A Healthy Tropical Alternative

When you think of coconuts the image of palm-lined beaches and clear blue water surely comes to mind, but did you know coconuts also may help protect your heart? Because coconuts contain more saturated fat than butter, at one time many health experts believed that consuming this sweet treat would result in clogged arteries and heart disease. However, studies show that the benefits of coconuts outweigh the possible risks, which should please those with tropical fever. In a study published in Clinical Biochemistry, 2004 1, researchers looked at coconut oil as a component of diet in laboratory animals (Sprague-Dawley rats). In this study, virgin coconut oil, which was obtained by wet process, had a beneficial effect in lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

Even though coconuts do have a high saturated fat count, more than 50% of that is lauric acid. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that although lauric acid raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol, it raises HDL ("good") cholesterol even more. The other 50% of the saturated fat content is made up of fatty acids that have little or no effect on cholesterol. Lowering your cholesterol levels is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, so it looks like coconuts are back on the menu! This tasty tropical treat is still high in calories, so don't overdo it. Instead, buy a bag of shredded coconut and have just a handful as a mid-morning snack or mixed into your trail mix.

Try to avoid a sudden spike in your blood sugar by making sure you consume bagged coconut that is free of added sweeteners. If you'd like to try cooking with coconut milk, try a delicious grilled coconut shrimp or coconut-crusted chicken on a balmy summer evening for a change of pace. If you're really in the coconut tropical mood, go ahead and plant a palm tree, buy a set of tiki torches, have a Caribbean cookout, because you'll be jam'in to a healthier you! Recipe (serves 2) Coconut Crusted Shrimp 20 medium shrimp 1 tsp. garlic and herb seasoning 1/2 tsp. black pepper 3/4 cup flour 2 medium eggs, well-beaten 1 cup shredded coconut Directions Preheat oven to temperature 400°F.

Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Sprinkle garlic and herb seasoning and pepper evenly over the shrimp. Place the flour, egg, and coconut in three small separate bowls. Dip shrimp into the egg, then the flour, then the egg again, and then into the coconut. Place shrimp on the baking sheet at least 1 inch apart.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden brown. Serving suggestion: dip in mango sauce. Copyright (c) 2008 Beth Aldrich.

Beth Aldrich is an Integrative Health and Nutrition Coach, writer and public speaker; she also publishes http://www.ForHerInformation.com , an online magazine for women and she is the host of the Seattle and online radio show, A Balanced Life with Beth Aldrich. 1. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. K.G.Nevin and T. Rajamohan, Clinical Biochemistry 37,2004;830-835). Recipe is from Chefs.com

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