The health benefits of coconut flour

Is coconut flour good for you, how does it affect blood sugar levels, and is it gluten-free? A nutritionist describes the nutritional profile of this trendy ingredient.

A bowl of coconut flour

What is coconut flour?

Coconut flour is a soft flour made from dried coconut meat. When coconut milk is squeezed from coconut meat, this meat is then dried at a low temperature and ground into a flour which is suitable for baking.

Is coconut flour low-carb?

Currently there are no guidelines for what counts as a 'low-carb' product. However, a 10g (approx. 1 heaped tbsp) serving of coconut flour provides between 1.5-6g carbohydrates, depending on which brand you buy, and it is also low in sugar with the average coconut flour containing 1g per 10g serving. Again, this varies by brand so check the labels, but you can consider coconut flour a low carbohydrate food when consumed in moderation.

Learn more about low-carbohydrate diets.

Is coconut flour high in fat?

As it comes from coconut, coconut flour is naturally high in fats with 14g on average per 100g, of which 12-16g is saturated fat. This varies between brands, with some listed as containing 65g of fat, of which 67g is saturated fat, per 100g, so do check the labels of the brands you are buying.

The type of saturated fat in coconut flour is called a medium-chain triglyceride which may provide some health benefits including supporting healthy cholesterol, anti-inflammatory benefits and may play a part in helping to manage weight. More research needs to be done in this area, and coconut-based products should still be consumed sparingly to keep overall fat intake within daily Reference Intakes (RI) of 70g total fat and 20g saturated fat.

Is coconut flour gluten-free?

Pure coconut flour is a gluten-free product. However, always check the label, especially if you are coeliac or have a gluten allergy. Some brands may contain added ingredients which contain gluten, or may be produced in a factory which handles gluten-containing products. If there is a risk of cross contamination, this should be clearly marked on the label.

Discover 10 ingredients you think are gluten-free but aren't.

A bowl of coconut flour on a table

Is coconut flour high in fibre?

Yes, coconut flour is seen as a high fibre food with up to 45g per 100g. Government guidelines recommend that as adults we should aim to have 30g of fibre a day, so just 1 heaped tbsp (approx. 10g) of coconut flour would provide just over 10% of your recommended daily intake. With most UK adults averaging around 18g a day, it is important to increase our fibre intake as there is evidence to suggest it is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Increasing fibre in your diet can also help digestion and prevent constipation.

Discover more about high-fibre diets.

Does coconut flour contain protein?

Coconut flour is a good source of protein with 18g per 100g. However, it is an incomplete protein, which means it contains only five of the eight essential amino acids that we need in our diet every day. ‘Essential’ means that we can only get these amino acids from food as the body cannot make them itself. Protein is important in our diet as it plays a vital role in the growth and repair of the body.

Read more about the best sources of protein as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

How does coconut flour affect blood sugar levels?

Coconut flour appears to have a lower glycaemic index of 51 which means that it should cause less of a spike in blood sugar levels than wheat flour, which has a glycaemic index of 69. This is because coconut flour is high in fat and fibre, which work to slow down the release of sugar in the bloodstream.

Find out more about low-GI foods.

Where to buy coconut flour

Coconut flour is growing in popularity as people look for more gluten-free and potentially healthier flour options, and as a result you can now buy coconut flour in most of the bigger supermarkets, health food shops or online.

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This page was published on 4th December 2018.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
 

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