Virgin coconut oil is often called “low-fat fat.” Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, it’s lower in calories. It also breaks down to become energy and doesn’t get stored in the body like other fats. It has a pleasant, slightly sweet taste and blends well with a variety of foods. Three to five tablespoons of coconut oil a day are recommended for best results.
Coconut oil has a long shelf life and doesn’t have to be kept refrigerated (unless you prefer to use it in a solid state for combining with other ingredients), so buying coconut oil in bulk from online stores like Vitacost.com will save you a lot of money. Because you can use coconut oil in so many ways, buying in bulk also is the easiest way to keep this wonderful product on hand. I not only use it on my hair and skin, it’s also become a kitchen staple.
Here are some suggestions on ways you can easily incorporate coconut oil into your daily diet:
• Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to smoothies, protein powders or yogurt;
• Add a tablespoon to hot or cold cereal;
• Use coconut oil as a sugar or creamer replacement for either tea or coffee that’s cool enough to drink. Stir often to combine the oil with the liquid.
• Coconut oil is a healthy cooking oil, especially for low- to medium-heat cooking and sauteing as it doesn’t break down easily. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons to your pan and cook eggs, vegetables, rice and grain dishes, potatoes, curries, soups, stews and meats.
• Spread some coconut oil on slices of bread, rolls, bagels or crackers.
• Make compound “butters” and flavored spreads with solid coconut oil. Blend 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil with nut butters, cream cheese or fruit spreads. Also try adding some cinnamon and honey to coconut oil to make a spread.
• Combine liquid coconut oil with herbs and spices to create a healthy dressing for salads.
My version of baba ghanoush has added flavor and health benefits with the addition of coconut oil. This savory eggplant puree is flavored with tahini, lemon juice and fresh herbs. Eat it with wedges of whole-wheat pita bread for dipping, or spoon it over roasted meats and vegetables.
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus 1 tablespoon more for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Sprinkle eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place eggplant cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and bake until soft and collapsed, about 20 minutes.
2. When cool enough to handle, scoop eggplant pulp into a bowl and discard skin. Add remaining teaspoon of salt, the tahini, garlic, yogurt, parsley, lemon juice and the coconut oil. Mash for a chunky texture or puree in a blender (before adding parsley) for a smooth texture.
3. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with coconut oil. Serve with warm pita bread or crackers. ••
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her Web site is www.divapro.com
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