By Sydney:

This is our final blog in a series about the benefits of coconut oil in your diets.

Virgin coconut oil, pressed from coconuts and otherwise unprocessed, smells and tastes like coconuts. Coconut oil made using a chemical refining process loses its flavor. Most research on coconut oil has used the refined variety, so there is no evidence that virgin coconut oil is better, unless you prefer the taste.

A solid at room temperature and liquid at 75 degrees, coconut oil can be used as a substitute for in both cooking and baking. Coconut oil can be purchased at most grocery and health food stores. Trader Joes sells a 16oz jar of Virgin Organic Coconut Oil for $5.99. Whole Foods stocks a variety of options, as do most local grocery stores.

While it is not known exactly how much coconut oil is needed to reap all of its benefits, most researchers suggest incorporating about 2 tablespoons a day into your diet.

Here are a few ideas of how to cook with coconut oil:

• Use organic refined coconut oil for sautéing, stir-frying and baking. If you prefer a stronger coconut flavor, try virgin or extra-virgin, but remember, it can burn more quickly, making it better for medium to low-heat cooking.
• Melt over hot grains, oatmeal or veggies.
• Scramble eggs in coconut oil, or melt over hot, poached eggs.
• Stir a spoonful into hot cooked soups, stews, chilies and curries.
• Spread over French toast, whole grain toast, muffins, pancakes and waffles.
• Sauté veggies in coconut oil, add cooked legumes (great time to use your canned beans or lentils!) and spices for a quick, delicious meal.
• Rub a chicken with coconut oil and seasonings before roasting.
• Cook bananas in coconut oil with nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon for a quick and tasty dessert.
• Make hot cocoa and stir in a spoonful of coconut oil
• Add a tablespoon to your smoothie. Combine: 1 cup of fresh kale, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of pineapple, ½ a banana and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a blender (add ice if desired). Once thoroughly combined, enjoy!
• Substitute coconut oil for butter when baking using a 1 to 1 ratio.

For other ideas on how to incorporate coconut oil into your diet, visit Whole Foods’ suggestions here and and the food blog The Kitchn’s 10 Favorite Coconut Oil Recipes.