Caveat: Since peanut butter is so high in calories, portion control is key. That means it’s fine to spread a tablespoon or two onto a slice of whole-grain bread but not to continuously dip a spoon into the jar. Also, be sure you’re buying the natural version, which contains nothing but ground peanuts and maybe a touch of salt.
And one to Avoid...Coconut Oil: Don’t Fall for the Hype
This fat, derived from coconuts, “has taken off in the vegan and Paleo diet worlds,” says Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. To proponents, coconut oil is a healthier saturated fat than some others. A few components of the saturated fat in coconut oil prevent your body from absorbing all its calories. Plus, “more calories are expended in the breakdown of coconut oil than with other fats,” Bonci notes.
Yet many nutritionists aren’t sold on coconut oil. “It’s a case of the marketing getting ahead of the science,” says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern. Even if coconut oil is not metabolized exactly the same way as most other saturated fats, many experts won’t put it on the list of health-promoting foods. They note that there is very little (if any) research to suggest that coconut oil actually provides health benefits. It’s still a form of fat and contains 117 calories per tablespoon. You’re better off cooking with monounsaturated oils such as extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil, which are known to provide cardiovascular benefits and reduce the risk of diabetes, advises Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.