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Coconut Flour – The Other White Flour

January 20, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The love of cakes, cookies and pastries is at the heart of many of our health and weight problems. Many dietitians and doctors have tried in earnest to get us to cut down on our sweet consumption. But that often doesn’t work. The draw of such sweet things is simply too great.

Even food manufacturers have tried to address this dilemma. In their “infinite wisdom”, they’ve come up with a solution: lower fat sweets! Hooray! A solution? Not! These types of “treats” are simply tricks. They cause more problems than they solve by raising our blood sugar even higher and by further stoking our (false) sense of hunger. This is not the way to a healthy body, folks. This is simply a way to sell more products at any cost.

You May Think I’m Coconuts

If our goal is to build a better, healthier treat then we must start with the basic building blocks. Where do most of the calories come from in the desserts we love? Typically, they come primarily from the flour and the sugar. Two ingredients that add nothing, nutritionally speaking. Recreating desserts is going to take some practice and an open mind. But, if you’re willing to expand your horizons, you may just find a way to eat your cake and be healthier too.

Before I go any further, I know what some of you may be thinking. “It’s the fat, stupid!”. You may think that fat is the main problem with your favorite dessert, but that’s not likely to be the case. It’s true that the combination of fat and sugar isn’t healthy. It’s also true that any form of unhealthy fat should be avoided. But, if you choose a healthy source of fat and you combine it with other healthful ingredients, it will actually do your body good. It will help satisfy your hunger and promote a healthy body – from head to toe. Good fats are essential and should not be treated like the enemy.

To begin with, we’re going to replace some or all of the conventional flour in our favorite desserts with coconut flour and other nut flours – like almond meal. Why is this a good idea, you may ask? Glad you asked!

  • Coconut flour is richer in fiber (about 60% by content), lower in carbohydrates and also a rich source of protein.
  • Because of its higher fiber content, it tends to satisfy hunger to a greater extent than does refined or even whole grain flour. It also does not provoke the sharp rise in blood sugar and insulin that many grain flours do.
  • Coconut flour is rich in nutrients, as it’s normally grown in mineral rich soil. A unique trait of the coconut is that its fiber does not contain a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid is present in many fiber-rich foods, such as beans and grains. It tends to interfere with mineral absorption. Therefore, its absence allows our digestive system to better absorb the minerals contained in any given food.
  • Coconut flour is hypoallergenic. There is a protein in most popular grains called gluten. Many people appear to suffer from an allergy or sensitivity to this protein. The consequences of having gluten, if you’re allergic and/or sensitive, can range from fatigue to stomach aches to more serious nutritional deficiencies in the long term.
Fiber Chart

Now that you know many of the benefits of coconut flour, here are a few details that I simply can’t leave out. Gluten, the protein in wheat and many other grain flours, is vital to providing the texture that most of us associate with breads, cakes and cookies. So, how do we get around this chewy problem? Let’s go to the expert on this topic: Dr. Bruce Fife. His primary suggestion on how to successfully bake with coconut flour is to add more eggs to the mix. In fact, pretty much every recipe out there that uses coconut flour needs to be adjusted. It’s very difficult to try and adapt a regular grain flour recipe into a coconut flour recipe. For most of us, it’s best to leave that to the experts like Dr. Fife and various baking virtuosos who offer free recipes on the Internet.

The next issue is sugar content. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about stevia, the no-calorie, safe and natural sweetener. It is possible to replace some or all of the sugar in a recipe with stevia and stevia mixtures. This again requires following recipes carefully. But with an experimental frame of mind and a thirst for a healthier way of life, I’m confident that you’ll find some winning recipes for your own household. I recently made and enjoyed a coconut flour version of “cheddar bisquits”. Next I’d like to try a sugar-free, coconut flour chocolate cake recipe that I found on the Internet. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope some of you will give coconut flour a try. If you do, please share your experiences with me. I’d love to learn from your successes and misadventures. In the future, I’ll continue to share my own trials with coconut flour, stevia and other natural and healthful ingredients. Together, we just may be able to change the way we look at desserts forever more!

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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8 Comments & Updates to “Coconut Flour – The Other White Flour”

  1. Jessi Says:

    I recently ground my own coconut flour and mixed it with oat flour and used this to make chocolate chip cookies. I replaced the brown sugar with sucanut. They cooked up crispier than the usual cookies, but my family LOVED them! They didn’t last very long at all!

  2. JP Says:

    Jessi,

    Thanks for sharing that! It’s interesting how different sweeteners can affect the texture of baked goods. We recently used a erythritol/stevia sweenter (Truvia) in a cookie recipe and it completely changed the consistency (less crumbly and more moist) as compared to using Splenda – the sweetener called for in the original recipe. It’s fun to experiment with new ingredients like this! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. sy choy Says:

    i live in hot and sunny Malaysia where i can get freshly grated white coconut easily. i would like to know how i can make my own coconut flour as i have not found any place selling it. And if i do, any imported goods will be very expensive. I am not sure whether i should just sun the grated coconut daily until it is very dry and then grind it into flour or whether i should first extract out the coconut milk from the grated coconut(use that for other purposes) and then only, dry the grated coconut. Will really appreciate your reply as soon as possible. thank you

  4. JP Says:

    Good day, Sy.

    I’ve never tried to make homemade coconut flour before. However I have made homemade almond flour. Perhaps you can try to use the same process.

    I begin by placing raw almonds in a food processor. I set the machine to the “chop” setting and pulse the whole almonds little-by-little until they form a flour or meal consistency. It’s important to pulse and not simply chop non-stop. If you do the latter, you’ll end up with almond butter rather than almond flour/meal.

    In the case of coconut, I would think the same strategy could work provided that the coconut flesh is adequately dry. Also, please keep in mind that this homemade version of coconut flour would be significantly higher in fat than store bought versions – which have most of the coconut oil pressed out. Extra fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just needs to be taken into account when planning recipes.

    Another option, as you mentioned, is to extract the “milk” prior to drying. I believe this is how they make coconut flour commercially.

    Ultimately, I think you may need to do a little experimenting with this. But I hope I’ve at least given you a basis to begin. Experimenting in the kitchen can be fun. I hope you discover some truly delicious recipes.

    Please keep us posted! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. rob Says:

    Ive just found this flour in my grocery store. Will have to pick it up a try some recipies

  6. Jan Says:

    can you tell me what food chains carry coconut flour????

  7. JP Says:

    Hi Jan,

    You can find it in many Whole Foods markets. Also, it’s widely available online – usually for less.

    Be well!

    JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 11/10/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26545655

    Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(n05):2012-2018.

    EFFECT OF HYPOENERGETIC DIET COMBINED WITH CONSUMPTION OF COCONUT FLOUR IN OVERWEIGHT WOMEN.

    INTRODUCTION: the prevalence of obesity has increased, especially among women.

    AIM: the aim of this study was to assess the effect of a hypoenergetic diet combined with coconut flour on anthropometric and biochemical data and the quality of the diet.

    METHODS: we carried out a crossover clinical trial involving a step with hypoenergetic diet only and another with the diet associated with coconut flour consumption (26 g) over the course of nine months. The volunteers were recruited from the São Gonçalo city of Rio de Janeiro. Anthropometric, biochemical and dietary data were collected monthly. The diet quality index revised for the Brazilian population (DQI-R) and the consumption of ultra-processed foods and additives were assessed. The Wilcoxon and Mann-Whitney tests were performed, with p < 0.05 considered statistically significant.

    RESULTS: forty-two women of an average 47.5 ± 9.5 years of age participated. The hypoenergetic diet promoted a decrease in body fat, body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio, visceral adiposity index, diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides and VLDL. The consumption of coconut flour promoted a drop in glucose and total cholesterol levels when supplementing the hypoenergetic diet. The improvement to diet quality can be noted in the decrease in consumption of ultra-processed foods like vegetable oil, chocolate and soft drinks.

    CONCLUSION: the hypoenergetic diet promoted a decrease in the anthropometric parameters, blood pressure and triglycerides. The consumption of coconut flour promoted a decrease in glucose and total cholesterol levels when supplementing the hypoenergetic diet. The improved diet quality can be seen in the decrease in consumption of ultra- processed foods.

    Be well!

    JP

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