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Coconut used to be a demon, or at the very least an indulgence: a fluffy-cake topping, a gooey candy-bar filling, the second-best ingredient in a poolside drink. For years, the biggest coconut-based troublemaker was its oil, which is loaded with saturated fat — even more than butter, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
But in the past few years, there's been a great deal of rethinking about the fruit and its many edible parts. Coconut water is all the rage these days as a natural source of sodium and potassium, two minerals that aid post-workout recovery. And many people now see coconut oil as a health food, at least when you're talking about virgin coconut oil.
In a new cookbook, "Coconut Every Day," Sasha Seymour, a former restaurant chef, deifies coconut's properties further, calling the fruit not just a superfood but a miracle superfood. "A saturated fat that gets burned like a carbohydrate? And that can increase your metabolism and lower your cholesterol" — and that "tastes good, to boot!" she writes.
In the foreword, Joy McCarthy, a dietitian and the author of the popular cookbook "Joyous Health," notes the high fiber content of coconut flour (which also is gluten-free) and coconut's capacity for aiding with weight loss ("studies have shown that when coconut oil is part of one's diet, white fat stores are reduced.")
The book does not offer a thorough explanation of the science behind these claims. It is, after all, a cookbook. Instead, it showcases an array of beautiful food — Seymour is a professional food stylist — and creative ways of using coconut: sweet-and-spicy popcorn topped with coconut oil, coconut sugar, cayenne pepper and salt; pumpkin spice muffins whose ingredients include coconut oil, coconut sugar and coconut milk; and coconut-braised whiskey ribs, a recipe whose name gives away the secret ingredient.
"I got a lot of surprised looks when I'd tell people I was writing a coconut cookbook," Seymour writes. "But trust me, coconut is on its way to being the next big thing." Move over, kale.