Coconut Oil: Good for Your Hair, Not for Your Heart

BY Erin Wyatt a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

Coconut oil has become the answer to what ails you. Dry hair? Put coconut oil on it! Have cellulite? Put coconut oil on it! Got a mosquito bite? Put coconut oil on that too! This magic oil has been filling blog posts and Pinterest boards over the past couple of years. The majority of its appeal lies in the declared health benefits of utilizing it during cooking and baking. Coconut oil attracts attention by stating that it boosts metabolism, aids in weight loss, and even reduces appetite. But is it as healthy as claimed?

The short answer is no. While some studies have proven that coconut oil does have some positive qualities, they are not conclusive.1 One study proved that coconut oil did reduce some abdominal fat, but it did not result in more weight loss overall.2 Also, these coconut oil experiments are basing conclusions off of the consumption of only 2 tablespoons a day, not pouring it on every meal. Most other positive conclusions from studies are focused on medium-chain fatty acids, which coconut oil has. However, they also have long fatty acid chains, which are associated with raising LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol. Often writers pick and choose which health information to convey to their readers, without disclosing all of the facts. This has been a common theme in the nutrition world, diet fads without scientific evidence. But I digress…

The bottom line is that coconut oil consists of mostly saturated fat. Saturated fat can lead to heart disease and should be limited in our diets. There have been many conclusive studies to prove the dangers of saturated fat. One way to tell if an item has saturated fat is that they are usually solid at room temperature, like butter or coconut oil. Having said this, the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand found that coconut oil is better compared to butter when it comes to cholesterol levels, but should not be considered a healthy oil.3 The same study concludes that unsaturated oils, such as olive oil, are the better choice when it comes to consumption, resulting in lower cholesterol than coconut oil.3

I believe that coconut oil is delicious and doesn’t necessarily need to be avoided, but we should consider it to be a treat, not an everyday occurrence. Particularly those people who have high blood cholesterol should limit their coconut oil intake. Restricting all saturated fats would be advised to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The current research has only been done in short-term studies, and more needs to be conducted to learn about this unique oil. Until then, coconut oil could still be used in moderation, but feel free to slather as much as you want into your hair.

To find a farmers market near you check out our website. For more fun articles and recipes check out the Fill Your Plate blog.




  1. The Mayo Clinic (2019). Coconut oil for weight loss: Does it work? Retrieved from
  2. Gunnars, K. (2017). How coconut oil can help you lose weight and belly fat. Retrieved from
  3. Eyres, L., et al. (2016). Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutrition Review 74(4): 267-280. Retrieved from
Share This:
Posted in Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Food Facts, Food Safety, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In the Kitchen | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer is here! How to Make your Grill Outs a Little Healthier

By Vanessa Evans a Recent ASU Nutrition Student


It’s that time of year again. It’s warm and sunny, but not too hot. It’s perfect weather for grabbing your family and friends and grilling out by the pool or the lake. While hotdogs and hamburgers will always be staples, try one of these ideas for something a little different and maybe even a little healthier.

Main Course:

Try grilling some shrimp, salmon burgers, or salmon (or other fish) fillets. Fish cooks pretty quickly and is easy to season or marinade ahead of time and it is a healthy alternative to when your hotdog and “hamburgered” out.  Another great option is chicken. Whether you grill your wings, breasts, and thighs, or venture into a chicken burger, chicken is a tasty low-fat alternative to the traditional options. Season with jerk seasoning or a barbeque sauce and you’re in business. Finally, there are numerous lean cuts of beef one of the few meat proteins that can provide healthy protein, iron, and zinc along with several essential minerals in just three ounces.



This is where I want to encourage you to get creative! There are so many options here! Try this recipe for a healthier version of deviled eggs featuring the ever-popular avocado ( Or try using shaved brussels sprouts in your coleslaw in addition to your cabbage, or try grilling up vegetable skewers. Or you could even try this recipe for summer salad of corn, tomato, and avocado ( Your possibilities here are endless! You don’t have to just grab 3 bags of chips and premade potato salad. You can do this!



You can really have fun with this category too. Try grilling some fruits. Have you ever tried grilled peaches with cinnamon sugar or ice cream? It is to “die”for. I promise. Grilled watermelon is another amazing option, as well as pineapple and pears. Snow cones are another great option here. Try this recipe for Mango Strawberry snow cones featuring fresh fruit (



I know it’s hard to make alcohol healthier, but I do have some ideas for you. My favorite tip is mixing vodka and flavored seltzer water like LaCroix, but for those of you who love a good cocktail, I have some ideas for you. Sangria is always a crowd pleaser but is infamous for having so much sugar in it! Try this white wine recipe which features seltzer water, fresh fruit and homemade lavender simple syrup, which allows you to sweeten it just to your liking ( Or try a wine spritzer, which is just your favorite white or rose wine cut with seltzer. Not a wine fan? That’s ok! Try this easy recipe for a mint julep that uses maple syrup as its sweetener ( Looking for something non-alcoholic?  Try this recipe for a strawberry-basil cooler (


Happy Grilling!



Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.




Best Foods for Fourth of July Grilling. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Editors, F. (2017, March 31). 10 Healthy Side Dishes to Bring to Your Next BBQ. Retrieved from


Food, T. (2018, July 03). Healthy BBQ Sides That Will Make You a Cookout Hero. Retrieved from


Healthy Summer Desserts. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Landrum, S., & Landrum, S. (2018, June 23). 22 Healthy-ish Summer Cocktail Recipes to Beat the Heat. Retrieved from


Riches, D. (2019, February 24). What Are Some Excellent Grilled Fruit Recipes? Retrieved from


Team, T. C. (2017, May 22). 25 of Our Best Cookout Recipes. Retrieved from

Share This:
Posted in Arizona, Cooking, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Fun and Games, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Filling Arizona’s Food Deserts With Good Food

By Erin Wyatt A Recent ASU Nutrition Student

The state of Arizona has a huge problem with hunger among its citizens. Approximately 17.8% of the state’s population is considered to be food insecure.1 When you compare this number to the national average of 15.9%, it is distressing.1 The same goes for the averages of the number of children in Arizona that face hunger in relation to the national statistic.1 Individual who are food insecure do not have the certainty that they will be able to acquire adequate amounts of nutritious foods due to low income or availability.2 These numbers seem especially surprising due to the abundance of meat and produce that Arizona yields.

Food deserts are found in areas where healthy food cannot be regularly accessed within a reasonable distance.2 This occurs because high-quality food, found in grocery stores, are not generally found in low-income or less populated areas. The larger cities are more densely populated and produce more money, which attracts grocery stores containing an abundance of superior products. Arizona appears to have very expansive food deserts. This plays a role in creating more food insecurity, as residents to do not have access to the nutritious food they require within the vicinity of their homes. The areas in Arizona with the most significant food deserts seem to occur outside of the major cities. These rural areas contain citizens that are very spread out, covering quite a bit of land. Also, these food desert areas contain a high amount of individuals without access to a vehicle. This limits the ability of its inhabitants to reach the far destinations that offer healthy food.

How can Arizonians help reduce the upsetting amount of its citizens who are going hungry? Luckily, the Department of Economic Security provides Nutrition Assistance, as well as partners with many charitable programs. For example, the United Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, and the Association of Arizona Food Banks, to name a few. These types of associations provide about 1,300 pantries and food banks across the state to reduce hunger.3 Another component of the Nutrition Assistance program is the ability to use the benefits at participating farmer’s markets, where you can find them on Fill Your Plate and double up Arizona can be found  here. These markets are also providing free fruits and vegetables if these benefits are utilized in the markets.4

Other cities have implemented some creative solutions to reach those who are unable to access healthy food in their area. An example can be found in Memphis, where a mobile grocery store, called the “Green Machine,” travels on different days to areas where residents need access to fresh produce.2 Bringing the store to the people would eliminate obstacles that otherwise prevent them from obtaining healthy food. Another potential solution would be to provide free transportation from food desert areas to grocery stores or farmer’s markets. One of the simplest ways that individuals can personally aid in reducing hunger in Arizona is to donate or volunteer for a charitable food program. A list of wonderful organizations can be found here. We should not be living in a time when people go hungry, especially in our own backyards.

Looking for more tips and tricks like this to keep you family happy and healthy? Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some new recipes to try out? Check out the Recipe Section of our website. How about some fresh produce that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the local Farmers Markets near you.



  1. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. Learn. First Food Bank Web site. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  2. Phillips R, Wharton C. Growing Livelihoods: Local Food Systems and Community Development. London and New York: Routledge; 2016.
  3. Arizona Department of Economic Security. Coordinated Hunger Relief Program Community Partners. Retrieved from Accessed April 12, 2019.
  4. Pinnacle Prevention. Double Up Arizona. Retrieved from Accessed April 15, 2019.
Share This:
Posted in Arizona, Arizona Food Prices, Farm Facts, Fill Your Plate, In Season | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You are When You Eat

    By: Erin Wyatt a recent ASU Nutrition Student

Do people really eat midnight snacks? I cannot stay awake that late so I cannot attest to snacking at all hours of the night. However, I have noticed that my dinner time has gotten pushed back later than usual due to the tiny human that I must feed, bathe, and put to bed each night. It turns out that these delayed meals may be doing my body a disservice. I have heard over the years that eating later leads to weight gain, though I did not know why. It turns out there are quite a few reasons why it is unhealthy to eat large quantities of food at night.

One of the main reasons that we should avoid nighttime eating is that our bodies are just not wired to handle it. Circadian rhythms are our bodies’ natural adaptations during a daily cycle.1 I thought they only affected our sleep patterns, responding to light and darkness. However, it also applies to our organs.1 Specifically, in our digestive organs, such as the stomach, intestines, pancreas, and liver, studies have shown that there are correlations between our rhythms and how they respond to food intake.2 For example, the pancreas releases insulin and glucagon, which controls our blood glucose levels. A study has shown that glucose tolerance was affected by meal times and avoiding large meals in the evenings may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.3 They determined this by observing workers who ate their biggest meal after their long shifts at the end of the day.3 I am sure many people can relate to that, as some days are just so busy that you forget or do not have the time to eat and then end up eating too much come dinner time. Another study related to food intake outside of the normal circadian rhythm to negatively affecting the brain’s memory.4

Not only does eating late have the potential to create adverse health effects, but it also contributes to weight gain. New research has shown the link between circadian rhythm and the control of adipose tissue, or fat.2 Food is the energy source of adipose tissue in our bodies. Therefore, if we are eating a lot of calories at a time when we cannot properly manage the intake, it may result in fat accumulation.2 Weight gain could also be caused by the fact that the later we eat, the more times we eat during the day overall.5

So, how can we be more mindful of when we eat? Shifting dinner time up would be helpful, even if your schedule only allows a little bit of wiggle room. Sometimes we eat dinner at a reasonable hour, but since we stay up too late watching a Netflix marathon, we get hungry again and end up snacking. If snacking or late dinners happen, try consuming more protein than carbohydrates and sugar. Also, keeping bedtime on the earlier side would prevent hunger to strike. Remember, your body knows what time it is, even if you are sleepwalking.

To find a farmers market near you check out our website. For more fun articles and recipes check out the Fill Your Plate blog.





  1. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (2017). Circadian rhythms. Retrieved from
  2. Garaulet, M., Gomez-Abelian, P. (2014). Timing of food intake and obesity: a novel association. Physiol Behav 134: 44-50.
  3. Morgan, L.M., Shi, J.W., Hampton, S.M., Frost, G. (2012). Effect of meal timing and glycaemic index on glucose control and insulin secretion in healthy volunteers. Br J Nutr 108(7): 1286-91.
  4. Loh, D.H., Jami, S.A., Flores, R.E., Truong, D., Ghiani, C.A., O’Dell, T.J., Colwell, C.S. (2015) Misaligned feeding impairs memories. Elife 10;
  5. Reid, K.J., Barong, K.G., Zee, P.C. (2014). Meal timing influences daily caloric intake in healthy adults. Nutr Res 34(11); 930-5.
Share This:
Posted in Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Food Facts, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why You Should Honor Your Cravings

By Vanessa Evans a recent ASU Student


Imagine you finish a long hard day of work and all you want is tacos, or cake, or maybe a juicy burger. You’ve been good all day though and you don’t want to ruin your efforts. It happens to everyone, right? It is so hard to fight that little craving, but you are determined. You just can’t stop thinking about it. Well I have good news, more and more registered dieticians are suggesting that you should honor those cravings instead of ignoring them and there is a psychological reason why.


Dietitians say that the more you suppress the craving the more you think about it. Christine Byrnes compares it to “when you were a kid and your parents told you not to do something—making you even more desperate to do that very thing?” That is exactly what you are doing when you try to ignore a craving from of a “bad” food. And further still, you are more likely to eat too much of it once you do get your hands on it, with the mentality of getting it “out of your system.”


Honoring your cravings actually may help you to lead a more balanced lifestyle. Instead of craving cake and saying no to yourself all week until you break down and eat a whole package of Little Debbie snack cakes, you could have honored that craving on the first day you had it, eaten a reasonable serving of cake and moved on with your life. More than likely you wouldn’t have thought about the cake every day like you did when you were ignoring the craving.


Studies have found that people who honor their cravings actually end up eating fewer calories. This falls right in with the intuitive eating trend that is so popular right now. The idea is that people who honor their cravings, enjoy their food more, feel more satisfied, and then pursue healthier foods for the rest of their meals. They don’t look to other foods to curb the cravings that fall short, leading you to eat more and more calories than if you just gave in to your craving in the first place.


Unfortunately, eating has become so disordered for so many of us. Learning to listen to our bodies, honor our cravings, and learning to forgive ourselves when we eat something we didn’t plan to, might just be the key to not letting food run our lives and control all of our thoughts.


Ultimately, learn to not make a craving a habit.



Byrne, C., & Byrne, C. (2019, April 08). The psychological reason to say “yes” to the unhealthy foods you’re craving. Retrieved from

Silver, K. (n.d.). Why You Should Just Cave And Satisfy Your Food Cravings, According to Science. Retrieved from

Share This:
Posted in Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Food Facts, Food Safety, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment