Coconut Flour: Are There Health Benefits?

Coconut flour is one of the many food products made from the fruit of the palm tree Cocos nucifera. Made from dried, ground coconut meat, coconut flour is a natural byproduct of coconut milk production.

Like wheat flour, coconut flour is a white or off-white flour commonly used in baking. Since it doesn't contain gluten, people on gluten-free diets can substitute coconut flour in their recipe for baked goods. 

Although coconut flour can be used as a substitute for wheat flour, many recipes must be adjusted to account for its different composition. Coconut flour is thicker than wheat flour and retains more liquid. Because it is gluten-free, doughs made with coconut flour need to be mixed longer.

Nutrition Information

Compared to wheat flour, coconut flour has more fat, protein, and fiber. Iron is the primary mineral present in coconut flour, making it a good option for people on vegan or vegetarian diets who are concerned about getting enough iron.

Two tablespoons of coconut flour contain: 

It’s important to note that although many coconut products contain high amounts of saturated fats, coconut flour is processed in a way that removes these fats, making it safer to have regularly.

Potential Health Benefits of Coconut Flour

There are potential health benefits to using coconut flour instead of wheat flour. Coconut flour has a lower glycemic index rating than wheat flour, meaning it takes longer to digest and absorb the carbohydrates in it. It also contains more fiber and protein than wheat flour.

Coconut flour can also help you:

Control blood sugar. Because of its lower glycemic index rating, using coconut flour in baked goods instead of wheat flour could help control blood sugar spikes.

Avoid gluten. Coconut flour can help people manage illnesses that respond positively to a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, isn't the only illness that benefits from a gluten-free diet. Going gluten-free could also help people with other autoimmune disorders, such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Digest things better. Coconut flour might help improve digestion due to its high fiber content. It is significantly higher in fiber than wheat flour and contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Foods high in fiber promote good digestion and the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. This helps keep bowel movements regular and protects against illnesses.

Lose weight. Naturally occurring dietary fiber has been found to promote weight loss. The high amounts of fiber in coconut flour can help you feel fuller longer, increase your energy levels, and decrease your appetite. People who are obese might experience an even greater effect when eating more fiber.

Potential Risks of Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is generally a safe alternative to wheat flour for most people. It has relatively few health risks or side effects. However, the high amount of fiber in coconut flour may cause bloating in some people.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 15, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Cocos nucifera.”

The British Journal of Nutrition: “Glycaemic index of different coconut (Cocos nucifera)-flour products in normal and diabetic subjects.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies: "Dietary Fiber from Coconut Flour: A Functional Food."

International Journal of Celiac Disease: “Are Non-Celiac Autoimmune Diseases Responsive to Gluten-Free Diet?”

Nutrition Reviews: "Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation."

Nuts.com: "Nuts.com's Guide to Baking with Coconut Flour"

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