If you're avoiding wheat due to gluten intolerance, you may have considered using an alternative flour such as tapioca flour. Also known as tapioca starch, this flour has a slightly sweet flavor and is used to thicken sauces and make baked goods when combined with other flours. Tapioca flour is high in carbs and low in nutrients.
Count the Calories
Tapioca flour contains about the same number of calories as wheat flour. A 1/2-cup serving of the gluten-free flour contains 170 to 200 calories. By comparison, the same serving of whole-wheat flour contains 204 calories. Keeping track of your calorie intake is important for weight control.
All the calories in tapioca flour come from its carb content. Unlike wheat flour, tapioca flour contains very little protein or fat. A 1/2-cup serving of tapioca flour contains 42 to 52 grams of carbohydrates. Carbs are the body's preferred source of energy and should provide most of your calories. While tapioca flour is a good source of carbs, it is not a good source of fiber, a type of carb your body cannot digest. Fiber is a health-promoting nutrient that may help lower risk of heart disease and help with weight management.
Smidge of Iron, if You're Lucky
In general, tapioca flour is not a good source of vitamins or minerals. But some brands of the flour contain a small amount of iron, meeting 2 percent of the daily value per 1/2-cup serving, which is less than 1 milligram of iron. By comparison, whole-wheat flour contains 2 milligrams of iron per 1/2-cup serving. Iron is a mineral that helps carry oxygen throughout your body. Women, teen girls and children are at risk of not getting enough iron in their diet, making it important that they include good food sources to meet needs.
Tapioca flour does not contain any sodium. While sodium is an essential nutrient, most Americans get more than they need, according to the American Heart Association. For some people, eating too much sodium causes water retention, which in turn raises blood pressure and increases risk of stroke and heart failure. To keep a lid on sodium when baking with tapioca flour, limit the amount of salt you add to your baked goods, and be aware that foods like baking soda also contain sodium.
- Bob's Red Mill: Tapioca Flour
- University of Illinois Extension: Tips for Best Uses of Different Starches as Thickeners
- Ener-g: Tapioca Flour: Nutrition Information
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Wheat Flour, Whole-Grain
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- American Heart Association: Sodium