Should Coconut Flour Be Soaked?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist November 9, 2010

coconut flourAn increasing number of folks are using coconut flour these days as a low carb alternative to grain based flours.   Coconut flour is disaccharride free and, as such, an acceptable flour for baking when one is following the GAPS or SCD diets.

Coconut flour is also Paleo/Primal friendly for those who eschew grains in general as something that was not originally part of the human diet during pre-agricultural times.

A reader recently emailed me to ask if she should be soaking coconut flour before baking like other flours such as wheat, spelt, and oat.

Even gluten free flours like rice or quinoa are recommended for soaking overnight in an acidic medium such as buttermilk or yogurt to break down the antinutrients and greatly improve digestibility and nutrient absorption.Coconut flour is derived from the coconut, however, which is not a grain.   A coconut is neither a nut although it is a distant relative of tree nuts.  Technically speaking, the coconut is a drupe, which means that it is a fruit with an outer fleshy part which surrounds a hard pit or seed in the center.    Besides the coconut, other familiar examples of drupes include mangoes, apricots, olives, and pistachios.

In his article Living with Phytic Acid, author Rami Nagel addresses the issue of phytic acid in coconut flour.   Phytic acid is the most well known antinutrient in grains, nuts, seeds, and beans that is reduced by soaking.

In this article, Mr. Nagel states that

“We do not have enough information about the preparation of coconut flour to say whether soaking reduces phytic acid, but as with other phytic-acid containing foods, the likelihood is that it is at least partially reduced.”

In addition, coconut itself is not a high phytate containing food.   For example, 100 grams of coconut contain approximately 230 mg of phytate.  This compares with 1800 mg/100 g of phytate in cashews, 1300 mg/100 g of phytate in almonds, and 1000 mg/100 g of phytate in dried lima beans (Source:  www.phyticacid.org)

As a result, based on the fact that no research is indicative of the benefits of soaking coconut flour  and the fact that it is a low phytate containing drupe and not a seed, nut, grain, or bean, I have chosen at this time to not soak my coconut flour prior to baking.

However, if a person is on the GAPS or SCD diets and is eating foods containing coconut flour several times a week or more, it might be wise to soak prior to baking just as a precautionary move until more research is done to corroborate Mr. Nagel’s hunch that soaking probably reduces the phytic acid content of coconut flour at least partially.

In essence, then, the goal with regard to phytic acid is not to completely eliminate it from the diet but rather to keep it at manageable and acceptable levels.    Soaking those foods that are naturally high in phytates such as seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains and only soaking other foods that are eaten frequently but are low in phytate in comparison such as coconut flour seems a reasonable approach to meeting this overall dietary goal … at least until more research is done!

More Information

How to Make Homemade Coconut Flour

Paleo Honey Bread

Coconut Flour Pizza Crust

 

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit

 

Comments (16)

  1. just starting AIP..i have ibs..adrenal fatigue…hypothyroidism…and was wondering if coconut flour is a FODMAP…i seem to get ibs spasms and bloat majorly when i consume alot of it..but i dont know if there is a safe limit to consume per day? (similar to xylitol)? shouldi avoid completely? reintroduce later? thanks!

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  2. I’ve been looking for the answer to this for months. For some reason I missed it here on your blog. Thank you so much for addressing it! I don’t do well on grains (at the moment, who knows could change) so I use coconut flour as a replacement. Also, thank you so much for providing all this wonderful info related to WAPF and a whole foods/traditional diet. You are awesome!

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  3. Hi Sarah, Thanks so much for addressing this. It is so difficult to find this type of info on coconut flour. I’m also glad the fiber issue was brought up. I love to make cookies from coconut flour but do find I’m left with an incredibly heavy feeling in my gut when I eat as many as I want (which is a lot, I admit). Coupled with the thirstiness I feel while eating them, I get the sense that the huge amount of fiber in coconut flour can be too much. Not that it is “bad fiber” but just that it is too much.

    I’ve taken to splitting my recipes into half coconut flour and half almond flour. But I usually cheat and use premade almond meal/flour, rather than grinding crispy nuts. So I wonder whether I should be presoaking it. (Although I have found almond flour from Love Raw Foods/Blue Mountain Organics that is presoaked and dehydrated at a low temperature, as well as being made from TRULY RAW [not irradiated or steam-pasteurized] almonds and produced locally to me!! Yay!!)

    I have also noticed that most coconut flour has the fat blasted from it by super-heated steam. This does not seem like a healthy process to me. I’m glad I have found some raw coconut flours that do not do this.

    Just making comments here, out of curiosity whether you or others may have additional input. Thanks for your wonderful blog! I know that many of my friends have started following you and many great conversations have ensued!

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  4. My understanding from what I read was that all fiber was hard on digestion although grains are the worse. I thought he believed fiber was so bad in any form that he recommends taking supplements and completely eliminating all fiber. I don't agree with taking supplements but I do make broths with veggies and meat bones to get nutrients as well as eating pastured meats and fermented veggies. I also make fermented drinks.

    BTW – since elimimating most fiber (absolutely no grains and limimted fruits and veggies), we have no constipation or diarrhea and healthy stools (ie small in diameter, low smell, formed but not hard and easily passed.) Sorry 'bout too much info:) We also eat lots of healthy fats to "lubricate" the digestive tract and help things run smoothly.

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  5. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist November 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Tina, in Fiber Menace he is primarily talking about fiber from grains, NOT the gentle fiber from fruits and vegetables which is a totally different kind of fiber and much more gentle on the digestive tract. Coconut is a fruit (drupe) and so would be included in the gentler classification of fiber.

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  6. I firmly believe that the high fiber in coconut flour is very hard on the digestive tract even in those folks with no digestive issues. After reading Fiber Menace and doing no grains or high fiber fruits or veggies for several months, I also firmly believe fiber is not necessary and only does harm.

    Tina

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  7. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist November 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Elizabeth, perfection can't ever be the goal, can it? The fiber in coconut flour can be a problem for some especially if they are just coming off the standard American (SAD) diet. But, if you've been eating traditionally for awhile and want to go grain free for a short period of extra healing (6 months) then coconut flour is usually not a problem in my experience in my WAPF Chapter.

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  8. Sarah,
    Thank you for the egg help. I am a mom of little ones and appreciate the research you do FOR me so that I can spend more time with them. Appreciate you so very much! Keep up the fantastic work!

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth Walling November 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I think this all comes down to having a little perspective. I love what you said:

    "In essence, then, the goal with regard to phytic acid is not to completely eliminate it from the diet but rather to keep it at manageable and acceptable levels."

    It's so important not to have the goal of making food that is "perfect." It's not really possible, and can be very stressful (especially for real food newbies!). I prefer the idea of tackling the biggest offenders and then working from there.

    I think if people are finding coconut flour to harsh on digestion, it might be its high fiber content. It does have a load of fiber, which can be a good thing… unless you have digestive difficulties and then it can cause irritation. So it's also important to have an idea of how any particular food impacts your individual body.

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  10. I've finally started soaking some of my coconut flour recipes. Another part of the equation is that a recipe for, say, coconut flour pancakes calls for way less flour than wheat pancakes. I use about 1/4 cup of coconut flour to feed my family of 4 (with a lot of eggs!) vs 2-3+ cups of wheat flour when we used wheat.

    For the eggs, I've frozen them in ice cube trays before, then popped out and put in a freezer ziplock :)

    Reply
  11. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist November 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Oh, also .. check out my videoblog on how to make Protein Cookies (made from egg whites). See the cooking classes to the right of this post and click on the "Desserts". This recipe uses up a ton of egg whites and these cookies are fantastic and grain free.

    Reply
  12. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist November 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Anon, it depends on how fresh the eggs are when you got them from your farmer and whether or not he/she refrigerated them. My local eggs are just a couple days old and have not been refrigerated when I get them , so the egg yolks/whites will last easily a week in the fridge. I have never frozen them, but it should be fine to do this. I know the commercial egg producers partially freeze the eggs during shipping/handling to increase shelf life – commercial eggs are something like 6 weeks old on average by the time they get to store shelves from what I've read in the past.

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  13. Hi! I need to ask you a question and I don't know any other way of getting the question to you. So…I will ask it here :) How long can non-store bought egg whites and egg yolks be stored in the fridge? I often have left over egg whites and sometimes left over egg yolks after making different recipes. I pay $5/dozen and I hate to waste them. I am making waffles today that call for a LOT of egg whites and need to know how long I can keep the yolks. And, often I eat a lot of yolks and have leftover egg whites. Can they be frozen? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  14. Hi — I made coconut flour pancakes after months of not having coconut flour and cutting back on grains and gluten. I had a very strong reaction to the coconut flour: severe bloating in my upper intestines and very painful cramping….. I think I have leaky gut symptoms and used to eat coconut flour pancakes a lot, but have now decided to just stay away from coconut flour for the time being….and anything else that can excerbate leaky gut…..

    Reply

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