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Despite the coconut’s reputation as a fatty fruit, its cold-pressed oil confers a unique flavor and more health benefits than you can shake a palm-frond at. The oil, derived from the white meat of the coconut, is a healthy source of mono-saturated fat and contains a main ingredient called lauric acid that has been studied for its positive effects on the immune system and antimicrobial activity.

Coconut oil is also low in cholesterol and sodium. However, the fruit’s decadent image owes to more than just its starring role in tropical cocktails. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that coconut oil is, indeed, high in saturated fat, so use it moderately.

Ann’s Tips

Coconut oil is naturally sweet and delicious and has an extensive shelf life. It is a solid fat that must be liquefied for many recipes. This is easily done: Simply stand the jar of oil in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes before using. When possible, choose cold-pressed, virgin, organic coconut oil made from fresh — not dried — coconut meat. Also look for oils without added fragrances, flavoring, or coloring.

Recipe Tips

Coconut oil has been used for millennia in vegetarian Southern Indian cuisine for the delicious flavor it adds to foods. Use it to add tropical flavor to veggie stir-fries, or to baked fruit, as in our Bananas Baked in Coconut. Our quick and easy Oatmeal and Date Cookies are a healthier-than-average sweet treat that use coconut oil instead of butter, plus wholesome whole-wheat flour, quick-cook oats, and chopped dates.

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