Coconut flour: A nutritious, gluten-free substitute to processed flour
Coconut flour is a flour made from coconut solids that have been ground into a very fine powder. It has a mild coconut scent and flavor, which makes it suitable for flour-based recipes that don’t have other strongly-flavored ingredients such as cocoa powder or spices. It is also quite light and airy, making it especially suitable for baked goods like muffins, pancakes and cakes.
The reputation of coconut flour is growing in the West due to its considerable health benefits, which far exceed those of processed flours. Below is a list of reasons why health-conscious individuals are beginning to take coconut flour seriously, and why an increasing number of books specializing in coconut flour recipes are being published every year.
Arguably coconut flour’s biggest attraction is its gluten-free status, meaning it contains none of the gluten protein molecules found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is highly allergenic and can even be deadly for people with Celiac disease (a condition where gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients in food). However, growing evidence – particularly that compiled by Dr. William Davis in his 2011 book, Wheat Belly - suggests that gluten is unhealthy for everyone, and is a leading cause of lethargy, bloating, brain fog and more. Fortunately, gluten-free diets are becoming much easier to adopt thanks to the growing availability of gluten-free flours like coconut flour.
Rich in dietary fiber
According to a study published in the December 2006 issue of Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, adding coconut flour to our diets can significantly reduce our risk of developing heart disease, lower our cholesterol levels and guard us from cancer and diabetes. The researchers, based in the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in the Philippines, claim that these benefits stem from coconut flour’s unusually high levels of dietary fiber (a 100 gram serving of it contains a whopping 39 grams of fiber, almost double that of wheat bran). Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic physician and the author of the book, Cooking with Coconut Flour, claims that coconut flour can help adults reach their recommended daily fiber intake of between 20-35 grams. He recommends adding 1-2 tablespoons of coconut flour to gravies, baked goods, casseroles or smoothies.
High in beneficial fats
Since it is derived from coconut solids, coconut flour retains a large number of those fats for which coconuts are so beloved by health enthusiasts. A 100 gram serving of coconut flour contains 8.7 grams of fat, of which 8 grams are saturated. Most of these fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – essential protective fats with noted antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. MCTs have also been shown to boost the metabolism, making coconut flour suitable for weight loss diets.
Safe for diabetics
Because it is high in fiber yet relatively low in digestible carbohydrates compared to processed flours, coconut flour has a gentle impact upon blood sugar levels. This makes it an excellent flour for diabetics, prediabetics and anyone else who wants to avoid blood sugar spikes.
Packed with protein
Though it is free from gluten proteins, coconut flour contains an impressive number of other proteins. In fact, 100 grams of coconut flour contain 19.3 grams of protein, or 38 percent of our RDI – far more protein per serving than other leading flours such as white, cornmeal or rye. Consequently, coconut flour is a valuable cooking ingredient for vegan or vegetarian bodybuilders since protein is, of course, needed for cell repair and growth.
About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world’s healthiest foods.
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