Thanks in part to the popularity of the Paleo diet and in part to our increasing awareness of the importance of natural, unprocessed foods, coconut flour recipes are the "flavour of the month" in health food blogs and cookbooks. First recommended by dieticians for those who suffer from wheat allergies, there are a number of reasons for considering making coconut flour a part of your diet.
Health Benefits of Coconut Flour
Great taste is one good reason for cooking with coconut flour, but there are many health benefits to consider as well:
•Gluten free, coconut flour is a great substitute for those who suffer from gluten intolerance and cannot consume wheat products.
•Coconut flour contains lauric acid. Lauric acid aids the immune system by fighting fungus, bacteria and viruses. Lauric acid is also present in breast milk and is one of the reasons why holistic doctors most often recommend breast milk over formulas for infants.
•It contains manganese, a vital mineral that helps protect the thyroid gland.
•Coconut is very low in polyunsaturated fats. The highly saturated fats in coconut flour remain unaffected by cooking at high temperatures.
•Coconut is very easy to digest, making it a good choice for those who have digestive problems.
•Rich in fibre and protein, coconut helps curb food cravings, making it a great choice for dieters.
While the benefits of coconut outweigh the risks, some people can be allergic to it, just as a small percentage of the population has other nut allergies. If in doubt, consult your health care professional before using coconut flour.
Cooking with Coconut Flour
If you or a member of your family do not have a history of allergic reactions to coconut, you're ready to start cooking with coconut flour. Before you begin, there's one very important thing you need to know about it: the extremely high fibre content in coconut flour makes it highly absorbent, too. This means that you will need to use more liquids than you are probably accustomed to to all your recipes. You will also need to add more eggs for binding and leavening than normal. Here are some recommendations from seasoned coconut flour cooks:
•When cooking desserts, substituting honey for dry sugar helps make up for the shortfall in liquids and yields great tasting results.
•When making meatballs, use half as much coconut flour as you would breadcrumbs and as much milk or water as coconut flour to moisten the flour.
•For baked goods, use twice as many eggs as you would if using plain flour.
•If you are not using coconut flour as a wheat replacement, you may want to use a mixture of 10-30 percent coconut flour and plain flour. This will help reduce the need for extra liquids and eggs.
Coconut flour is naturally sweet, but has just enough sweetness to enhance the flavour of a recipe without turning it into a dessert. This makes it ideal for breaded main dishes.
If you're concerned about sugar in your diet, muffins and other treats made from coconut flour can be an ideal way to wean your family off of sugar. Some of the dangers of sugar were highlighted in a recent NT Pages article, Should Sugar Be Regulated? As outlined above, there are many health benefits to coconut flour, so even if you do include sugar in a dessert made with coconut flour, you can reduce the amount of sugar without making the dessert taste bland.
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