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Wheat and other grains are a definite no-go on the keto diet. These high-carb foods are not keto-friendly because they can affect ketosis levels.
A gluten-free, paleo-friendly alternative to wheat flour is tapioca flour. It is a starch extracted from cassava roots, which is a staple in several African, Asian, and South American cuisines.
But is tapioca flour keto-friendly?
There is a lot of controversy about this type of flour. Let’s find out why people use tapioca flour and if it fits your keto lifestyle. We also talk about how to limit tapioca flour on keto!
What is Tapioca Flour?
Tapioca flour is flour that is made from cassava root, a long and tapered flesh inside a detachable rind that comes from a woody shrub native to South Africa and the Caribbean.
Tapioca flour is made by crushing the cassava root and extracting the pulp.
This popular, gluten-free flour is peeled, washed, and chopped to produce flour for your baked goods.
Because tapioca flour is free from gluten, this fine white powder is a healthy alternative for corn starch. It’s known for giving that thick texture to baked goods and soups.
You can use tapioca flour when you want to thicken pies, gravies, pudding, dough, and sauces.
It can endure a freeze-thaw cycle without losing its gel texture. It won’t break down or get too hard.
Tapioca flour is also used to make a crisp crust and chewy texture for baked goods.
Tapioca can be in the form of flour, flakes, or pearls.
It’s also allergy-friendly and safe for people with various food sensitivities.
Tapioca flour has a neutral flavor, so it will not affect the taste of your food, whether you want it to be sweet or savory.
Tapioca flour can be purchased as flour or instant flakes, depending on your needs.
Tapioca Flour vs. Cassava Flour
Although both varieties of flour come from the same plant, they are different.
Cassava flour uses the whole root of cassava, while tapioca flour only uses the starchy pulp of the root.
Tapioca Flour vs. Tapioca Starch
Confused about the difference between tapioca flour and tapioca starch. Tapioca flour is sometimes called tapioca starch as well.
Some brands consider their tapioca flour and starch the same. However, the other tapioca flour is just cassava flour that is marketed for the Caribbean and South American markets.
To avoid confusion, tapioca flour and starch are essentially the same. They are also gluten-free.
Tapioca Flour vs. Tapioca Pearls
Tapioca flour is simply the fine white powder that serves as an alternative to corn starch.
Tapioca pearls are the large and small boba pearls you find in your drink. Before being cooked, these pearls are also off-white in color, although they are usually dyed black.
Tapioca pearls can be dyed using any color.
These pearls turn into chewy balls when they are cooked, making them a great add-on to bubble teas, candies, and desserts.
Tapioca Flour Nutrition
Tapioca flour is mostly starch, so it’s almost all carbs.
There is little else to it nutritionally speaking. It only contains small amounts of protein, fat, and fiber. Some don’t even have any.
¼ cup of tapioca flour has around 100 calories and 26 grams of carbs.
Tapioca is considered inferior to most grains and flour in terms of nutrition. It is merely “empty calories” that provide energy without other essential nutrients.
It also doesn’t have many health benefits aside from being gluten-free. Diet junkies usually just praise it for replacing wheat- and corn-based products.
In fact, you often need to combine tapioca flour with other flours like almond or coconut flour to get the right texture and nutrients.
So, now you probably know the answer to this next question.
Is Tapioca Flour Keto-Friendly?
No, it is not.
If you are looking for a substitute for flour that is keto-friendly, you might be considering tapioca flour.
However, it is not the best choice for the keto diet. It almost has the same amount of carbs as regular white wheat flour.
A keto-friendly food needs to be low-carb and nutritious. Unfortunately, tapioca flour doesn’t fit either.
Because your goal on the keto diet is to limit carbs, tapioca flour should also be restricted.
A typical keto meal plan contains 35-50g carbs for the day. So, a single serving of tapioca flour will already take up most of your daily carb intake.
Another reason to avoid tapioca flour on keto or any type of diet is the risk of poisoning. Improperly processed cassava products may contain linamarin.
Linamarin is a toxic compound converted to hydrogen cyanide in the body that causes cyanide poisoning.
This type of poisoning is a paralytic disease called konzo that may lead to death.
But commercially produced tapioca does not contain harmful levels of this toxic compound.
You can add tapioca flour to your sauce, baked goods, or gravies if you only need a tablespoon to thicken a recipe.
But you should carefully measure and count your carb servings and ensure you stick to your macro intake for the day.
Take note that tapioca is in many low-carb baked goods and other store-bought foods, such as salad dressings, burgers, pizza crusts, frozen meals, and soup.
Always check your labels to find the most keto-friendly foods.
Why People Use Tapioca Flour
The good thing about tapioca flour is that it is gluten-free. So, it is a good substitute for those with gluten sensitivity or those who want to avoid gluten completely.
Tapioca starch is inexpensive and versatile. Aside from being a thickening agent for soups and other liquids, it’s also an effective binding agent.
People use tapioca flour to keep foods like chicken nuggets from crumbling apart. In baked goods, it keeps the center chewy and moist while the crust stays crunchy.
Some even think that it freezes and thaws better, making it more suitable for doughs and batters that will be baked for future use.
Many health-conscious people use tapioca flour because they are on the paleo diet.
The paleo diet is based on foods similar to what was being eaten during the Paleolithic era. This includes meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
The idea of this diet is to limit foods that become common when farming emerged, such as legumes, dairy products, and grains.
So, while it has its uses for other diets, tapioca flour is not ideal for the keto diet.
Negative Health Effects of Tapioca Flour
As mentioned, tapioca flour can be deadly when it is improperly processed. It’s linked to cyanide poisoning and death, a common phenomenon in African countries that rely on cassava.
While commercially produced tapioca flour is safe, make sure you are cooking or baking your food properly to avoid serious health conditions.
If you base a large part of your diet on tapioca flour and other cassava-based products, you may be kicked out of ketosis and end up lacking in protein and nutrients.
This results in nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition, and goiters.
Cassava allergy is another negative health effect of consuming tapioca flour.
There are very few cases of allergic reactions to cassava, but people who are allergic to latex may experience allergic reactions to cassava due to cross-reactivity.
Your body perceives compounds in cassava as allergens in latex, a condition also known as a latex-fruit syndrome.
How to Limit Tapioca Flour on Keto
You can limit your use with the odd tablespoon of tapioca flour to thicken your sauces.
But the best option is to simply avoid it.
If you buy packaged foods always check your labels to make sure it is not included.
If you are looking for a keto-friendly flour, then here are some alternatives you can try.
Glucomannan comes from the root of the konjac plant. It’s a type of dietary fiber that doesn’t have a taste.
This means it can be added to any type of food without a noticeable difference in taste.
It’s low in calories and high in fiber, so it’s a great tapioca flour substitute for weight loss and appetite management.
This organic Glucomannan Konjac Root Powder is vegan- and keto-friendly and claims to reduce your appetite and increase satiety.
Flax has been used for thousands of years and is one of the first cultivated crops. It is has a number of uses, including textiles, linseed oil, and flaxseed meal.
Flax meal is simply ground flaxseed. It provides better absorption of all the fiber and nutrients that flax contains.
The lignans in flaxseed are also 800 times more abundant than the lignans in other plant foods.
GERBS Flax Seed Meal contains 8g of carbs and 7g of fiber per serving, leaving only 1g of net carbs.
Psyllium husk offers a bread-like texture for recipes where it can replace eggs or gluten.
You can also add it to your morning smoothie or chia pudding for a fiber-rich treat.
Psyllium promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut, meaning it’s a prebiotic.
Psyllium, like other tapioca flour substitutes, is made up mostly of carbs. However, the net carb count is very low.
This means you can put it in your baked goods and smoothies without getting kicked out of ketosis.
It can also help you avoid or treat symptoms that occur when you’re transition into ketosis, such as constipation.
This Organic Psyllium Husk Powder from Viva Naturals contains zero net carbs. Its 5g of carbs per serving is 100% dietary fiber, so it won’t affect your ketosis.
Almond flour is almonds ground to a fine consistency. It’s one of the top choices of keto dieters when it comes to baking because it is low in carbs and high in fats.
Almond flour is also gluten-free and rich in vitamin E, which prevents damage from free radicals
Almond flour helps improve cholesterol, blood sugar, and energy levels.
Blue Diamond Almond Flour contains only 2g of net carbs per ¼ cup. It supports both keto and paleo lifestyles, and it is made with high-quality blanched almonds.
FAQ Keto Diet and Ketosis
Is Tapioca Flour Plant-Based?
Tapioca flour is a plant-based flour or starch made from the cassava plant.
If you’re on a plant-based diet, you can have tapioca flour. The plant-based diet is often low in fat and protein.
Find out more on the plant-based diet’s comparisons with keto?
What Else Kicks You Out of Ketosis?
Aside from grains like wheat, corns, and oats, cereals also kick you out of ketosis.
This includes rice, breakfast cereals, and pasta.
Some fruits, which are high in sugar, can also kick you out of ketosis. Root plants like cassava, potato, and carrots are also high in carbs.
A lot of foods kick you out of ketosis… drinks even!
How Do I Get into Ketosis?
The main way to get into ketosis is by eating a high-fat, low-carb diet. This will enable ketosis, a metabolic process that uses body fats to produce energy.
The ketogenic diet offers a lot of benefits, including weight loss and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
How Do I Know if I’m in Ketosis?
Once your body is used to the keto diet, you probably already think that you’re in ketosis.
But what are the specific and measurable signs of ketosis?
First, many people experience keto flu symptoms once they get into ketosis. However, this is unreliable because the symptoms vary, and not everyone experiences these issues.
The best way to find out if you’re in ketosis is by testing your ketone levels.
Ditch Tapioca Flour on Keto!
Because tapioca flour is gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly, many people think that it is automatically healthy and keto-friendly.
This high-carb thickening agent isn’t particularly good for you on keto. Aside from potentially kicking you out of ketosis, it’s void of protein, fat, and other nutrients.
One tablespoon may not hurt, but you can restrict your carbs further by using an alternative like almond flour.
Check out why sugar kicks you out of ketosis!