Are Almonds The Next Gluten?

Board Certified Functional Nutritionist By Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN
Board Certified Functional Nutritionist
Dana James is a Columbia University–educated nutritional therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC.
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You're an avid wellness researcher. You've read The China Study, you love all of Dr. Mark Hyman's books, Wheat Belly stands proudly in your bookshelf, and your latest obsession is Grain Brain. You're gluten-free and dairy-free, and you're hooked!

And you feel better because of it. You've dropped a few pounds, your mood and energy levels have bounced back and your eczema disappeared.

But something has shifted. You don't feel as good as you once did. You're pretty positive you've eliminated all gluten and dairy from your diet. You only use almond milk and you're religious about checking food labels for gluten. Could your body be relapsing or is there something else going on?

If you take a deeper look at your diet, how often are you eating almonds?

Below are the 12 most frequent sources of almonds I see in the food diaries of my gluten-free, dairy-free clients:

1. Green smoothie made with almond milk

2. Chia seed pudding made with almond milk

3. Smoothie made with almond butter

4. Almond milk latte

5. Avocado on gluten-free toast made with rice and almond flour

6. Raw vegan treats made with almonds

7. Paleo cookies made with almond flour and almond butter

8. Gluten-free crackers made with almond flour

9. Raw almonds

10. Kind bars

11. Vegetables tossed with almonds

12. Almond butter and fruit

If you're eating almonds twice or more a day, you're over-exposing yourself to almonds, much like we did with gluten. All over-exposure poses a risk for a food sensitivity and therefore chronic inflammation in the body. It's this inflammation that causes the deleterious health effects that have been associated with gluten.

Gluten is also very abrasive to the digestive tract, often initiating leaky gut, which is the starting point for inflammation. Almonds, too, are abrasive to the digestive tract. While no research has yet been done on almonds causing leaky gut, one could certainly infer that this could be the case. If we look at IBD and diverticulosis patients, they are advised to avoid nuts to reduce the incidence of flare ups. Ironically, these same patients are only now being advised to avoid gluten.

Almonds don't have gluten's dopamine and opioid-inducing properties, however, I'd hypothesize that almonds have moderately addictive properties. I know many clients who can't stop at one teaspoon of almond butter, much in the same way that they can't say no to a cookie that's presented to them. These same clients can't keep cookies in the house or almond butter otherwise it would be gone in three days. They seem to be fine with tahini (sesame paste), so it's not a nut-butter addiction!

Let's aim to not make almonds the next gluten. Let's become more savvy with our gluten and dairy-free options. Mix up your nut milks (try coconut, hemp, cashew, sunflower and hazelnut), substitute gluten-free packaged goods for vegetables (yes, vegetables—you don't need the bread or crackers!) and limit your vegan and Paleo treats to once per week.

Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN
Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN
Dana James is a Columbia University–educated nutritional therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC....
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Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN
Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN
Dana James is a Columbia University–educated nutritional therapist and...
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