Examination of whether soaking coconut flour, one of the most popular baking ingredients for keto or low-carb eaters, is a necessary or beneficial practice to improve digestibility and nutrient absorption.
Baking with coconut flour is a popular low-carb alternative to grain flour.
In fact, it is one of the most popular flours for those espousing a keto dietary protocol.
In addition, coconut flour is Paleo/Primal friendly for those who avoid grains as something that was not originally part of the human diet during pre-agricultural times.
An important question for those who include coconut flour on the menu is whether it should be soaked overnight, a hugely beneficial practice for grain flours such as wheat, spelt, einkorn, and rye.
Coconut: Neither Grain Nor Nut
Coconut flour is derived from the coconut plant, which is not a grain.
Despite its name, it is not a nut either. This can be confusing at first because soaking raw nuts is an important traditional practice as well.
Technically speaking, the coconut is a drupe, a distant cousin of tree nuts.
This means that it is a fruit with an outer fleshy part that surrounds a hard pit or seed in the center. (1)
Besides the coconut, other familiar examples of drupes include mangoes, apricots, olives, and pistachios.
Soaked Coconut Flour and Phytic Acid
In the 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, beans, and other legumes that is reduced by soaking.
In this article, Mr. Nagel states:
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. (2)
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.
Based on the fact that no research is indicative of the benefits of soaked coconut flour and that it is a low phytate-containing drupe, I do not soak my coconut flour prior to baking.
When to Soak Coconut Flour
However, if a person is on the GAPS or SCD diet and eating coconut-containing foods several times a week, it might be wise to use soaked coconut flour since it is a regular feature on the menu.
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 phytates by comparison such as coconut flour seems a reasonable approach to meeting this overall dietary goal.
Recipes Using Coconut Flour
If you’ve never baked with coconut flour, here are some of my favorites using this popular keto ingredient.
(1) Coconut Plant
(2) Living with Phytic Acid
(3) Phytic Acid in Food