If the idea of coconut instantly brings up pictures of cream pies, pina coladas and Almond Joys, maybe it’s time to expand your vision of coconut. That flaky, buttery fruit, often used for topping ice cream sundaes, might be just what the nutritionist ordered. Incorporating the various health benefits of coconut into your diet isn’t as difficult — or boring — as you might think. With a fruit this diverse, there’s no end to options.

Replace butter and vegetable oils

With a 92-percent saturated fat content, coconut oil doesn’t sound much like a health food. But according to many doctors and nutritionists, that’s exactly what it is. The saturated fat in coconut oil actually raises HDL (or “good”) cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Other studies, like this one published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, have shown that consumption actually increases energy expenditure, causing you to burn more calories. While you can cook with coconut oil as you would any other type of oil, it’s mild, slightly sweet flavor is perfect for replacing oils or butters in baked goods, like whole wheat muffins or bread.

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