Coconut has been traditionally cultivated for its raw coconut meat, oil, milk, water and most recently for its flour. The Philippines is now the largest coconut producing country and was first to produce flour as a byproduct from its production of coconut milk. The growing demand for the use of natural, non-toxic plants as medicinal aids to prevent and treat illness has highlighted the various health benefits of consuming coconut products.
Many researchers now recommend the addition of coconut flour to supplement any healthy diet because of its many benefits including antibacterial and antifungal properties. Whether you are on a strict paleo diet, seeking an allergy free flour source or you simply desire to stimulate your digestive and immune system, coconut flour is an excellent addition to your meals and a pantry staple.
What is Coconut Flour?
Producers of coconut flour originally sold the nutritious coconut milk byproduct to farmers in the form of coconut meal. Farmers understood that coconut meal was an excellent source of organic fertilizer and animal feed supplement. As more research emerged supporting the numerous health benefits of coconut flour, human consumption of the valuable superfood also increased in the past few decades.
Coconut flour is derived from grating the meat of fresh coconuts. The meat is then dehydrated and defatted which means the oil is extracted. The result is a fine powder that looks and feels similar to wheat or grain flours. The most pure and organic form may even fool a seasoned foodie because of its lack of coconut flavor.
Coconut Flour: A Functional Food
Coconut flour has different health benefits than those of other coconut products such as the oil for instance and it offers a great alternative to conventional flour. Considered a functional food, coconut flour exhibits properties that significantly benefit health and is a valuable source of nutrition. This functional food is a great source of dietary fiber, is high in protein, does not contain gluten and has a low glycemic index (GI).
Coconut flour is especially recommended for those with inflammatory issues that result when wheat or gluten is consumed. Coconut flour is safe for consumption in individuals with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, leaky gut syndrome, as well as those with diabetes.
Coconut Flour Nutrition:
Although much research still needs to be conducted regarding the many health benefits coconut flour promotes, studies support that the nutrition in the coconut meat is not lost in the process of converting it into flour.
Minerals: Coconut flour is a source of electrolytes because it is rich in ions such as manganese, calcium, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. These minerals have been shown to lower blood pressure and aid in the elimination of toxins from the body.
Coconut flour can thus be considered a chelator because of its ability to remove metals from the body. The two minerals in greatest concentration, phosphorus and potassium, are necessary minerals with many functions including supporting bone and nerve health as well as a healthy digestive system.
Amino Acids: Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of lifebecause they are the foundation upon which proteins are created. Consider a Lego kit for example. Each block represents an amino acid that when attached with another amino acid in the correct order, you can produce a truck, perhaps a building, or individual characters. Each block has its purpose and I am sure I don’t need to explain how much disappointment a missing block can create.
Although our bodies naturally synthesize amino acids, some essential amino acids must be sourced from food. Coconut flour provides 18 various amino acids necessary in promoting human health including valine, arginine, tyrosine, leucine, lysine and glutamic acid.
Amino acids work together to keep the entire body and its various systems functioning through growth and repair. The following provides a few examples of the important roles of amino acids in promoting health:
Valine: Essential amino acid required for muscle growth. The reason why you feed your body a high protein smoothie after an intense workout is to provide the torn muscles the amino acids they require for repair and growth. After all, why would you want to do all of that hard work and not receive any of the benefits that healing provides?
Arginine: Supports circulation and reduces discomfort resulting from diabetes and arthritis. Arginine also acts like an antioxidant by reducing lipid peroxidation which is a harmful process that creates cell damage from free radicals.
Lysine: Essential amino acid which is vital for scalp and hair health.
Glutamic Acid: Although this amino acid is produced by the body, athletes involved in rigorous training benefit from added glutamic acid for muscle health.
Vitamins: Dried coconut meat contains 11 vitamins available for absorption by the human body including folate, vitamin B-6, and niacin. Greatest in concentration is vitamin C. Vitamin C is excreted in urine and therefore your body requires this necessary vitamin to be continuously supplied through food.
Aside from the various roles vitamin C is responsible for in tissue growth and repair, vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge the body seeking free radicals which create inflammation and age our cells and our appearance. Especially if you do not consume other sources of vitamin C daily from fruits and vegetables, it is essential to supplement your diet with a source of vitamin C to prevent common colds, illness and cancer.