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Best of Almond Pecan Pancake Recipe

November 9, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

I always try to find new and inventive ways to improve the health of those I love. I keep this objective in mind whenever I scour the medical journals or surf the information superhighway. But, in all honesty, I have an even more specific agenda – to discover delicious, pleasurable and/or simple ways of promoting wellness in my family and friends. I simply despise having to tell them that they need to make difficult changes in order to achieve better health. Sometimes this an unavoidable fact of life. However, if there is any way for me to offer a kinder, gentler alternative that’s precisely what I’ll do.

In the United States there are few comfort foods that say breakfast quite like pancakes do. The image of a stack of “flapjacks” topped with buttery maple syrup, a few strips of crispy bacon and scrambled eggs is about as iconic a meal as you can hope to find. But if you’re carefully minding your health this type of indulgence is probably just a heartbreaking memory of an all too distant past. Or is it?

A few weeks ago, I began looking for a grain-free, low carb pancake recipe for Mrs. Healthy Fellow, my father and my mother. Some of you may know that my wife has recently adopted a carbohydrate restricted program and is always on the lookout for unique items to add to her daily menu. A varied diet is crucial to keeping her taste buds content. My dad is currently experimenting with a higher fiber menu plan based on my recommendation. I’m hoping that this small change and a few other dietary shifts will improve his cardiovascular health. Finally, I believe my mom would benefit from some additional healthy fats and protein in her diet. The goal for her is to help preserve bone density and lean body mass.

One of the first recipes I encountered was by Laura Dolson, a leading figure in the online low-carb community. Her site is a wonderful resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the many low carb programs being promoted these days. Through some trial and error, I made some minor adjustments to Laura’s original low-carb pancake recipe. I think the end result is a true alternative to the illusive traditional, white flour pancakes of my past. (1)

Vanilla Almond Pancakes

8 oz of almond flour/meal
2 organic, omega-3 eggs
2 oz of sparkling water
2 Tbs of organic safflower oil
2 packets of Truvia (stevia + erythritol)
1 tsp of organic vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of Nutrasalt or salt substitute

Step 1: Combine Ingredients - Mix the almond flour and the remainder of the ingredients until they form a batter. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes. The latter step will thicken the batter and make it easier to ladle into the pan.

Step 2: Cookin’ and Flippin’ - Lightly grease a non-stick pan and heat on a low-medium flame. After the pan is hot, add a few heaping tablespoons of the batter for each pancake. I’ve found that making the ‘cakes about 4-5 inches wide is ideal. Look for small bubbles to form on the surface of the pancakes and then carefully flip them. There should be some browning and a slightly crispy texture. The approximate cooking time will likely be about 5 minutes on the first side and a few minutes on the flip side. Remove pancakes from pan and place on a cooling rack so they won’t get soggy. Top with organic butter, sugar-free maple syrup (more on that later) and enjoy! Refrigerate leftover pancakes in a sealed container with a paper towel inside to absorb excess moisture.

Nutritional Information Per Pancake: Calories: 170. Fat: 15 grams. Protein: 6 grams. Carbohydrates: 2.5 grams. Fiber: 2.5 grams. This recipe makes about 10 pancakes.

Almonds Positively Affect Blood Sugar and Hunger Satisfaction
Source: J. Nutr. 136:2987-2992, December 2006 (link)

This recipe can be included in my 2010 Health Challenge play book. You may recall that my plan for this year is to devise nutritious recipes that can be used to successfully manage weight. These pancakes are filling enough to help control appetite in those who need to shed pounds. However, they can also serve as a replacement for traditional breakfast items, such as toast, for those that require additional calories.

Using almonds in place of white flour offers a whole host of advantages. The most obvious benefit is a dramatic reduction in carbohydrates and a significant increase in healthy fats and protein. Almonds are also a rich source of essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and Vitamin E. But beyond that, it’s important to note that almonds have documented success in: a) combating constipation and inflammation; b) protecting the liver; c) lowering “bad” (LDL) and raising “good” (HDL) cholesterol; d) reducing the incidence of colon cancer and; e) supporting immune function. Some of the health promoting aspects of almonds may be the result of a newly discovered pre-biotic effect. If you eat almonds regularly, you can literally encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Boosting the number of good bacteria and reducing the harmful variety can improve everything from digestion to mood disorders and even skin conditions. (2,3)

The inclusion of safflower oil (SAF) may further contribute to the value of this recipe. SAF is a rich source of monounsaturated fats much like those found in olive oil. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that women who consumed 8 grams of SAF/day for 16 weeks reduced body fat (trunk adipose mass) and increased lean body mass. SAF also decreased blood sugar levels and increased the concentration of adiponectin. Higher levels of this hormone are associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. A separate study from April 2009 concluded that adding safflower oil to meals “significantly increased fullness and reduced hunger”. (4,5)

Everyone knows that you need all the “fixings” in order to truly enjoy a pancake breakfast. The traditional way to go is to pour some thick, rich maple syrup on a well-buttered stack of golden pancakes. But most maple syrups are loaded with sugar and sometimes even artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Luckily, we’ve discovered at least one brand that provides all of the flavor but none of the sugar normally found in said products – Nature’s Hollow Sugar-Free Maple Flavored Syrup. It’s sweetened entirely with xylitol and contains 0 “effective carbohydrates” per serving. In our home, we’ve even made a delicious blueberry syrup by mixing the maple syrup with a spoonful of Nature’s Hollow Sugar-Free Blueberry Preserves either in a small saucepan or in the microwave. The result is a decadent blueberry pancake topping without any of the typical guilt you’d associate with a maple-fruit syrup. Incidentally, a recent publication in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry reports that sugar-free blueberry jam actually retains higher levels of antioxidants (anthocyanins) than sugar sweetened varieties. In case you needed an extra reason to try this recipe out, there it is! (6)

Update: November 2010 - Almond pancakes are one of my favorite ways to start off the day right. But since posting this column, I’ve devised a simple way to make this breakfast treat even better: by adding chopped pecans and fresh berries to the batter. If anything, these additions improve that taste and texture of the final product. But more importantly, recent studies confirm that berries and nuts are tops when it comes to nutritional protection against accelerated aging and various health threats including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. The reason has do to with their stellar composition which features a beneficial array of antioxidants, fatty acids, fiber and nutrients. (7,8,9)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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4 Comments & Updates to “Best of Almond Pecan Pancake Recipe”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I love almonds. I’ve always loved peanut butter and ate way too much of it. It would compromise my diet and nutritional goals… until I found almond butter! Mmmm. Fewer carbs, lower sodium, way more rich and delicious. I can’t wait to try this recipe, I’ll let you know how I like it!

  2. JP Says:

    Great! Looking forward to your review! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. JP Says:

    Update: A good reason to include almonds (or almond flour) in your recipes …

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330049/

    J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Jan 5;4(1):e000993.

    Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in healthy adults with elevated LDL-cholesterol: a randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Evidence consistently shows that almond consumption beneficially affects lipids and lipoproteins. Almonds, however, have not been evaluated in a controlled-feeding setting using a diet design with only a single, calorie-matched food substitution to assess their specific effects on cardiometabolic risk factors.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: In a randomized, 2-period (6 week/period), crossover, controlled-feeding study of 48 individuals with elevated LDL-C (149±3 mg/dL), a cholesterol-lowering diet with almonds (1.5 oz. of almonds/day) was compared to an identical diet with an isocaloric muffin substitution (no almonds/day). Differences in the nutrient profiles of the control (58% CHO, 15% PRO, 26% total fat) and almond (51% CHO, 16% PRO, 32% total fat) diets were due to nutrients inherent to each snack; diets did not differ in saturated fat or cholesterol. The almond diet, compared with the control diet, decreased non-HDL-C (-6.9±2.4 mg/dL; P=0.01) and LDL-C (-5.3±1.9 mg/dL; P=0.01); furthermore, the control diet decreased HDL-C (-1.7±0.6 mg/dL; P<0.01). Almond consumption also reduced abdominal fat (-0.07±0.03 kg; P=0.02) and leg fat (-0.12±0.05 kg; P=0.02), despite no differences in total body weight.

    CONCLUSIONS: Almonds reduced non-HDL-C, LDL-C, and central adiposity, important risk factors for cardiometabolic dysfunction, while maintaining HDL-C concentrations. Therefore, daily consumption of almonds (1.5 oz.), substituted for a high-carbohydrate snack, may be a simple dietary strategy to prevent the onset of cardiometabolic diseases in healthy individuals.

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Updated 08/20/15:

    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/08/12/jn.114.207944.abstract

    J Nutr. 2015 Aug 12.

    Dietary Almonds Increase Serum HDL Cholesterol in Coronary Artery Disease Patients in a Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: More than one-half of coronary artery disease (CAD) patients have low HDL cholesterol despite having well-managed LDL cholesterol. Almond supplementation has not been shown to elevate circulating HDL cholesterol concentrations in clinical trials, perhaps because the baseline HDL cholesterol of trial subjects was not low.

    OBJECTIVE: This clinical trial was designed to test the effect of almond supplementation on low HDL cholesterol in CAD patients.

    METHODS: A total of 150 CAD patients (50 per group), with serum LDL cholesterol ≤100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol ≤40 mg/dL in men and ≤50 mg/dL in women, were recruited from the Aga Khan University Hospital. After recording vital signs and completing a dietary and physical activity questionnaire, patients were randomly assigned to 1 of the following 3 groups: the no-intervention group (NI), the Pakistani almonds group (PA), and the American almonds group (AA). The respective almond varieties (10 g/d) were given to patients with instructions to soak them overnight, remove the skin, and eat them before breakfast. Blood samples for lipid profiling, body weight, and blood pressure were collected, and assessment of dietary patterns was done at baseline, week 6, and week 12.

    RESULTS: Almonds significantly increased HDL cholesterol. At weeks 6 and 12, HDL cholesterol was 12-14% and 14-16% higher, respectively, in the PA and AA than their respective baselines. In line with previous reports, serum concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol; total-to-HDL and LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratios, and atherogenic index were reduced in both the PA and AA at weeks 6 and 12 compared with baseline (P < 0.05). Effect on serum lipids did not differ between the 2 almond groups. Dietary patterns, body weight, and blood pressure did not change in any of the 3 groups during the trial.

    CONCLUSION: A low dose of almonds (10 g/d) consumed before breakfast can increase HDL cholesterol, in addition to improving other markers of lipid abnormality in CAD patients with low starting HDL cholesterol.

    Be well!

    JP

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