Coconut Oil

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Chances are you have probably heard or read about coconut oil. As dietitians, we often get questions regarding the health benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which has long been proclaimed as the unhealthy fat that is linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides. However, recent studies have shown that not all saturated fats are equal. The primary type of saturated fat in coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, which research has shown to absorb differently than other types of fat and tends to be more readily available for energy.

There are recent research studies that suggest moderate consumption of coconut oil has been shown to increase your healthy cholesterol and decrease waist circumference. However, there is also substantial research indicating that saturated fat in general is linked to an increase in both healthy and unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. The type of saturated fat that is found in coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, has been shown to improve healthy cholesterol levels better than other types of saturated fat. Although, unsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, have proven to be more effective at lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels while increasing healthy cholesterol levels.

While there are positives and negatives associated with coconut oil, overall it appears that sticking to moderation is key. Even though there may be some positive health benefits from consuming coconut oil, it still contains 9 calories per gram, which is about 115 calories per tablespoon. If you are looking to add coconut oil to your diet, the most effective method is to use it in place of other saturated fats or Trans fats.  If you choose to purchase coconut oil, virgin coconut oil is less processed and tends to retain more of its tropical flavor. Remember to keep in mind moderation is key!

References:
“All about Oils.” http://www.eatright.org. 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 May 2016.
Kadey, Matthew. “Coconut Oil Uses and Your Health.” WebMD. Ed. Kathleen Zelman. WebMD, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016.
Machowsky, Jason. “Coconut Oil: The Great Debate.” Nutrition411. 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016.

Fresh Strawberries are Here!

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Strawberries are one of Americans’ favorite fruits; in fact the average American eats about 8 pounds of strawberries every year!  Strawberries typically come into season in June and last through mid-July. These little guys are packed full of nutrition and make great options for a snack, side dish, or dessert.

Did you know that one cup of strawberries actually contains more vitamin C than an orange? Strawberries are packed full of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, folate, and potassium, and they are also a great source of fiber. All of the vitamins and minerals in strawberries makes them high in antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Strawberries are also low in calories. In fact, just one cup of these sweet berries is only 50 calories!
Fresh strawberries can be used in a variety of ways for snacks, side dishes, or desserts. Try throwing them into a spinach salad or making a fresh strawberry salsa for a side dish. Strawberries can also make great desserts whether it be in a smoothie, as a fruit kabob, or topped on frozen yogurt.

When picking fresh strawberries be sure to look for plump, firm, and fully red berries. Typically the smaller berries have the most flavor. Remember, strawberries that are picked before they are ripe will not ripen after picking.
Be sure to check your local Farmers’ Market or Berry Farm to get your dose of fresh strawberries and try the recipe below!

Strawberry Mango Kiwi Salsa
Ingredients:
¾ c diced strawberries
½ c diced mango
½ c diced kiwi
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp diced red onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tsp honey
Juice of 1 lime

Directions
1.    In a large bowl, combine strawberries, mango, kiwi, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, honey, and lime juice.
2.    Serve immediately with tortilla chips or graham crackers. Refrigerate left overs.