Coconut flour is growing in popularity as more people discover the many health benefits of coconut flour nutrition, in addition to its many uses as a delicious, gluten-free and beneficial alternative to other flours.
What do you need to know about coconut flour nutrition? It is high in fiber, protein and healthy fats and free from wheat and other grains. It is also low in sugar, digestible carbohydrates and calories. Plus, this flour has a low score on the glycemic index.
This makes it a favorite among Paleo dieters, gluten-free eaters — including those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity — those with digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome, anyone with a nut allergy, those with diabetes, vegetarians and just about everyone else in between.
In reality, coconut flour is not actually “flour” in the way we normally think of it. It contains zero grains and consists of 100 percent pure coconut meat. Read on to learn more.
Coconut Flour Nutrition Facts
A ¼-cup serving (or about 30 grams) of coconut flour contains roughly:
- 120 calories
- 16 grams carbohydrates
- 6 grams protein
- 4 grams fat
- 10 grams fiber
- 3.6 milligrams iron (20 percent DV)
A little bit of this flour goes a long way, and in many recipes, you can get away with using only two tablespoons and still getting great results.
Health Benefits of Coconut Flour
What are the benefits of coconut flour? There are numerous reasons to love all that it has to offer, especially the fact that it’s high in nutrients, low in calories and can be used in so many recipes. It’s also very uncommon for coconut flour to cause any digestive or autoimmune responses like other grain flours can.
The health benefits of using this flour in recipes are far-reaching and impressive and include the following:
1. Aids Metabolism
Coconut flour contains high levels of MCTs, also called medium-chain fatty acids or “MCFAs.” Research shows that MCTs act as important nutrient and metabolic regulators in the body. These fatty acids are easily digested when consumed. They go straight to the liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively affect metabolism.
2. High in Beneficial Fiber to Prevent Constipation
A quarter cup of flour from coconut meat supplies an impressive 25 precent of many people’s daily dietary fiber needs. If you’re looking to avoid constipation, a very common health concern, getting enough fiber-rich foods in your diet daily is a must. High-fiber foods are some of the best things to consume if you want to prevent constipation or relieve it. In addition, healthy bacteria living in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which are called probiotics, help regulate bowel function. Fiber from coconut flour acts as a prebiotic that helps probiotic bacteria thrive and encourages optimal digestion helping to prevent constipation.
3. Helps Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Coconut flour is lower in carbs than other common flours, such as wheat and corn, so it’s a better choice for diabetics and other people looking to maintain a healthy blood sugar. Unlike higher-carb flours, coconut-derived flour has a much more mild effect on blood sugar levels. Plus, it comes with all of that beneficial fiber, fat and protein, making it a very well-balanced flour that can help you to feel full longer and make you less likely to overeat. Coconut flour nutrition certainly has health benefits for people with diabetes and those who are working toward reaching a healthy weight too.
4. Can Help to Lower Bad Cholesterol
With its high fiber content, this flour is also a great choice for boosting heart health. Studies show that coconut flour has the ability to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and serum triglycerides in people who have raised cholesterol levels.
According to a study titled, “The cholesterol-lowering effect of coconut flakes in humans with moderately raised serum cholesterol” published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, coconut flour is great choice for people looking to lower their cholesterol. As an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, this study shows how this type of flour significantly reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
5. Boosts Heart Health
As a rich source of fiber, which helps lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides, flour from coconuts is also known for boosting heart health. In fact, research links high intakes of dietary fiber with a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease as well as dying from the disease.
6. Perfect for Celiac Disease and Other Gluten-Free Diets
Coconut flour is naturally free from gluten, making it a great choice for anyone struggling with following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or a personal preference to avoid gluten. It can be hard to follow a strict diet that truly contains no gluten, but coconut flour is a versatile ingredient that can make following these diets that much easier.
History and Uses in Traditional Medicine
Coconut flour is made from ground and dried coconut meat. Once the outer green husk of a coconut is removed, what remains inside is the rich, inner white lining. This is the coconut meat. Coconut meat is the white, firm part of the coconut that you find if you crack open the fresh coconut and scrape out the insides. It then needs its milk separated in order to produce the dry “flour”.’ Once the meat is strained and separated from the coconut’s milk, it is baked at a low temperature to dry it out and create a powdery flour made entirely of coconut.
There is some evidence that this flour got its start in Tahiti or Polynesia. If it did or didn’t, it pretty clearly has its longest history of use in these parts of the world where coconuts are plentiful. Polynesian and Tahitian cuisine regularly employs coconut flour.
In many tropical climates and cultures, the indigenous people consider coconuts to be a food that is both nutritious and medicinal. Some even refer to the coconut tree as the “tree of life” and use pretty much every single part of the coconut as both a traditional food and a traditional medicine.
In traditional Thai medicine, for example, coconut is used to treat virus-based health concerns like the flu, sore throat, fever, head lice and urinary problems. Coconuts and coconut byproducts are also highly regarded as beneficial to overall health in Ayurvedic medicine. Coconut foods are recommended particularly for the pitta and vata dashas, but kaphas should typically avoid coconut in excess.
Coconut Flour vs. Almond Flour
Both coconut flour and almond flour are loved for their versatility in recipes, high amounts of nutrients, filling fats and gluten-free qualities. While both are great choices for baking or using in numerous ways, coconut flour offers more fiber and less calories overall than almond flour.
Coconut flour is also a great alternative for anyone who has nut allergies and cannot consume almonds. At the same time, nuts are nutrient-dense foods, and almond flour is a great choice for its vitamin and mineral content, very low carb count, protein, fiber, and healthy fat.
All things considered, one of these flours is basically not “better” than the other. Almond flour is extremely healthy but has a bit more calories and fat. It also has more fiber while having fewer carbs, and it is lower in natural sugars. The higher calorie and fat content isn’t a bad thing, and this makes it a great choice for those on a low-carb, ketogenic or higher-fat diet. So you can see, it really comes down to your specific needs and preferences.
Almond flour can be used as a coconut flour substitute, but remember it is not as absorbent as coconut flour so you need to decrease the the amount of liquid in recipes.
There is one more benefit to coconut flour nutrition that you may not have thought of. Because coconuts contain monounsaturated fatty acids, they are low in omega-6 fats. Although almonds are extremely healthy, nuts in general add omega-6 fats to your diet, and chances are you already consume plenty of these types of omega-6 fatty acids.
The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in your diet is very important, but most people consume much more omega-6s in their diets than omega-3s due to eating processed foods, refined oils and low amounts of wild-caught omega-3 seafood. While coconut flour won’t add omega-3s to your diet, it can help reduce the amount of omega-6s since it can replace nut flours and refined grain flours.
Coconut flour and almond flour — sometimes also almond meal — both make great coatings for proteins but have different textures and qualities when cooked with. Almond flour tends to be more crunchy, nutty, crumbly and less soft. It also has a stronger taste. It tastes like almonds, while coconut flour has a more mild taste.
Coconut flour absorbs more water than almond flour does, is denser and creates a softer product. You can use both together to create many healthy gluten-free recipes that are completely free of any grains and high in many nutrients.
Where to Find Coconut Flour
You can purchase pre-made coconut flour at your favorite health food stores, certain major grocery stores that carry alternative or gluten-free flours, some farmers markets, or through online retailers. Nowadays, you can often find it at grocery stores and retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Costco.
Because this flour is pure and free from common digestive irritants and artificial additives, the benefits of coconut flour nutrition are being embraced by those with nut allergies, digestive disorders, insulin sensitivities and many more people. This is good news and means that more and more retailers should begin stocking it.
If you’ve had no luck finding it in stores, you can also purchase this flour online.
If you rather buy pre-made coconut flour than to make your own, look for quality brands, and take a look at the nutrition panel.
Its best to purchase a brand with the only ingredient on the package as “coconut flour.” Do not purchase brands that are sweetened with any type of extra sugar, artificially flavored, have preservatives or have any binding agents in them. The shorter the list of ingredients (ideally only one), the better. This means you get the most benefits from coconut flour nutrition without unwanted side effects.
If you have celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity or are just avoiding gluten-containing grains, make sure to check that the brand of flour you purchase is labeled gluten-free and produced in a completely gluten-free facility.
How to Make Coconut Flour
Just like you can make your own coconut milk or almond flour, you can make your own homemade coconut flour. In order to make coconut flour, you can use the leftover fiber from making coconut milk. This way you get two homemade products at the same time.
Start by blending coconut meat and water in a high-speed blender. Then use a straining bag or cheesecloth to catch all of the coconut meat, leaving behind only the coconut milk, which you can save and use in many recipes later on.
When you have the coconut meat separated, spread it onto a baking sheet and bake it at a low temperature for several hours to dry it out. Keep in mind that you’re not exactly cooking the coconut meat to create flour, rather just slowly dehydrating it until it reaches a powdery, flour-like consistency.
Some people consider coconut flour to be raw for this reason, while others argue it isn’t. It really depends on how high of a temperature you choose to dehydrate it at. Most people recommend baking coconut flour at about 150 degrees or the lowest setting on the oven for four to six hours to get the best results.
Based on those tips, here is a step-by-step guide to making your own coconut flour:
- Separate fresh, raw coconut meat and coconut milk by blending the two together in a high-speed blender. Then use a cheesecloth or another type of straining bag to catch all of the coconut meat and bottle the coconut milk.
- Preheat your oven to a very low temperature, around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slowly dehydrate your coconut flour over the course of about 4–6 hours, depending on the exact heat. Check it after 4 hours to see if it’s turned into a powdery, flour-type texture.
How to Cook with Coconut Flour
Coconut flour can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. It is unsweetened and has a slight smell and taste of coconut, but this easily blends well with other ingredients in recipes and does not overpower other tastes. While it has a light, airy appearance and texture when dried, it becomes pretty dense when cooked with or baked.
You want to make sure to de-clump the flour first before cooking with it, since it’s prone to forming clumps. Do this by mixing it with a fork to take out any air bubbles or lumpy bits.
It’s best to use coconut flour in combination with other flours or self-rising ingredients like eggs when baking in order to get the best results. Are you wondering, can I use coconut flour instead of all-purpose flour? You definitely can, but depending on the recipe, you likely have to make some changes to the amounts of liquid ingredients in the recipe. Coconut flour is high in fiber, so it absorbs a lot of water while cooking with it. Compared to other flours, think of it as much more of an absorbent “sponge” — therefore having the capability to dry out certain traditional recipes.
For breading foods like pieces of meat or fish, you can typically use coconut flour as a 1:1 all-purpose flour replacement. This flour can also be used on its own to thicken soups and stews or to coat ingredients in place of breadcrumbs. No matter how you use it, make sure to mix it well before adding it to recipes, and after you’ve combined it with other ingredients, to ensure you get the best finished product.
Baking with Coconut Flour
Looking for a cake flour substitute that is gluten-free and adds incredible flavor to any recipe? You can take advantage of the health benefits of coconut flour by using it in these baked coconut flour recipes:
- Breads, with a dense texture
- Cupcakes, for example these Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
- Cinnamon buns, like these low-sugar and gluten-free Cinnamon Buns
- Cookies, like these gluten-free Mounds Cookies
- Pancakes, for example these filling Coconut Chia Pancakes
- Crepes, like these yummy Coconut Banana Crepes
- Brownies, like these chocolaty Sweet Potato Brownies
- Truffles, like these Dark Chocolate Protein Truffles
When baking with coconut flour, it works best to use an equal ratio of liquid to flour. This means you would use two tablespoons of water for every two tablespoons of coconut flour. The water will easily absorb during the baking process.
You can also use coconut oil along with the flour to add even more benefits and retain moisture. One benefit of coconut flour’s absorbency is that it works well to give baked goods a dense quality, for example in a heart bread or something similar.
For the best results, it’s recommended to use it as a replacement for up to about 20 percent of the total flour in a recipe. This means if you’re baking with almond meal or sprouted spelt wheat flour, for example, you can substitute out 20 percent of one of those flours and add coconut flour instead.
This adds extra fiber, MUFAs and nutrients to your finished product without altering the texture or taste much at all. Just remember that you need to add extra liquid to compensate. In this case, if you substituted a ¼ cup of coconut flour into the recipe, you also need to add an extra ¼ cup water or other liquid.
While most experienced cooks do not recommend using coconut flour on its own in recipes, especially when baking, some people have positive results when combining 100 percent coconut flour and eggs together, then baking the two.
Since this flour is free from gluten, which usually binds ingredients together, the egg takes the place of the gluten and holds your product in place without it crumbling. You can make a coconut flour-egg muffin taste either sweet or savory depending on your preference. Try adding cinnamon, pure honey and cocoa powder for a sweeter treat or herbs and spices for a savory breakfast.
Coconut flour is a much healthier alternative to refined carbohydrate flours in many ways. By adding this flour to baked recipes that may be high in sugar and prone to spiking blood glucose levels, you can lower the glycemic index on the recipe. This means that the sugar in the recipe will impact blood glucose levels more slowly, not causing a spike and dip in energy levels, and prevent episodes of hypoglycemia.
There are so many delicious ways that you can use coconut flour, such as:
- In place of nut coatings, like pecan or almond coating, on fish or chicken
- As a substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs or on protein
- To make a faux pizza crust, like this recipe for Coconut Pizza Crust
- To make grain-free Paleo coconut wraps or bread
- Mixed and baked with eggs for savory, high-protein egg muffins
- To bind together veggie burgers or meatloaf
- To make chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef or fish burgers, like these Cilantro Salmon Burgers
- To thicken soups or stews without the need for dairy or refined flour
- To make savory breads or biscuits
There are countless ways to take advantage of the nutrient boost you get from coconut flour nutrition by making a delicious coconut flour recipe. You can use this flour as a healthy, gluten-free, conventional flour substitute to coat chicken, fish or other proteins. Try mixing it with spices like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sea salt and black pepper to make a basic coating mixture. To mimic the taste of traditional breadcrumbs used in Italian and French cooking, add oregano, basil, parsley and other traditional Mediterranean herbs.
Here are some more delicious coconut flour recipes to try:
- Keto Low-Carb Coconut Flour Bread Recipe
- Basic Coconut Flour Cookies Recipe
- Best Ever Coconut Flour Banana Bread Recipe
- Coconut Flour Keto Pancakes Recipe
Does coconut flour expire? It normally does not contain added sulfites or preservatives if you buy a high-quality brand, so it’s recommended to store your flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh for longer after opening. This is especially true if you decide to make and store your own homemade coconut flour. Once opened, it should last up to one year if kept in a cool, dry place.
Risks and Side Effects
- Coconut actually really isn’t a “flour” in the traditional sense. It is made from dried and ground coconut meat, which contains zero grains and is naturally gluten-free.
- When comparing coconut flour vs. almond flour, one really isn’t better than the other, and it mainly comes down to personal preference. Almond flour is lower in carbs and sugars while coconut is lower in calories yet higher in fiber.
- Flour made from coconut is a great choice for paleo and keto diets, gluten-free eaters, including those with Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, those with digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome, those with diabetes, vegetarians, and anyone else looking for flour loaded with health benefits.
- Possible health benefits include:
- Reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides
- Positive effects on metabolism and blood sugar levels
- Helping encourage good digestion and prevent/relieve constipation
- Rich in fiber that can help to ward off heart disease
- This flour can be used in so many healthy recipes, ranging from desserts and pancakes to pizza crust and protein-rich main courses.
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