Coconut Flour and Phytic Acid: Does it need to be soaked?

Last year I did a series on phytic acid and fermenting and soaking grains to help reduce phytic acid content. One part of the series was entitled Phytic acid in nuts, seeds,  cocoa, coconut.

As to the coconut flour and phytic acid content, I mentioned this:

Finally, I have long wondered about coconut and whether it had a high amount of a phytic acid in it. I will sometimes make coconut flour baked goods, and wondered whether or not it was really low in phytic acid as most of us have been assuming. When you look at the second chart, you will see that “entire coconut meat ” is listed right above white flour (which is generally thought to be very low in phytic acid). So eating a whole coconut meat (which I believe would actually be traditionally steamed before eating) would have fairly low phytic acid. Then it lists “coconut”, which I am unsure of whether it’s referring to coconut flakes or dried coconut or what, as similar to corn in phytates. This makes me question whether or not coconut flour, having had the fat and other parts of the coconut meat removed, would be even higher in phytates. An interesting question that I am not able to find the answer too. However, one study did find that coconut is much lower in phytates compared to other nuts. (1)

One bit of research on iron absorption

The same study that found that coconut wasn’t as high in phytates as other nuts, also found that walnuts, peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts decreased the absorption rate of iron even more than bread meals! If you have any iron issues, you may want to consider not consuming many nuts. Coconut did not reduce iron absorption significantly, which I would assume was because it was so much lower in phytates. (1)

So I was really pleased to see last Fall that Bruce Fife directly answered some of my questions in an letter published in the Fall 2011 Wise Tradition Journal. Here is his letter.

COCONUT AND PHYTIC ACID

I’m writing in regard to the article written by Ramiel Nagel titled “Living with Phytic Acid” (Spring 2010). In the article there are references to the phytic acid content of coconut. Since the publication of this article people have been asking me whether they should soak coconut or coconut flour to reduce the phytic acid.

Phytic acid occurs in nuts and seeds in two forms—phytic acid and phytic acid salts [Reddy, NR and Sathe, SK (Eds.)Food Phytates. CRC Press, 2001]. Both are generally referred to as “phytates.” Together, these two compounds make up the total percentage of phytates reported in various foods. However, they do not possess the same chelating power. So the chelating effect of the phytates in corn, wheat, or soy are not the same as those in coconut. You cannot predict the chelating effect based on total phytate content alone.

The mineral-binding effect of the phytates in coconut is essentially nonexistent. It is as if coconut has no phytic acid at all. In a study published in 2002, researchers tested the mineral binding capacity of a variety of bakery products made with coconut f lour. Mineral availability was determined by simulating conditions that prevail in the small intestine and colon. The researchers concluded that “coconut flour has little or no effect on mineral availability.” (Trinidad, TP and others. The effect of coconut flour on mineral availability from coconut flour supplemented foods. Philippine Journal of Nutrition 2002;49:48-57). In other words, coconut flour did not bind to the minerals. Therefore, soaking or other phytic acid-neutralizing processes are completely unnecessary.

Soaking has been suggested as a means to reduce the phytic acid content in grains and nuts. Some suggest coconut flour should also be soaked. To soak coconut flour doesn’t make any sense. The coconut meat from which the flour is made, is naturally soaked in water its entire life (12 months) as it is growing on the tree. To remove the meat from the coconut and soak it again is totally redundant. After the coconut meat has been dried and ground into flour, soaking it would ruin the flour and make it unusable. You should never soak coconut flour.

In the tropics coconut has been consumed as a traditional food for thousands of years. Those people who use it as a food staple and regard it as “sacred food,” do not soak it or process it in any way to remove phytates. It is usually eaten raw. This is the traditional method of consumption. They apparently have not suffered any detrimental effects from it even though in some populations it served as their primary source of food.

Would you please post this message with the article so readers will have a fuller understanding of coconut and phytic acid?

Bruce Fife, ND
Colorado Springs, Colorado

The fact that there are two types of phytates is new to me. It really makes me have even more questions on this topic! However, in regard to coconut flour, I found his thoughts quite helpful. I think that still, traditionally, coconut would be eaten in it’s whole form, oil form, or milk form, but if you are using coconut flour (as I do), then you don’t need to worry about soaking it.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Coconut is not a nut it’s a fruit. The food and drug Administration classify it as a nut but it is not.
    Allergists and immunologists all know it is fruit.

    • Beth says

      The Library of Congress says it’s a “drupe”!

      http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/coconut.html
      “Question:
      Is a coconut a fruit, nut or seed?
      Answer:
      Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, also known as a dry drupe. However, when using loose definitions, the coconut can be all three: a fruit, a nut, and a seed.”

      Alas, there is no mention of phytic acid in this article, but it does have some interesting facts about coconuts.

      Thanks, Kimi, for sharing the info from Mr. Fife!

  2. says

    I have found that my body reacts to coconut flour and nuts if consumed, say, more than once a week. I wonder if there are some other connections to be made between the components that are found in a whole coconut (fat, etc.) and coconut flour which has been separated from the other parts of the coconut and if that makes the difference. I don’t have a problem with full fat coconut milk.

  3. Lisa says

    Thank you so much for this. I heard on a podcast from 2010 that Sally Fallon said that she assumed coconut flour should be soaked like regular flour but she didn’t know for sure. This didn’t make sense to me since it’s okay to eat plain coconut without soaking. Even though I soak or sprout my regular grains, nuts, and seeds, when I need something quick (or, ahem, haven’t planned ahead), I turn to coconut flour. The two kinds of phytates is a new concept to me too, but I’m glad to hear it. Coconut flour has made our GF life a bit easier, and I would hate to lose that quick option. Thank you again!

  4. says

    I have recently gone grain-free and nearly tripled my coconut flour consumption. Within weeks I had developed a cavity on the side of a tooth near the gum line, something that indicates an error in the body’s calcium/phosphorus balance. I was reading Rami’s book (Cure Tooth Decay) and saw on page 82 this passage:

    “Because of the phytic acid content of coconut flour, consuming it regularly may affect your calcium/phosphorus metabolism.”

    I thought for sure I had hit upon the reason my otherwise excellent diet had yielded me a sudden cavity. Now I guess I need to rethink the causes.

  5. elen scheliga says

    I loved this article.
    It freed me of a great concern. I eat raw coconut almost every day and often with dark skin (thin but hard) involving the white part. My question: does this also apply also to the skin?
    thank you,
    elen

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