Coconut Flour and Gluten Intolerance
Coconut flour pound cake
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease
Gluten intolerance affects 15% of people living in the USA. It is reasonable to assume that a similar percentage of people in many European countries with similar diets to Americans also suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
The problem with gluten intolerance is that the symptoms are often mild at first so it can be difficult to diagnose. However, in the long run gluten intolerance can lead to bowel cancer, diabetes, anemia and osteoporosis. Celiac disease is caused by the gluten protein and can lead to malnutrition because it is a disease where the body fails to absorb needed nutrients from food. If you are not sure if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease you should consult your doctor.
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How to tell if you have gluten intolerance
Here is a list of symptoms associated with these 2 problems:
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron levels
- Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)
- Aching joints
- Head aches
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
- Slow infant and child growth
- Decline in dental health
Gluten is a protein that is found in several grains including wheat, rye, barley and oats. The good news is that most foods can be made with non-gluten alternatives. By being careful with your grains you can avoid gluten in your diet.
Coconut flour benefits
One great alternative to gluten is coconut flour. It is made from the dried meat from the coconut. After the coconut meat is pressed for its coconut oil and milk the meat is dried and defatted. Then it is ground into a powder that is known as coconut flour.
The advantage of coconut flour is that it is low in carbohydrates but high in protein and dietary fiber. Typically coconut flour contains 14% coconut oil, 58% fiber and the remaining 28% is protein, water and carbohydrate.
The combination of low carbohydrate content and high fiber content is great for people who like baked food but who are watching their weight. Food made from coconut flour makes you feel full but gives you less calories. Moreover the high fiber content helps to prevent constipation and keeps you regular.
Coconut flour is as high in protein as wheat but it is protein that is not associated with gluten. This means you can add coconut flour to shakes and smoothies to make them protein drinks.
Other uses for coconut flour include making short bread, pound cake and muffins. For these foods 100% of the wheat can be substituted for coconut flour. Unfortunately, for things that are lighter like bread coconut flour can only make up 30% of the grains content.
Another ideal use of coconut flour is to thicken soups and sauces.
However coconut flour is used in cooking it should be remembered that it is slightly sweet flour and so less sugar needs to be added to recipes. Also using coconut flour gives food a subtle coconut flavor.
The coconut oil content in coconut flour is another health benefit of coconut flour. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that are readily converted by the body into energy. A large percentage of the medium chain fatty acids are lauric acid - a fat that is also found in mother’s milk that helps to prevent viral infections. Lauric acid also boosts the immune system. Food containing coconut flour not only prevents the symptoms connected with gluten intolerance but also promotes general good health.
Where can I buy coconut flour?
If you don’t live in a tropical country then you will have to buy coconut flour from specialist food shops or online. Amazon.com now has a good line of coconut flours for sale. Most coconut flour is organic and made without sulfates or bleach. What is more, coconut palms take only 6 or 7 years to reach maturity and so are classified as a renewable resource. This makes coconut flour not only healthy for people but also healthy for the environment. That’s good news all round.
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