Go Grain-Free with Coconut and Cassava

Tropical staples stand in for grains in baked goods, wraps and snacks.

By Kara Nielsen

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Thanks to the growing grain-free trend, versatile ingredients like coconut and cassava root are being transformed into innovative products that cater to today’s dietary lifestyles. Paleo fans, ketogenic dieters, clean eaters and vegans can enjoy baked goods, wraps and snacks that fit into their eating plans and offer good nutrition.

Coconut in its many forms has become a mainstay for the health-minded eater. Good fats, vitamins and minerals, plus an indulgent, sweet tropical flavor make coconut beloved in everything from beverages to baked goods to crunchy snacks. High-fiber coconut flour is rising in popularity as a gluten-free flour. Home bakers use it in pancakes, sweet baked goods and wraps to replace tortillas or flatbreads. Baking mixes, like those from Simple Mills, and paleo-friendly products including English muffins and pizza crust, feature coconut flour blended with almond flour for added moisture, flavor and texture.

Less familiar is cassava root, a staple carbohydrate for millions of people living in tropical climates, where the plant grows well in poor soil. Cassava tubers provide high levels of vitamin C, calcium and potassium, as well as beneficial dietary fiber. The raw roots are peeled and cooked to remove toxins present in the plant.

Tapioca starch extracted from the root is the most common form of cassava in the United States. In Brazil, tapioca starch comes in bitter and sweet forms; both are used to make the popular Brazilian cheese bread, pão de queijo. These gluten-free cheese rolls are available frozen for home baking from brands such as Brazi Bites, a 2015  Shark Tank winner. Cassava flour made from the dried tuber has more of a wheat-flour feel, yet still provides elasticity and moisture for tortillas and baked-good mixes.

Both coconut and cassava make for tasty, nourishing grain-free snacks. Coconut chips in sweet and savory flavors offer satiating fats and fiber as well as crunch. Smoked coconut chips are a new bacon substitute for non–meat eaters. Cassava root chips are rich in potassium, iron, manganese and dietary fiber, providing a chip experience without corn, rice or soy.

What Is the Keto Diet?

Designed in 1924 to treat epilepsy, the keto (ketogenic) diet has reemerged as a healthy way to lose weight. How? This low-carb, high-fat diet encourages production of ketones in the liver to be used as energy. When you eat something high in carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin. The keto diet lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and helps the body burn fat efficiently. Studies show that this diet may also protect against diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Follow Kara on Twitter @trendologistk.


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