8 Simple (And Tasty!) Ways To Add Coconut Oil To Your Diet

Spend more than 10 minutes online and you’re bound to come across something about coconut oil. People use the sweet-smelling goop to style their hair, moisturize their skin, and remove makeup, along with about a billion other things. But it also happens to great for something else: food.

“Coconut oil contains saturated fat, but a different type than you’ll find in food sources like red meat,” says Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B-Nutritious Dietetics and Nutrition and author of The Sugar Detox. Its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are metabolized differently and used more rapidly for energy than the long-chain fatty acids found in red meat. This makes MCTs more satiating and less likely to lead to weight gain, according to a review published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Related: Check out the plnt line of products, which features a few different coconut oil options for cooking.

Plus, coconut oil has a higher smoking point than many other cooking fats, making it super-versatile in the kitchen, Alpert says.

Feel free to keep rubbing the stuff all over your face (we do it every day!), but add these eight delish ways to eat coconut oil to your kitchen arsenal, too.

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

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What Is Ghee, Really?

Ghee has been around for thousands of years, but it’s recently regained popularity in the health world. (We’re talking coconut oil-level popularity, people.) Let’s start with the basics.

What Is It?

If you’re into Whole30 or the paleo lifestyle, or if you eat a lot of Indian food (in which ghee is often used), you may already be familiar with ghee.

Ghee is clarified butter, essentially. “Ghee is made by slowly melting butter and bringing it to a boil,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You. “The water evaporates and milk solids separate and can be strained out, leaving behind a golden liquid that solidifies when cooled.”

Ghee has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, so you can use it as a replacement for refined vegetables oils (like corn, peanut, soybean and canola oil) that are often used for pan-searing or frying, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. (Butter will start to smoke around 250 degrees, while these oils don’t smoke until around 350, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you prefer butter to oil, using ghee for high-heat cooking is a good way to avoid setting off the smoke detectors…oops.)

Is Ghee Better Than Butter?

While ghee gets love from many health gurus, there’s no research to suggest any noteworthy benefits of ghee, says White.

Nutritionally, ghee is a more concentrated source of fat because the milk solids and water found in unclarified butter have been removed, White explains.

A teaspoon of ghee contains 45 calories, five grams of total fat, and three grams of saturated fat, while a teaspoon of butter contains 34 calories, four grams of total fat, and two grams of saturated fat.

“Since ghee is a source of saturated fat, it should be used in limited quantities,” says White. He warns that too much saturated fat can contribute to weight gain and issues related to heart health, and that it should be limited to less than 10 percent of our daily calories.

Harris-Pincus suggests working with a registered dietitian to manage the saturated fat elsewhere in your diet if you’re interested in incorporating ghee regularly.

A Note On Dairy

Some people believe that ghee is better than butter for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies because it’s had the milk solids removed. However, ghee is still dairy-derived, so those with milk allergies still need to avoid it, says White. But since butter and ghee are both quite low in lactose, either is generally safe for someone with lactose intolerance, adds Harris-Pincus.

Related: An Ode To Egg Yolks—Yes, You Should Be Eating Them

But ‘Ghee’ Sounds Cool And You Still Want To Use It!

Like any fat, ghee is OK to consume in moderation. Plus, it’s rich, nutty flavor can give your dishes a little more oomph than many other cooking oils. White recommends swapping ghee for refined vegetable oils when frying, stir-frying or sautéing, or adding it fresh herbs and spice rubs for meat or fish.

“Basically anywhere you would use butter, ghee will work,” says Harris-Pincus. “You probably won’t need as much ghee as you would butter since the flavor is a bit more concentrated.”

Just remember that the extra flavor comes with extra calories and fat, so less is more.

Related: Shop a variety of healthy oils.

The Protein Shake Java Lovers Will Go Crazy For

Picking between your morning coffee and your gains-friendly protein shake is a tough decision. You need that first drink to survive a day of work and human interaction, but your muscles need the second to repair and grow. Since drinking both would be an awful lot of chugging in the A.M., why not combine the two?

In the video below, Dymatize athlete David Morin shares his protein coffee shake recipe to help fuel your day in every way possible.

Related: Dymatize proteins are $1 off per pound through March. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for health and fitness videos galore!

3 Delicious Green Drinks You’ve Never Tried Before

It’s important to eat your greens on the daily, but sometimes, kale and spinach taste so much better as a drink.

Green juice is nothing new, but we guarantee your taste buds have never experienced these three St. Patrick’s Day-inspired shakes before, created by The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Jaclyn Jacobsen. In addition to your standard leafy greens, they include good stuff like Organic Evolution Matcha, Amazing Grass Green Superfood, and even zucchini. (Did we mention they’re all packed with protein, too?)

Related: Add plant-based protein to your next shake with these options from the plnt line.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for health and fitness videos galore!

What Going Gluten-Free Can And Can’t Do For Your Health

Mention gluten, and everyone has an opinion. One in four Americans believe that going gluten-free is the right health move,. But only a quarter cite disease or gluten sensitivity as the main reason they nixed it from their diets, per data from The NPD Group.

On the other hand, a number of dieters promoting healthy carbs, including those that contain (you guessed it!) gluten, have been pushing back against the trend.

So what’s the bottom line? Consider this the no-nonsense down-low on gluten—and whether or not it belongs on your plate.

Gluten, Decoded

Gluten is a combination of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Naturally present in wheat, barley, and rye, gluten breaks down into amino acids in the body’s small intestine, courtesy of specialized digestive enzymes in our body, explains Kendra Perkey, M.S., R.D.

Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, that is.

Affecting less than one percent of the U.S. population, according to a consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health, celiac disease is a condition in which the immune system responds abnormally to gluten, explains Shaista Safder, M.D., gastroenterologist at the Arnold Palmer Hospital Center for Digestive Health and Nutrition. Over time, the immune system’s ‘attack’ response damages the lining of the small intestine and results in an inability to absorb necessary nutrients. Physicians typically diagnose celiac disease through two steps: blood work and a subsequent biopsy of the small intestine.

In non-celiac gluten sensitivities, people often report stomach upset, brain fog, and/or fatigue, symptoms they say are improved by going GF, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. It remains unclear as to what these issues refer to, but there seems to be a strong link between this non-celiac intolerance and other gastrointestinal issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, says Safder.

There is no test for identifying gluten sensitivities, and many cases are self-diagnosed or identified after monitoring how cutting gluten affects symptoms.

What A Gluten-Free Diet Might Actually Look Like

Going G-free isn’t as simple as saying see-ya to all things wheat. As with any eating protocol that involves eliminating certain foods, going whatever-free doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be or feel healthier. After all, every time you remove something from your plate, you have to replace it with something else. In this case, what you replace gluten with truly matters. Are you swapping it with whole foods or processed ones?

A diet that’s naturally gluten-free will include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains (quinoa, sorghum, rice, millet, buckwheat, and teff are all GF), dairy, lean meats, and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds.

The issue is that there are so many gluten-free foods that are processed, which means you’re still not getting the nutrition you need. Read: a gluten-free cookie is still a cookie.

Related: Browse spices, oils, and ingredients to whip up wholesome, healthy meals at home. 

When Going Gluten-Free Can Set You Free

For people with celiac disease, a strict gluten-free diet can radically improve health and quality of life—if not be altogether lifesaving. “It’s like someone who’s allergic to peanuts cutting all peanut-containing foods from their diet,” explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., founder of Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It. They can’t just reduce their intake —they need to eliminate peanuts (or gluten) completely.

Others who do not have celiac disease claim to feel better on a GF diet, reporting reductions in diarrhea, constipation, and/or bloating. Some say they have more energy. In fact, Safder notes that up to 25 percent of people with IBS report clinical improvement of symptoms after cutting gluten from their diet.

What’s more, a whole food-focused gluten-free diet just so happens to be low in FODMAPs (a variety of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates that cause stomach issues in some people), which are found in wheat, rye, and many packaged food additives, she says. Bonus points: People following a naturally gluten-free diet often wind up cutting out a lot of sugar-laced, processed foods.

Related: 10 Possible Reasons Why You’re Suddenly So Bloated

When Nixing Gluten Can Actually Hurt Your Health

“There are no real benefits to avoiding gluten when you do not have issues with gluten,” Perkey says. She notes that while many fad and elimination diets have labeled gluten, or grains in general, as “bad,” there is nothing intrinsically wrong with gluten.

What’s more, because wheat (the main source of gluten in the average American’s diet) contains fiber, iron, zinc, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B12, magnesium, and phosphorus, you may end up falling short on these nutrients by nixing gluten, says Taub-Dix, who explains that substitutes for wheat, such as rice, contain significantly less of them.

Because gluten is what gives baked goods and pastas their fluffy, springy texture, many gluten-free food products have to compensate by adding extra sugar, fat, and even food additives to improve their taste, says Perkey. They could even be higher in calories than their gluten-containing counterparts, she adds.

Though many people cut gluten for weight-loss purposes, a gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet, and may even have the opposite effect. A review published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that celiac disease patients following a gluten-free diet may actually have an increased risk for becoming overweight.

Related: How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight

Even more troubling: 2017 research from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that 73 self-reported gluten-free dieters had elevated urine arsenic levels and blood mercury levels. The study authors speculate this may be due to a possible increase in rice consumption when on a GF diet.

According to the FDA, rice is a leading dietary source of inorganic arsenic because it more readily absorbs arsenic contained in the soil than do other crops. “While the effects of higher arsenic levels are not known, it is something to consider,” Perkey says.

To Gluten Or Not To Gluten?

“If you are thinking about trying a gluten-free diet, ask your doctor if it’s a good choice for you,” Safder says. “It’s true that a gluten-free diet can be healthy. But it can also keep people from getting all of the nutrition they need.”

If you and your doctor decide that a GF eating strategy is right for you, it’s best to cut gluten out under the supervision of a registered dietitian who can make sure that your new diet is a healthy one.

5 Mistakes People Make When Going Paleo

To say the paleo diet has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years would be an understatement. The trendy eating philosophy suggests we eat like our cavemen ancestors once did, loading up on grass-fed animal proteins, eggs, seafood, veggies, fruit, and nuts and seeds.

Anything the cavemen couldn’t or didn’t eat, though, is off the table. That includes grains, legumes, dairy, and processed snacks. (you can kiss Oreos goodbye.) And potatoes. Are sweet potatoes in or out, people?! It depends who you ask…

Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins all contribute to a healthy diet—as does nixing refined foods like bagels and donuts—but that doesn’t mean a paleo diet is inherently healthy. The issue with eliminating types of whole foods is clear: If you don’t make up for the nutrients in the foods you cut out, you end up falling short of a nutritionally-balanced diet, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It.

Whether paleo can be healthy and practical for you depends on how you do it (you might also want to talk to your doctor before making any major dietary changes). If you’re interested in trying the diet (or even if you’re already a full-blown caveman), watch out for the following mishaps to keep your daily eats as balanced and healthy as possible.

Mishap #1: Missing Out On Key Nutrients

Cutting out highly processed foods? Great. Nixing food groups like dairy and whole grains, though? More complicated. “These two food groups are important sources of calcium and vitamin D,” explains Taub-Dix.

Eight ounces of milk, for example, contains 299 milligrams of calcium. (The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 1,000 daily.) You’d need about 12 cups of loosely-packed raw kale or seven cups of chopped broccoli to get that

Vitamin D is pretty difficult to get from food as-is, says Taub-Dix. This is why many dairy and grain-based food products—like milk, yogurt, and cereal—are fortified with it. The NIH recommends 600 IU of vitamin D per day, and you’ll find about 115 IU in a glass of milk. That’s the same as roughly three servings of tuna or three large egg yolks. You can also find vitamin D in cod liver oil and organ meat, says Taub-Dix.

Make sure you’re eating a variety of paleo-approved foods that contain these key nutrients. You may even want to consider taking a supplement.

Related: If you’ve ditched dairy, try a plant-based protein powder. 

Mishap #2: Eating Too Few Carbs

This one is especially important for anyone who’s physically active: When you ditch everything from bread to rice to oatmeal, you’re slashing your carb consumption, big time.

“People who cut carbs often describe feeling tired, weak, and irritable,” says Taub-Dix. That’s because carbs act as our body’s main source of fuel. If you’re an intense exerciser or athlete, you may need upwards of three grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day, she says.

Some non-paleo (but whole food) carb sources include a half-cup of rolled oats or brown rice, each containing 25 grams of carbs. Two slices of whole-wheat bread come in around 40 grams.

While you do have some higher-carb options on paleo (a half-cup of yams contains 18 grams and a medium banana contains 26), “you’d have to eat a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetables to fuel an active lifestyle,” says Taub-Dix. Be mindful of your energy levels throughout the day, especially during exercise, and make sure you’re incorporating higher-carb foods throughout your meals and before workouts.

Related: 8 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Tired All The Time 

Mishap #3: Pounding Way Too Much Trail Mix

Yeah, going paleo means picking the candy-coated chocolate pieces out of your trail mix. But even when you’re sticking to a mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, you shouldn’t be shoveling the stuff down in the name of your ancestors.

If your interest in paleo has anything to do with maintaining or losing weight (and for many it does), making trail mix its own food group can easily put you into calorie overload. An ounce serving of nuts (about 24 almonds) contains about 170 calories, says Taub-Dix. A quarter-cup of raisins brings another 125 calories to the party—plus 25 grams of sugar. Throw in a quarter-cup of walnuts and you’re looking at a 485-calorie ‘snaccident.’

Plus, according to Taub-Dix, dried fruit and nuts can be more difficult to digest and might lead to some stomach upset, especially if you’re eating a lot of them.

When it comes to nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, portion control is essential. Get out your measuring cups and make sure you’re sticking to a single serving of just one of these foods at snack time.

Mishap #4: Having Every Meal With A Side Of Bacon

Listen, we’re super happy that the cavemen apparently enjoyed the greasy, crispy goodness that is bacon. But that probably doesn’t justify us putting bacon in our Brussels sprouts or asparagus and all over the outside of our paleo meatloaf—right?

Paleo-approved or not, bacon shouldn’t be a go-to protein source. Two slices contain about six grams of protein and seven grams of fat for about 100 calories. Comparitivrly,100 calories-worth of chicken breast contains 19 grams of protein and just two grams of fat.

“Sometimes with diets like this we make excuses to overdo more decadent foods because there are so many foods we’re not eating,” says Taub-Dix. Remember, ‘paleo’ does not always equal ‘healthy.’ Practice moderation: Bacon makes a great Sunday morning treat, so leave it at that.

Mishap #5: Eating ALL The ‘Paleo-Approved’ Treats

Any human with a wicked sweet tooth  interested in paleo has no doubt googled ‘paleo dessert’ or ‘paleo cookies’ at some point. We’ve seen the recipes—replace refined flour with almond or coconut flour, and table sugar with maple syrup or honey, and voila, you have a paleo-approved treat.

Before you bake yourself batch after batch of paleo maple-bacon cookies(we’re not sure cavemen had much time for baking anyway), keep in mind: “Syrup is no healthier than sugar from the sugar bowl, and dairy-free chocolate chips that still contain sugar are no better than the regular ones,” says Taub-Dix. Though a paleo-approved cookie uses different ingredients, it’s not necessarily lower in calories or sugar or fat than a regular cookie.

If you feel like indulging, go ahead and treat yo’self—just be realistic: A paleo treat is still a treat.

Related: 8 Nutritionists Share How They Satisfy Their Sweet Cravings