The coconut is one hot fruit, basking in the glow of a health halo. Despite its high saturated fat content (12g per tablespoon oil), coconut products are showing up everywhere—from the baking aisle to the snack section. Although innovative and tasty, coconut doesn't automatically mean healthy. Many products are higher in calories and sat fat with added sugars and salt, so read labels and enjoy in moderation.
You may have tried coconut chips and milk, but what about the rest of the fruit? Here are some other ways to go coco.
1) COCONUT OILIt's the butter of the plant world, made by pressing the fruit. The refined version is flavorless and best for sautés; try unrefined in baked goods for a nuttier, stronger flavor. Each tablespoon has 12g sat fat (5 more than butter), so keep heart-healthy olive oil around for everyday recipes.
2) COCONUT VINEGARMade by fermenting the sap from the palm tree, coconut vinegar tastes like white wine vinegar and works well in salad dressings. Most are raw and unpasteurized, containing more enzymes and bacteria than other vinegars—an ancient folk remedy said by some to have health benefits.
3) COCONUT FLOURThis gluten-free flour is made when the meat is dried and ground. It's higher in protein and fat but rich in fiber (2.5g per tablespoon), making it very absorbent and a poor 1-to-1 sub for wheat flour. Instead, replace up to one-fourth of the flour in a recipe and up the liquid by 20%.
4) COCONUT SUGARRising in popularity thanks to its unbleached and unrefined natural image, this sweetener resembles brown sugar in flavor with coffee undertones. Calories are similar to granulated: 15 to 18 per teaspoon, depending on the brand. Use in baked goods as a 1-to-1 replacement. —Frances Largeman-Roth, RD