It’s hard to push a grocery cart without passing a coconut product. People have gone nuts (bad pun intended) for the ingredient. But why the fuss, and how are the oil and flour made and used? Let’s crack open the mystery:
Coconut oil is made from pressing the fat out of the coconut flesh. It’s extremely high in saturated fat, long known to be a no-no for heart health. “About 84 percent of its calories come from saturated fat. To compare, 14 percent of olive oil’s calories are from saturated fat and 63 percent of butter’s are,” according to WebMD.
Some argue that it’s better because it boosts your levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. But it also raises your levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. So while it might serve as a substitute for lard or butter in cooking, the unsaturated fats from seeds, olive oil and avocados are a better bet.
Coconut flour is made from dried and ground coconut flesh. It achieves the holy grail of flours by being gluten-free. It also wins a head-to-head match with whole-grain flour in several other important ways, according to Livestrong. It’s higher in fiber, higher in protein and wreaks less havoc on your blood sugar, making it a great alternative in baked goods for diabetics, athletes and anyone who wants to cut carbs and improve their diet.
Two caveats with coconut flour: It acts differently in recipes than whole-wheat flour, so you’ll need to find recipes that adjust the other ingredients. And it’s not magically going to make sugary baked goods instantly healthy; use good judgment.