Coconut oil is edible oil obtained from the meat or kernel of coconuts. It is primarily used as cooking oil for many parts of the world. This type of oil is composed of up to 95% saturated fat, which is believed to have a lot of health benefits. This includes antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it may also aid in weight loss. Unlike other oils high in saturated and unsaturated fats, virgin coconut oil comprises 70 to 85 percent medium-chain fatty acids. These acids are sometimes referred to as medium-chain triglycerides.
The saturated fat content of coconut oil makes it great heat-stable oil for cooking. It can also help in prolonging its shelf life. Aside from cooking, coconut oil is versatile oil that can also be used as a skin moisturizer, soap, herbicide, engine fuel, engine lubricant, and even as a sand-fly repellent. If you are interested to know more about coconut oil, let us take you through a detailed guide.
Types of Coconut Oil
1. Refined Coconut Oil
This type of coconut oil is made from dried coconut or also known as copra. RBD oil or Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized oil is the standard end product that is made from the dried kernel or meat of coconuts. The oil has to undergo this process because the dried copra is not fit for consumption. The oil needs to be filtered for impurities, and to make it more stable, as well. This is a common way of mass-producing coconut oil.
Refined coconut oil is fairly tasteless, and it does not smell like coconut. But no worries because it still has the same beneficial medium-chain fatty acids. Most of the coconut oils you can purchase in grocery stores and vitamin stores are refined unless otherwise stated. Refined coconut oils are not created equal. Therefore, you need to find good quality, non-hydrogenated, and refined using natural and chemical-free processes, such as diatomaceous earth or steam.
If you are on a budget, refined oil is usually cheaper. It is best used in cooking, especially for deep-frying. You can also use it as a bath oil, in soaps, and as a body moisturizer.
2. Unrefined Coconut Oil
This type of coconut oil is commonly labeled as “virgin” or “extra-virgin”. It is made from the first pressing of fresh and raw coconut using mechanical means. It does not involve the addition of any chemicals. It can also have mild to very intense flavor, depending on the extraction method. The more heat exposure there is during extraction, the more coconut flavor there will be in the oil.
If you are looking for good unrefined coconut oil, you should choose one that has a very mild coconut flavor and scent. Also, if you are wondering about the difference between virgin coconut oil and extra-virgin coconut oil, they are the same thing. It is just more of a marketing trick to get you to spend more on those labeled as “extra-virgin”.
Refined Coconut Oil
Unrefined/Virgin Coconut Oil
|Has no distinct taste or aroma of coconut||Has a tropical flavor|
|It undergoes further processing to make it suitable for cooking||Pressed from coconut meat and it doesn’t undergo any further processing|
|Higher smoke point than virgin coconut oil||Low smoke point than refined coconut oil|
|Best choice for baking and cooking||Best choice for skin and hair care as well as dietary preferences|
Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a calorically-dense source of healthy fat and energy. One tablespoon contains:
- 11 grams fat
- 0.7 grams monounsaturated fat
- 407 KJ/ 99 kcal
- 9.5 grams of saturated fat
- 0.2 grams polyunsaturated fat
The following minerals and nutrients are present in coconut oil:
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
- Lauric acid
- Palmitic acid
- Myristic acid
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Plant sterols
- Monounsaturated fats
Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Healthy Skin
People have used coconut oil for cosmetic purposes to enhance the appearance and health of their skin for centuries. According to a 2017 study, applying coconut extract to the skin has an anti-inflammatory effect. And it protects the barrier functions of the skin.
Coconut oil is very beneficial for dry skin as many studies have shown it can enhance moisture content. Moreover, coconut oil also enhances skin functions, protecting it from external factors (like allergens, chemicals, and infectious agents) and preventing excessive water loss.
Moreover, a recent study suggested that you can prevent dry skin caused by using hand sanitizers (alcohol-based) by applying six to eight drops of virgin coconut oil and leaving it overnight.
2. Works as a Quick Energy Source
Coconut oil contains MCTs that provide a quick supply of energy. The fat molecules (when you consume LCTs long-chain triglycerides) are transported to the tissues that need them (fat tissues or muscles) through your blood.
Since the MCTs go straight to your liver and supply rapid energy, it is used in sports nutrition products. These products are for athletes who need an instant source of energy.
3. An Excellent Source of Antioxidants
Coconut oil is a good source of antioxidants; hence it helps neutralize free radicals, warding off several degenerative and chronic diseases. Following are the most important antioxidants that coconut oil contains are:
The antioxidants in coconut oil also provide brain-protective and potential anti-inflammatory effects. Moreover, MCT lauric acid present in coconut oil has a role in reducing secondary diabetic complications.
4. May Protect Your Hair
Coconut oil is also great for hair as it protects against hair damage. According to a study, coconut oil reduces breakage, nourishes hair strands, and strengthens the hair. Another study suggests that coconut oil increases hair strength, makes them flexible, and prevents breaking under tension by keenly penetrating hair strands.
5. Boosts Good Cholesterol Level
Coconut oil increases the level of good cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol, and lowers LDL cholesterol levels (bad-type).
Uses of Coconut Oil
There are so many ways you can use coconut oil. It can be used in cooking, as part of your skincare routine, for flu and cold treatment, and even for rubbing on cuts and bruises. But since we are talking about coconut oil as a condiment, here are some of the different ways on how you can use it in cooking.
- It can be used in cooking dishes because it is very heat-stable. It is perfect for frying and deep-frying foods. You can also rub it on roast meats and add it to stir-fries and sauces. Its flavor is very complimentary, especially for Asian dishes.
- It can be used as a substitute for butter or margarine since it is solid most of the time at room temperature and when refrigerated. You can use it for dips, spreads, desserts, and baking, too.
- You can also use a good quality refined coconut oil to make mayonnaise.
- You can add coconut oil to smoothies, juices, coffee, and tea.
- If you are looking for an energy boost before working out, you can mix coconut oil with cacao and honey.
- Coconut oil is also an excellent oil to use if you are on a keto and paleo diet.
How to Store Coconut Oil
You can store coconut oil out of the refrigerator. Just make sure that it is away from direct sunlight, and it can last for up to two years. Coconut oil can stay liquid in temperatures higher than 75F. If the temperature is lower or if it’s refrigerated, it will turn into butter and solid texture. If it becomes solid and you need it in its liquid form, simply apply low-level heat to melt it quickly.
Buying Coconut Oil
When you go to grocery stores or search online, you will find many brands and types of coconut oil. There are expensive ones, but that does not mean they are the best. There are many great brands of coconut oil to choose from. To help you, here are a few things you might want to look into.
Coconut oil is white when it’s solid and clear or colorless when liquid. If there is discoloration, it might mean that there’s contamination, and it has inferior quality.
2. Flavor and Aroma
Virgin, unrefined coconut oil tastes and smells like coconut, but the flavor and aroma shouldn’t be overpowering. If it smells smoky or roasted, it means that it was exposed to a lot of heat, and it might not retain its nutrients. If the coconut oil is odorless and neutral in flavor, it is most likely refined.
Most coconut oils in stores are pricey, but that does not indicate good quality. If you will be using coconut oil a lot, it is better to purchase it in bulk because it is stable and can last for at least a year. But before buying a big batch, you need to try a few different brands first to know which one is the best. Buying it in bulk can help you save a lot of money.
The Best Coconut Oils You Can Buy
If you are looking for the best coconut oil that you can use in cooking and preparing meals and snacks, here are some of the best ones we can recommend.
These are some of the best coconut oil we can recommend. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to the cooking oil you are using, you can opt for unrefined coconut oil. It is healthier and can be used in many ways, as well.