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Coconut Oil: Your New Best Friend

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Although coconut oil has gained controversy over the years, it is actually one of the healthiest fats in the world for you. Coconut oil is made from pressing the mature fruits of coconut palm trees. It's very popular in tropical parts of the world, like the Philippines, where there is incidentally less cases of heart disease and cancers than compared to the western world.

Coconut oil provides a great source of fuel, energy, and the highly-beneficial fatty acid, lauric acid. Coconut oil proves that not all saturated fats are "bad for you." Coconut oil is primarily made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), which make it easy for your body to digest. Coconut oil is metabolized efficiently and converted into energy immediately, rather than getting stored as fat (the way butter or unhealthy oils can). Medium-chain fatty acids do not have a negative effect on blood cholesterol and help protect against heart disease. A new BFF (best friend forever) for sure.

Whether you are an athlete, dieter, or have trouble digesting dairy or fats, coconut oil might just become your new best friend -- it can be readily digested more than other oils.

Coconut oil is a significant plant source of lauric acid, a fatty acid recognized for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties. It has been known to help speed up metabolism, clear acne, and is great for hair and nails. Doctors, like the esteemed fat and lipid scientist Dr. Mary Enig state that coconut oil improves the immune system's anti-inflammatory response, which helps us fight off disease.

Although a saturated fat, coconut oil contains no trans-fatty acids. Because it is naturally saturated, it can handle the heat of higher temperature cooking -- such as frying -- and won't burn or go rancid as easily. In effect, because coconut oil is saturated, it makes it very shelf-stable, which makes it a very healthy oil. Who knew saturated could mean good?

Baking tips: Coconut oil melts around 76 F and forms a hard solid if kept any colder than that. Coconut oil can be used in many forms though, which makes it ideal for the chemistry that baking requires. It can be melted to make it easy to measure out; semisolid when creaming it with your sweetener; and firm for pie crusts. Luckily, it does not even require refrigeration. I recommend melting it for easy baking needs! Coconut oil is a great replacement for butter, margarine, shortening or other oils. It is very rich in taste and creates an unmatched moist texture. Trust me! You can use either virgin coconut oil that still has a coconut flavor, or a neutral-flavored one that is tasteless.

I love, love, LOVE baking with coconut oil. It mimics butter perfectly, creating an incredibly chewy treat. Because I use the neutral flavored one, it really helps to bring out the flavor of whatever dessert I am working on. It is hard to give a standard measurement replacement for butter, but I tend to use less coconut oil as I would with butter. For instance, instead of two sticks of butter (8 oz), I would use around 7 oz coconut oil because butter is actually 20 percent water while coconut oil doesn't contain any.

So, next time you are baking, try using coconut oil as your fat. Maybe use virgin coconut oil in your next coconut cake or coconut macaroons? Or, try the neutral flavored one in your next batch of brownies. You might just start to see a lot more of your new best friend!

Be sweet to yourself.

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