A healthy alternative to wheat flour, coconut flour’s nutrition also delivers many other benefits aside from being gluten-free and low-carb. It’s great for weight loss, digestion, blood sugar levels, and heart health, among others. Read on to find out why you should try this healthy flour substitute.
Coconut Flour 101
Coconut flour is derived from dried and ground coconut meat. The meat is scraped from the coconut husk, rinsed, grated, and then strained to separate the milk. The strained meat is then baked at a low temperature and then ground into a powder, which is similar in texture to grain-based flour.
It has a milder flavor than traditional flours, and is free of gluten – which is a major component of grains. Gluten is a group of proteins that some people are unable to digest. Gluten intolerance/sensitivity often leads to stomach cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and even damage to the gut and nutrient malabsorption when consumed in large enough quantities.
Coconut flour is a great alternative for individuals with gluten intolerance, as well as those with wheat allergy. Because it is not derived from grains, it can be safely consumed by people on a grain-free diet, paleo diet, or low-carb diet.
Coconut Flour – Nutrition and Health Benefits
Based on coconut’s amazing nutrient profile, coconut flour also has diverse health benefits. A one-fourth cup serving of coconut flour contains 120 calories; 18 grams of carbohydrates; 10 grams of fiber; 6 grams of protein; 4 grams of fat; 6 grams of sugar; and 20% of the recommended daily intake for iron.
Coconut flour also has medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – these are a type of fat with known health benefits, including brain and heart health support, protection against bacteria and viruses, and acting as a weight-loss aid.
Blood Sugar Benefits
The fiber content of a one-fourth cup of coconut flour is three times higher than that of whole-wheat flour, 10 times higher than all-purpose flour, and provides 40% of the RDI for fiber.
As with other foods with a high-fiber content, coconut flour can help slow down the uptake of sugar by the blood and, thereby, help regulate blood sugar levels.
Additionally, coconut flour has a low glycemic index (GI), which means that it does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels; consuming baked goods that use coconut flour is better for blood sugar than grain-based flours.
Digestive Health Benefits
Coconut flour’s fiber content is also good for the gut. It is high in insoluble fiber which facilitates the smooth movement of food through the gut, and adds bulk to stools to ensure regular bowel movement.
It also has a small amount of soluble fiber – enough to feed beneficial gut bacteria which produce short-chain fatty acids (SFCAs) that serve a number of functions. These functions include providing nourishment for gut cells and reducing inflammation that are associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), among others.
Heart Health Benefits
Fiber is also known to help lower total blood cholesterol levels, bad cholesterol levels, and blood triglycerides. An intake of 15 – 25 grams of coconut fiber can reduce these levels by 11%, 9%, and up to 22%, respectively.
Coconut flour also provides lauric acid, which can help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and, thereby, reduce the risk for heart disease.
Weight Loss Benefits
The fiber, protein, and multi-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut flour can promote weight loss by curbing hunger and reducing appetite. The MCTs also go straight to the liver and metabolized for energy, so they’re less likely to be stored in fat cells.
Antiviral and Antibacterial Benefits
The lauric acid in coconut flour may help protect against viral and bacterial infections. Only test-tube research has been done so far, however, but the protective action of lauric acid shows a lot of promise.
How to Use Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is a great substitute for other types of flour, but keep in mind that coconut flour is denser so it doesn’t bind easily, and it absorbs more liquid so you need to use more liquid or reduce the amount of flour you use in your recipes.
You can use coconut flour when baking pastries and cookies; making pancakes; thickening soups and stews; binding meat, such as burgers or veggie loaf; breading meat; and making grain-free wraps or pizza crust.
If you prefer a fluffier texture in your baked goods, you can mix coconut flour with other flours or add egg to the batter.
Coconut Flour Nutrition – Bottom Line
Don’t be turned off by the high carbohydrate content of coconut flour; its low-fat and high-fiber content make it a healthy substitute for grain-based flours. It’s an ideal option for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergies.
Coconut flour can be used in much the same way as other types of flour, although minor adjustments to how much flour and/or liquids you use in your recipes are required because it is denser and absorbs more liquid. You can also mix it with other flours to enjoy its benefits.