Even though not everyone loves to eat the “Bounty” chocolate bar, the fact is that the coconut content (specifically coconut oil) in it comes with a number of advantages for the human body.
Coconut oil is one of the most popular oils used in Asia and the Caribbean as well as North America. Although the oil contains lots of saturated fat, it also has a lot of health benefits.
Table of Contents
- Nutritional Content of Coconut Oil
- Types of Coconut Oil
- Crude Coconut Oil
- Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Refined Coconut Oil
- Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
- Organic Coconut Oil
- Virgin Coconut Oil
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Centrifuge Extracted Coconut Oil
- Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
- Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
- Fractionated Coconut Oil
- RBD Coconut Oil
- 100% Pure Coconut Oil
- Homemade/ Native/Traditional Coconut Oil
- Coconut Oil For Skin Care
- Coconut Oil for Hair
- Appearance and Storage
- Food-Grade vs. Cosmetic Grade: What Kind of Coconut Oil is The Best?
Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years by diverse cultures like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Polynesia for a number of different purposes.
In India, coconut oil is an essential part of the ancient Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional healing method of India.
There are historical records of Papua New Guinea natives using coconut oil as hair masks, skin moisturizer, a topical ointment for injury and as cooking oil.
Locals in Panama drink a glass of coconut oil to build immunity against illnesses; it is believed that coconut oil can also hasten recovery from illnesses.
In the coastal jungles of South and Central America, coconut oil is used by traditional healers as medicine and superfood.
In the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, coconut oil is applied to hair to keep it thick, glossy and healthy. It is also used in cooking and as a medicine for sore joints, broken bones and aching muscles.
Nutritional Content of Coconut Oil
A single tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fats. Although it has no carbs, protein or cholesterol, unrefined coconut is very high in natural antioxidants like phenolic acids and polyphenols. It also contains traces of Vitamin Ea and K as well as iron.
If unrefined coconut oil is partially hydrogenated, its unsaturated fatty acids turn into trans fats, which are not good for health.
If you are one of those people who are still hesitant of jumping onto the coconut oil bandwagon, now is the time to do so. People all over the world are using this wonderful oil for cooking or as part of their skin care and beauty regimen. However, before you get carried away, it is worth it to do some research about coconut oil.
There are several different types of coconut oil available in the market, and not all of them are good for you. Here, we will help you find out the kind of coconut oils that are the best for your health.
Crude Coconut Oil
Crude coconut oil is the very basic form of coconut oil processed from desiccated coconut meat. If this industry-grade coconut oil is not refined, it will have a short shelf life, and its sharp odor and color make it practically unusable for cooking or cosmetics.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
Raw or unrefined coconut oil is made from fresh, raw coconut meat. This oil is extracted through wet-mill or a quick-dry process. Wet milling means the coconut meat is processed into coconut milk, which is quickly brought to boil, strained and fermented. The milk is then separated from the oil through a centrifugal process. Quick drying means drying the coconut meat very quickly and then mechanically squeezing out the oil from it.
Since this oil is not subjected to high temperature, it means much of its beneficial enzymes remain intact, and it retains its flavor. The process also does not involve bleaching or adding preservatives. It is clear when it liquid form and milk-white when it solidifies.
Refined Coconut Oil
Unlike raw coconut oil, refined coconut oil is derived from dried coconut kernels, called “copra.” Oil produced from copra needs to be treated for contaminants produced by the desiccation process. This requires the oil to be subjected to high heat and be treated with preservatives and other additives.
The resulting oil is less flavorful than unrefined oil but has a higher smoking point, which makes it very suitable for cooking. However, when buying coconut oil, make sure that the oil has been refined by using friction or centrifuge, and no dangerous chemical preservatives like sodium hydroxide have been added to it.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Sometimes, refined coconut oil is also partially hydrogenated. This oil has a solid texture and is used capsules or for making confectionery products. Hydrogenation involves high heat, high pressure, and addition of nickel and hydrogen molecules. It is not easily oxidized and has a long shelf life; however, it also contains trans fats.
Organic Coconut Oil
Organic coconut is one that is grown without the use of pesticides and has not been genetically modified. To ensure the coconut oil you are buying is organic, look for the “USDA” organic label. That means it retains most of its nutritional value and is less harmful.
There is some debate that coconuts are grown in remote and small farms which do not use pesticides or chemicals, which means all coconuts are organically grown. However, with the USDA label, you can be sure of this claim.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin oil can only be produced from non-copra processed oil, although not all non-copra processed oils are virgin oils. It can be extracted from fresh coconut milk with a wet-milling process without being subjected to refining. Virgin unrefined coconut oil is extracted with mechanical means and contains very low free fatty acids.
This oil has a very long shelf life and retains the natural flavor, aroma, viscosity and non-oily texture.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
The label “extra virgin” coconut oil is just a marketing gimmick. There is no difference at all between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil. Unlike olive oil, in which virgin and extra-virgin oils contain different amount of fatty oils, there are no rules governing purity, when it comes to coconut oil. That means you shouldn’t get roped into buying an expensive “extra virgin” coconut oil when you have a very good virgin oil at hand.
Centrifuge Extracted Coconut Oil
This type of coconut oil has been extracted by using centrifugal force to separate the oil firm water and milk. This is a raw form of coconut oil and comes in a soft-solid state. Centrifuged oil is extracted from freshly pressed coconut milk, chilled and then separated. As the process involves no heat, the oil retains its nutrients, Vitamin E, antibacterial and antioxidant qualities and hence is the most expensive form of coconut oil.
This particular oil has a light coconut-y flavor, and many people enjoy it by eating it directly off the spoon.
Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
As the name suggests, this process does not use heat to extract oil from the coconut. Cold pressed coconut oil is produced from fresh coconut flakes dried at low temperature. Although the process produces the least amount of coconut oil, it has a strong coconut flavor, and it retains all its nutrients. This is the “raw” form of coconut oil and is of the highest quality.
Virgin Oil de Coco-Crème is a proprietary name of this kind of coconut oil.
Expeller-pressed coconut oil is derived from a mechanical extraction process but does not involve chemical or solvent extracts. Instead, the oil is extracted with high temperature and high pressure. Because of the intense heat, the fatty acids break down and strip away many of coconut oil’s nutritional benefits. It also has a lighter taste than raw or virgin oils and a higher smoke point which makes it a good choice for cooking.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil is produced from fractionation, which involves separating different types of fats from coconut oil using graduating temperatures. This is possible because fatty acids have different melting points. Fats with higher melting points like lauric acid (coconut stearin) are separated from the ones with lower melting points (coconut olein). The oil that turns liquid is called fractionated coconut oil.
However, it does not contain lauric acid, which has numerous antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic benefits. Hence, fractionated oil does not have all the health benefits associated with coconut oil.
RBD Coconut Oil
RBD stands for refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil and is the worst type of oil in the market. To get this RBD oil, the coconut oil is subjected to a long series of purification and processing; the extracted crude oil is treated with alkali to remove fatty acids, then subjected to steam and vacuum to get rid of all flavors and odors. It is then filtered with carbon to remove the yellow color.
Even though it does not contain many health benefits at all and does not have a distinctive coconut taste, it has many fans and is used in the food and cosmetic industries.
100% Pure Coconut Oil
This terminology is quite misleading because 100% pure can be used to define two vastly different category of coconut oils. The first is 100% pure-natural oil, which is subjected to minor treatments to retain purity in natural ways. The second one is 100% pure-refined oil, which is not considered “pure” at all by the consumer market definition. That’s because the “purity” is achieved by processes like RBD, which amounts to stripping away beneficial fatty acids, flavors, odors, and colors.
If you want to buy 1005 pure coconut oil, make sure it is of the former variety and not the latter. However, natural coconut can lose its purity if it is not properly processed. The processors may leave free fatty acid content and high moisture in the oil which could make it unstable and unpalatable.
Homemade/ Native/Traditional Coconut Oil
As the name indicates, this coconut oil can be extracted at your home. It is yellow in color and has a very strong taste and aroma. This oil is obtained by boiling coconut milk until all the water content is evaporated. The oil left behind with some solid matter is the traditional coconut oil.
Alternatively, you can also ferment coconut milk for two days to release oil. The oil is then heated to remove the remaining moisture. These oils are good to consume immediately as they have a very short shelf life.
Before you start slathering your skin with coconut oil, it is a good idea to do a small patch test on the same face or body area for a few days. This will let you know if you have any adverse reactions to the oil. Even though coconut oil works very well for most people, every one of us is different from each other. This is why it is wise to let your own body decide what suits it.
For those who want to use coconut oil for skin care, here is a little guide.
Coconut Oil for Face Washing
You can wash your face with coconut oil alone or with a combination of oils. Since oil dissolves other oils, the coconut oil will dissolve the natural oils produced by your skin that is packed with dirt and grime and the impurities in your face can easily be washed away.
Depending on your skin type, you can either use the coconut oil alone or pair it up with essential oil, like tea tree oil (best for oily skin), lavender oil (best for all skin types) or geranium oil (best for dry skin). Add 1 to 3 drops of the essential oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil and mix well, before applying it to your face.
Coconut Oil for Moisturizing
Since coconut oil has antibacterial or antifungal properties, it is a great oil for moisturizing your skin. Studies have shown that people with dry, flaky skin has gotten improved skin with the use of coconut oil.
You can apply coconut oil directly to your face or make a body butter by adding one part coconut oil to one part shea butter, one part cocoa butter, and one part jojoba oil, with 10-20 drops of essential oil.
Coconut Oil for Acne
Studies show that coconut oil is 15 times more effective in fighting off acne-causing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide, a popular antibiotic medication for acne. Because of its antibacterial properties, lauric acid-rich coconut oil reduces swelling and inflammation.
Applying coconut oil directly to acne can hasten wound healing and promote antioxidant enzymes. Even if it might not erase your acne completely, it will stop the problem from getting worse.
Coconut Oil for Stretch Marks
Since coconut oil improves collagen cross-linking and improving lipid barrier function, some people it may also be a good treatment for stretch marks caused by pregnancy. Although there has been no extensive research on the effect of coconut oil on stretch marks, the beneficial properties of the oil indicate it may reduce scarring.
To try if this works, apply coconut oil routinely to the stretch marks. You can also make a stretch mark salve by taking one part coconut oil, one part shea butter, half part apricot kernel oil, and just a pinch of ginger root, letting them simmer together and then straining the herbal blend on a cheesecloth. You can rub the balm on your abdomen to moisturize your skin and improve its elasticity.
Coconut Oil for Hair
Coconut oil is highly regarded as a nourishing conditioner for hair in many Asian countries. Studies show that coconut oil has been seen to reduce protein loss in both healthy and damaged hair. Because of its chemistry, coconut oil is able to penetrate deep into the hair, reducing split ends. It may also reduce dandruff and dry scalp conditions because of its antiseptic properties and leave your hair shiny and thick.
If you want to use coconut oil for your hair, you can apply it alone or make a hair mask by pairing the oil with a few drops of lavender, cedarwood, rosemary, peppermint or sandalwood essential oil. You can follow it with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
Coconut oil turns into a liquid when the temperature reaches higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, it becomes a solid with a soft, creamy, lumpy texture.
If you want to change the state of your oil, you can heat it or cool it. Coconut oil does not need to be stored in your refrigerator but do not place it under harsh, direct sunlight. Coconut oil bought from the market also has a very long shelf life and remain stable for two years or even more.
Refined cooking oils have been processed with heat and develop high smoke points (mentioned above). These oils can be used in cooking. Coconut oils that have not been treated for cooking will turn dark yellow in high temperatures. That’s the sign that it has gone rancid and you should dispose of it.
Food-Grade vs. Cosmetic Grade: What Kind of Coconut Oil is The Best?
If you are looking to use coconut oil in cooking, refined coconut oil has a smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Although refined oils do not have all the nutrients of unrefined, raw coconut oil, it is still the best for cooking.
For your skin and hair care routine, unrefined oils are the best, since they retain most of their nutrients and fatty acids and are great for your skin and hair.
Also, before buying coconut oil at a supermarket, examine the jar from below. If you notice a yellowish or brownish tinge, it may mean it was overheated and is turning rancid. This is a sign of poor quality coconut oil.
You can use organic, cold-pressed and virgin coconut oil if you are using them in low-heat or no-heat cooking. You can also use virgin oil and expeller-pressed oil for cooking in high heat, and they come in many brands.
The main things that you should try to avoid are chemically-processed, hydrogenated and RBD coconut oils, which have very little to no health benefits.