A Delicious and Healthy Coconut Dessert
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Among the what-should-I eat-for-my-body hype that we’re exposed to, there has been quite the buzz about coconut, and sometimes it’s hard to see through the haze.

Yes, coconut is high in fat and nearly 90 percent of that is saturated. And considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, saturated fat consumption is a concern. Recent research suggests, however, that the quantity may not be as important as the quality of the fat in your diet.

Some studies have reported that coconut oil may be beneficial for weight loss because it contains a type of fat called MCTs, or “medium chain triglycerides.” Because they are a preferred source of fuel for your body, MCTs are metabolized faster, taking a more direct route from your gut to your liver—which makes them more likely to be burned off, rather than stored as fat. They also contribute to faster satiety, according to research.

There is just one caveat: Coconut oil contains only about half as many MCTs as the specially formulated oil used in some experiments. There are also other health implications to consider, such as the impact on “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels, and areas where further research is needed, such as conventional versus virgin coconut oil. So consume mindfully and use moderation and portion control, as you would with any other fat source.

RELATED: There's a lot of confusion about what's good and bad for your body. Learn which bizarre health fads you should try.

A tablespoon of coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat, compared to 3 grams for a tablespoon of shredded and dehydrated coconut meat, the star in this recipe. A cross between a cookie and a macaroon, these flavorful bite-sized treats come with antioxidants, thanks to the orange zest, and boast less than 120 calories per serving!

Orange-Coconut Clusters

Yields: 24 cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups unsweetened, unsulfured, finely shredded coconut (such as Let’s Do Organic)
2 tablespoons unbleached white whole-wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated organic orange zest
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons organic cane sugar (such as Wholesome Sweeteners)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Combine coconut, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add orange zest and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Add to coconut mixture and use a spatula to fold until coconut mixture is completely coated. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition score per serving (2 clusters): 118 kcal, 9 g fat

 

Thérèse Bonanni, R.D., C.D.N., is a New York City-based clinical dietitian, nutrition counselor, freelance writer, and recipe developer and former editor for Prevention magazine. She created and developed recipes for The O2 Diet, Slim Calm Sexy Diet, and The New You and Improved Diet books, which have appeared on The Rachael Ray Show and Access Hollywood. Her work has appeared in Women's Health, Men's Health, and other national media outlets. Contact her @TBonanniRD.

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