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Coconut Fiber for Diabetics

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

When you think of dietary fiber, traditional sources such as oats, beans and whole grains likely come to mind. However, clinical data suggests you may want to consider coconut as a source of fiber as well. It may help promote healthy blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes. You can add coconut flour -- a concentrated source of coconut fiber -- to meals to boost the fiber content. Talk to your health care provider before adjusting your diet, especially if you have diabetes.

Fiber and Diabetes

Fiber is a crucial dietary component for people with and without diabetes. Even though fiber is a type of carbohydrate, it does not raise blood glucose. Because fiber passes through your body undigested, it doesn't have the same effect on blood sugar as other types of carbs. Foods contain a mixture of two types of fiber -- soluble and insoluble. The first type dissolves in water and forms a gel that helps slow absorption of glucose. Diets rich in soluble fiber may help improve glucose levels. The other type of fiber does not dissolve in water but instead adds bulk to stool, promoting regularity.

Coconut Fiber Improves Glucose Control

Coconut flour might help keep your blood sugar levels stable, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2003. Researchers evaluated the blood sugar effect of adding coconut flour to different carbohydrate foods, such as granola bars and multigrain breads, in people with and without diabetes. They found that adding coconut fiber to food resulted in the volunteers with diabetes having the same post-meal glucose levels as nondiabetics.

This means coconut fiber prevented the typical post-meal glucose spike people with diabetes typically experience. In addition, adding coconut flour to meals decreased the glycemic index of the food in a dose-dependent manner, which means that it made food less likely to cause blood sugar spikes.

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Coconut Fiber Comparison

The recommended intake of fiber for people with and without diabetes is 25 to 38 grams per day. Coconut flour is significantly richer in fiber than other good fiber sources. Coconut flour contains about 39 grams of fiber per 100 grams, compared to whole-wheat flour, which contains 11 grams, and oat bran, which contains 15 grams. Multigrain bread or whole grain corn flour each contain 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

Coconut Fiber Fat Content

Coconut is rich in fat, but coconut flour has some of the fat removed. Coconut flour contains 9 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, most of it saturated. The good news is, unlike the saturated fat found in other foods, the fat in coconut oil does not raise bad cholesterol, according to a study published in the July 2009 issue of the journal "Lipids." A separate study found that coconut oil intake is linked to a boost in good cholesterol, according to results published in the 2011 issue of the "Asia Pacific Journal of Nutrition."

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