Q: Coconut flour and coconut sugar... is that readily available? And why is it good?
A: Here's what you need to know:
Coconut flour is basically just dried, finely milled coconut meat. It doesn't taste like coconut, but it does have a light flavor that lends itself well to baking sweets. Coconut flour has several benefits— for me, the main attraction is that it's gluten free (and grain-free, which is a concern for many- like Paleo dieters- but not something I am concerned about for beauty and anti-aging). In addition to the lack of gluten and grains, coconut flour is high in fiber and low in carbs- again, two great qualities to add to a baked item- and has a good amount of protein and iron. It's much higher in fat (healthy, beauty-friendly fat from lauric acid) than regular flour, but you also use a much smaller amount than you would regular flour.
I really like its mild flavor in baked goods, and you usually only need to use a very small amount (like the 1/3 cup used in my Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies) because it absorbs a LOT of moisture. Definitely a flour to try if you are skipping gluten, or you want a nutritious alternative to white flour in your baked goods. You cannot replace it 1 to 1 with white flour, so you may want to experiment, or look for new recipes online.
Coconut sugar, also called Coconut Palm Sugar, is the dried, crystallized sap of the coconut tree that contains small amounts of iron, potassium magnesium and B vitamins. It's highly-touted for having a low-to-medium glycemic index, meaning that it doesn't dramatically raise and then plummet your blood sugar (which also raises and crashes your energy in the process) the same way that refined, white sugar does. As a beauty nutrition guru, one of my major concerns is rapid spikes in blood sugar because they directly contribute to advanced aging and wrinkles, major breakouts, and hormone imbalance. These are four of the beauty side effects that I most want my readers and clients (and myself!) to avoid creating with our food choices.
Coconut sugar isn't bleached or highly refined like table sugar, another plus. However, it does have the same calories as refined white sugar, so it's still a treat! I recommend that you clear refined sugar from your kitchen and keep a bag of coconut sugar on hand for baking emergencies. I love its deep maple-caramel flavor, and the fact that it can be substituted 1 to 1 in existing recipes.
According to doctoroz.com, "Switching from regular sugar to coconut palm sugar could prevent the blood sugar crashes that make you hungry and then cause you to gain weight." I think that's somewhat true, but remember— it's still sugar and it's NOT a health food! But it does make a more beauty-friendly choice for your holiday baking.
Are these two ingredients readily available? That depends. I've seen coconut sugar in plenty of run-of-the-mill grocery stores, but it often carries a hefty price tag ($7-$10 for a pound!). You can get it much more cheaply when ordered online (like this Wholesome Sweeteners option- 1 lb of coconut sugar for $3.95).
Coconut flour is a bit harder to come by. Bob's Red Mill sells a great version that's available in Whole Foods or health stores, or, again order it easily and cheaply online, where it comes in 1 lb bags, or more economically in larger amounts, like 4 lbs at once.
Have a beauty nutrition question of your own? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this post!