Top 5 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 on-trend ingredient.
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.
Nutritional benefits of coconut flour
A 100g serving of coconut flour provides*:
- 433Kcal / 1819KJ
- 19g Protein
- 14.4g Fat
- 13.3g Saturated fat
- 34.1g Carbohydrate
- 32.9g Sugar
- 22.6g Fibre
*Please note, figures are provided as a guide only. Due to the scarcity of approved nutritional data on coconut flour, figures may vary between brands.
Top 5 health benefits of coconut flour
1. Is gluten-free
Pure coconut flour is a gluten-free product. However, always check the label, especially if you have coeliac disease or 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.
2. Is high fibre
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 only around 18g a day, it is important to increase your fibre intake as there is evidence to suggest it is associated with a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of colon cancer.
3. May support blood sugar control
Coconut flour appears to have a low glycaemic index of 51 which means 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.
4. May support heart health
Including coconut flour in the diet increases fibre levels which may help manage cholesterol.
However, the type of fat in coconut flour is called a medium-chain triglyceride, studies vary with regards to whether the medium-chain triglycerides have an overall desirable or undesirable effect on cholesterol and heart health. More research needs to be done in this area, and advice remains that 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.
5. A source of protein
Coconut flour is a source of protein providing 18g per 100g, compared with just 12g in the equivalent amount of wholemeal flour.
However, the protein in coconut flour is an incomplete protein, which means it contains only five of the essential amino acids which we need in our daily diet. ‘Essential’ means we must obtain these amino acids from food as the body cannot make them itself. Protein is essential in the diet because it plays a vital role in the growth and repair of the body as well as for functions such as immunity.
Is coconut flour safe for everyone?
Generally safe for most people, coconut flour makes a useful alternative to wheat flour. Being high in fibre it may cause bloating in some people, especially if you are not accustomed to fibrous foods in your diet.
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This article was last reviewed on 20 September 2022 by Kerry Torrens.
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.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.