Go Grain-free with Coconut & Cassava

Originally published in Optimum Wellness, Spring 2017 , p. 13

Go Grain-free with Coconut & Cassava: Tropical staples stand in for grains in baked goods, wraps and snacks

Thanks to the ever-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, keto dieters, clean eaters and vegans can enjoy baked goods, wraps and snacks that fit into 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 makes coconut beloved in everything from beverages to baked goods to crunchy snacks. High-fiber coconut flour is a recent addition to the gluten-free flour category. 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, or yucca, a staple carbohydrate for millions of people living in tropical climates where the plant grows well in poor soil. Cassava tubers provides 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 U.S. In Brazil, tapioca starch comes in bitter and sweet forms; both are used to make the popular Brazilian cheese bread, pan 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 tortillas and baked good mixes.

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