Choosing A Coconut Oil
by Erin Otto
We’ve talked a little bit about how the lauric acid found in coconut oil can help heal your digestive tract, rebuild damaged cell membranes, ward off viruses, improve brain function, and conquer and destroy candida in your body. When you go to buy a coocnut oil, though, there are so many options that it can be like trying to choose a new paint color for your living room. Figuring out which coconut oil to use can be confusing if you don’t know what to watch for.
Believe it or not, there are a few kinds of coconut oil on the market that are so highly processed, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Let’s start with the basics. There are two broad categories of coconut oil: virgin coconut oils, which are minimally refined and mass-produced coconut oils that are much more refined. Most of these are very good oils, even the ones that are more refined. That’s because the amount of lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid so highly valued in coconut oil remains basically unchanged, even after the refining process.
Refined coconut oils are called RBD, which stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized. But this is not as bad as it sounds.
“The “bleaching” is generally not a chemical process, but rather a filter process to remove impurities. A “bleaching clay” is used for this filtering. Steam is used to deodorize the oil, since the starting point was copra. So the resulting product has a very bland taste, with little or no odor.” (Brian Silhavy, CoconutOil.com)
There are several different types of RBD coconut oils:
Expeller Pressed Coconut Oils are made from dried coconut. They are not extracted with chemical solvents, as some coconut oils are; instead, this kind of coconut oil is mechanically extracted from the dried coconut.
Expeller pressed coconut oils are refined, bleached, and deodorized, so they taste bland and have no real smell. Cooking with expeller pressed coconut oil means you can get most of the benefits of coconut oil without imparting a tropical flavor to all of your meals. Myhusband just loves this about expeller pressed coconut oil! He’s not a fan of the taste of virgin coconut oils, so I use expeller pressed coconut oil to prepare most of our meals.
Expeller pressed coconut oil is pale yellow to medium brown in its liquid state. As a solid, it’s much lighter; usually more of a creamy white.
If you’d like a coconut oil that has been safely mechanically extracted but that doesn’t taste like coconut, order our Tropical Traditions’ Organic Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil.
Plain Old Coconut Oil: If the label doesn’t say “virgin” or “expeller pressed,” the oil is probably refined, bleached, and deodorized. It is also likely that it was extracted with chemical solvents because that’s the cheapest way to get oil out of coconuts. Although these coconut oils are still high in lauric acid and other beneficial properties, they could also be full of chemical residues.
Bottom line: if you want to be sure of what you’re eating, you may want to consider a coconut oil you can be certain of.
Fractionated Coconut Oil or Liquid Coconut Oil, Also Known As MCT Oil
As the name implies, fractionated coconut oil only provides fractions of the whole oil. The big advantage here is not for you, instead, it’s for the manufacturer.
Lauric acid is the superstar of coconut oil. It makes up about 50% of whole coconut oil, and it’s what gives coconut oil its strong antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Producers know that they can sell the lauric acid separately to the medical and cosmetic industries for higher profits. Lauric acid has a high melting point, but the other components of coconut oil have much lower melting points. Once the lauric acid is removed, the remaining oil stays liquid, even in the fridge.
Is Fractionated Coconut Oil still good for you? Well, that depends on what fatty acids are left in the oil and what you’re using it for. Do you plan to cook with it and eat it? Before you do, do your due dilligence and find out what percenatage of the oil is polyunsaturated omega 6 oil. Since Fractionated Coconut Oils can be expensive, they aren’t traditional, whole foods, and they don’t provide the benefit of lauric acid, you may want to choose a whole coconut oil instead
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Refined, bleached, and deodorized coconut oil is sometimes further processed into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to raise its melting point. The melting point of hydrogenated coconut oil is about 100 °F, whereas the melting point of regular coconut oil is about 74 °F.
The problem is that the hydrogenation process turns coconut oil’s 6% monounsaturaed fats fatty acids and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids into trans fats.
Avoid hydrogenated coconut oil! It isn’t good for you.
Virgin Coconut Oil is different than RBD oils. It is much less refined than RBD coconut oils, and consequently, it contains more nutrients, especially antioxidants. Virgin coconut oils are always water clear; high quality oils that can be made by either of two methods.
1. The most common method is to press the oil from dried coconut. First, fresh coconut meat is dried, then the dried coconut is mechanically pressed to obtain the oil. The quality of this virgin coconut oil is higher than RBD oils because it is less refined and because it starts with fresh coconuts rather than copra.
Virgin coconut oils that are produced this way tend to have a more robust flavor than wet milled coconut oils because the flavor is intensified by the drying process.
Imagine an apple, for example. You can eat it fresh, and it tastes like, well, an apple. But dry it first, and the taste becomes almost like candy; sweet and intense with more flavor than the fresh apple.
It’s the same with coconut oil that’s made from dried coconut. It tastes and smells rich and coconutty.
If you’d like a coconut oil like this, order our Tropical Traditions’ Green Label Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. This is my personal favorite coconut oil because I just love the way it tastes and smells. I use it in all of my cooking, in my coffee, for oil pulling, and as a body lotion and makeup remover every day.
2. The second and less common way to make virgin coconut oil is by the wet milling process. This is the traditional method that has been used in tropical climates for ages. Fresh coconut meat is extracted from the coconuts, the coconut milk is pressed out of the fresh meat, and then the oil is separated out of the liquid. The separation process can be accomplished with or without heat, and it can include refrigeration, fermentation, enzymes, or mechanical centrifuge.
The coconut milk in this picture is being fermented to separate the coconut oil. Although fermentation is a simple process, it requires special attention, equipment, and it yields considerably less coconut oil than other methods, so this type of coconut oil is generally the most expensive option.
It also comes with bigger benefits.
Coconut oil made by wet miling is somewhat higher in antioxidants than other virgin coconut oils, and significantly higher in antioxidants than RBD coconut oils. (Read the study here.)
If you’d like a coconut oil with the maximum health benefits, choose our Tropical Traditions’ Gold Label Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. It has a delicate coconut flavor and smell, and it’s much more popular than our Green Label coconut oil. I don’t know if that’s because people like the Gold Label better than the Green Label or because they’re after the antioxidants in the Gold. If you’ve tried one or the other, I’m sure others would be interested to know which one you prefer and why. Post your comment below.
The next question is why we love Tropical Traditions’ coconut oil so much.
Our family has been using Tropical Traditions coconut oils since 2001, and we love them better than any others we’ve tried, partly because of of the taste and price, and partly because of Tropical Traditions’ integrity and the quality service we’ve received throughout the years. We use all of the oils personally, all the time. The comments you may have noticed above stem from these years of daily use.
So here are some of the things we love about Tropical Traditions’ coconut oils:
- All of their coconut oils are produced without solvents (Some coconut oil brands use solvents because it’s cheaper than pressing the coconut oil mechanically.)
- They support small family farms in the Phillipines.
- Their oils are all produced sustainably, even their palm shortening, which is certified by ProForest.
- We love the taste of the coconut oils and the way we feel when we’re eating them and cooking with them!
Take a look at this chart to compare all of our Tropical Traditions’ coconut oils at once. Once you’ve chosen the one you think you’ll like best, place your order here for local pick up, or here to have your order shipped. If you can pick up locally (in and around Tennessee), you can save quite a bit on the shipping cost of these oils.