between 40-50 mg per day. So, that one handful of nuts is 3 times the recommended daily allowance.
And, its not just the nuts. The danger carries over into products made from the nuts such as almond flour and almond milk. There is over 400 mg of oxalates in just ½ cup of almond flour.
Monique Attinger, in her article, How to Succeed At Reducing Oxalate on a Gluten-free Diet which appeared in the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity put this statistic into relatable example when she wrote,
“So, your daily morning muffin made with almond flour could be 200-250 mg of oxalate. This means that you may not feel as good on your gluten-free diet as you might expect because your digestive tract can be suffering with ongoing inflammation from a new source – oxalate.”Monique Attinger
What about almond milk?
Just as bad.
In fact, thanks to almond milk, we have reached a new milestone in our modern health epidemic. We now have kids under the age of 10 presenting with kidney stones. And, almond milk is the culprit! According to a 2015 article in the Journal of Pediatrics titled, Hyperoxaluria and Genitourinary Disorders in Children Ingesting Almond Milk Products,
“Our investigation of the oxalate content of several popular plant-based milk substitutes indicates that almond milk products are a particularly rich source of dietary oxalate. All genitourinary and urinary metabolic disturbances resolved after discontinuation of almond milk ingestion. Therefore, pediatricians should be aware of this potential link.”Journal of Pediatrics
Today, there is an unprecedented array of diets that possess their own individual lists of taboo foods or ingredients. Adhering to these dietary limitations in a strict, orthorexic way can be maddening, limiting and down right depressing. The modern industrial food system is very happy to create look- and taste-alikes for diet goers wanting to adhere to their diet without sacrificing the tastes, textures and flavors they love. Many people on low carb or gluten free diets who still want to eat bread and cake and brownies – just without carbohydrates or gluten – can enjoy baked treats made with almond flour and any number of fake sugar substitutes. People that don’t want to drink milk for nutritional or ethical reasons still want something to put in their cereal or coffee in the morning can pour a white milky substance extracted from nuts from a similar looking carton. On the surface these sound like great solutions. But, in reality it all comes at a cost. And, the increase in the ingestion of oxalates is one of those costs to truly be concerned about.
It seems like everything is toxic so what do I eat?
At the Modern Stone Age Kitchen, we take a different approach. Instead of swapping out potentially harmful ingredients for substitutes containing different, but equally harmful constituents, we work hard to provide our customers with the highest quality, most nourishing versions of the foods they love using the ingredients from which they were traditionally made.
The difference is that we rely on ancestral food preparation approaches to transform these ingredients into their safest and most nourishing forms possible for our bodies.
We don’t use any refined sugars nor any industrial nut and seed oils.
Want to limit gluten or carbohydrates but still want to enjoy bread or a baked treat? Then, try a wild, long fermented sourdough bread, one of our sourdough croissants, or any of our other sourdough products. The bacterial fermentation that coincides with the yeast fermentation transforms the gluten into something safer for our bodies, detoxifies the grains, lowers the glycemic index, and predigests the food rendering the nutrients more bioavailable to our bodies.
And, since we don’t use any refined sugars anything containing a sweetener also conveys at least some nourishing qualities. It all requires time and work but it is worth it – it is what we are passionate about and truly believe in.
So, why don’t we use almond flour in any of our recipes?
Do you still really have to ask?