The health benefits of baking with coconut flour
Coconut flour I find is one of those ingredients that people know of but do not know what to cook with it. There are so many advantages and health benefits of cooking with coconut flour that I am surprised that it is not more popular, although it appears to be making some headway recently. Coconut flour is from the coconut meat, which is found when a fresh coconut is cracked open. The white meat is scraped out, baked on a low temperature in the oven, and then milled resulting in coconut flour.
To start with we will look at the properties of coconut flour, firstly as it does not contain gluten it is not considered a traditional flour such as whole wheat flour which when combined with water becomes somewhat ‘gluey’ because of the gluten. Coconut flour also has a high fibre content giving it more of a ‘sponge’ quality, meaning that you will need more liquid or eggs when baking than you would normally use. This means that when you first start working with it, the feel and texture will be very different from that of traditional pastry, but it does not make it any less tasty.
If you are looking at ways of increasing your fibre intake then coconut nut flour is a great option, it is also a good source of protein. To help replenish the body after exercise a combination of protein and carbohydrates are known to be beneficial, so for active people who are looking for a post-workout snack, baking with coconut flour would be a great option. Although it is low in carbohydrates, coconut flour has a high fibre content, this means that it is ideal for people who suffer from constipation with a bonus that the fibre will also make you feel fuller for longer which is helpful for people who are trying to lose weight.
We know that fibre is important for our heart health and can help reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which was shown by a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food so if you are looking to maintain or reduce your cholesterol you might think about adding coconut flour to your grocery list.
When I first bought gluten-free pastries for my daughter I quickly discovered that although they are in theory gluten-free, they are loaded up on sugar to make them more palatable, which in the long term does not make them a good option for our general health as processed sugar is inflammatory but also for our gut health, as bad bacteria feed on processed sugars.
We also know that a healthy gut is one of the key components to having a healthy immune system. Coconut flour is not only high in fibre but it also acts as a prebiotic, meaning that it provides the food to our good gut bacteria, this, in turn, will improve the lining of the gut and increase the general health of our digestive system, increasing our absorption of nutrients giving us more energy. So, for individuals who suffer from ‘leaky gut’ or those who are Celiac, gluten intolerant or have Crohn’s disease, coconut flour may well become a staple in your pantry and you will most certainly appreciate being able to enjoy good food without the sugar rush any of the bloating, pain and discomfort caused by traditional flours.
Coconut flour also scores very low on the glycemic index, this makes it an ideal alternative for those that are type two diabetic or who are looking to maintain their blood sugar levels.
For those looking to improve their metabolism, coconut flour contains high levels of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) which are known to help improve metabolism as they are easily digested.
So, you can see that introducing coconut flour into your kitchen has many health benefits, although it is different to work with than traditional flour it is just as versatile and can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. If you are looking to gain the health benefits of coconut flour by gently easing yourself in you can combine it with traditional recipes. As a rule of thumb you can substitute about 20 per cent of traditional flour for coconut flour in a recipe however you would also need to add a ¼ cup of water as coconut flour is so high in fibre this gives it more of a ‘spongy’ quality than traditional flour.
I enjoy this coconut blueberry muffin recipe which can easily be adapted to whatever fruit you have, I sometimes add a tablespoon of flaxseed and a handful of chopped nuts to give it a little crunchy texture.
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