istock/poplasenCoconuts have found their way from the beach to supermarket shelves in more ways than you can imagine; these days, you can find coconut water, coconut oil, coconut flakes, and coconut milk. (Find out all the amazing uses for coconut oil.) But if you thought your kitchen had every coconut substitute under the sun, you may be missing a key ingredient: coconut flour.
Coconut flour is made of ground-up dried coconut pulp and is often touted for being gluten-free because the flour doesn’t contain proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, which are life-threatening for people suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. Fortunately, coconut flour has health benefits that can nourish any eater.
A hearty 10 grams of dietary fiber is found in just 1/4 cup of coconut flour, compared to whole-grain flour, which only has a measly 3.4 grams. What’s so good about fiber? For starters, it fills you up so you eat less, helping you maintain a healthy weight. (Did you know fiber also lowers diabetes risk?) Adding coconut flour to your sauces, smoothies or baked goods may be the ticket to reaching your daily fiber intake. Besides being fiber-packed, the flour’s also lower in carbohydrates than whole-grain flour.
Unfortunately, there is one pitfall to coconut flour: It’s trickier to cook with. Unlike wheat flour, the fiber in coconut flour soaks up liquid like a sponge because it contains so much of it, which can turn your recipe into a disaster. The key is to get your substitution measurements absolutely correct. You can master these measurements one of two ways: Either substitute only 20 percent of the flour in the recipe with coconut flour or substitute the flour measurements in their entirety. For the 20 percent method, if the recipe asks for 2 cups of white flour you would only replace it with a little less than one-half cup of coconut flour. For substituting the entire 2 cups of white flour, use two eggs for every half-cup of coconut flour. To make up for the lost liquid absorbed by the fiber, the general rule of thumb for both methods includes making sure your water and coconut flour measurements are always equivalent.
Of course, as with any healthy food, it’s important to remember is that coconut flour isn’t the solution to overall better health. A diverse array of fruits and veggies alongside a daily exercise routine continue to be the formula for good health, but it doesn’t hurt to substitute that all-purpose white flour with some coconut flour every once in a while.