Coconut oil is undeniably hot right now. From cooking to eating to smothering on our bodies, the benefits of coconut oil can soak into virtually every aspect of your life.
This heal-all product has always offered health benefits but is only just beginning to receive the credit it deserves. And though you hear about all the benefits, choosing the right one for you can be confusing, especially when the labels are littered with so many different terms and prefixes. So when you ask yourself “Is all coconut oil created equal?” know that the answer is no—and here’s why.
Refined Coconut Oil
What? Refined coconut oil is on the standard, mass-produced end of the spectrum. Bleached and deodorized, refined coconut oil is extracted from dried coconuts and is therefore fairly tasteless and doesn’t offer the coconut-y scent.
Best for? The thrifty cook. With a higher smoke point, refined coconut oil can withstand hotter temperatures making it suitable for cooking and it won’t bring the flavor of a coconut to your dishes. This type doesn’t offer all of the same nutritional benefits as its unrefined counterpart, but is still a source of healthy fatty acids and is usually more cost-effective.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
What? Often called ‘virgin’ or ‘extra-virgin,’ unrefined coconut oil is the result of the first pressing of the fresh, raw coconuts. This means that the oil is extracted from the coconut using mechanical means without the assistance of chemicals. Unrefined coconut oil is richer in phytonutrients and polyphenols (which act as antioxidants in the body) than its refined counterpart, because unrefined coconut oil does not go through a bleaching process. It usually offers a mild coconut taste and scent. It’s also regarded as being higher quality than refined coconut oil.
Best for? The health nut. Perfect for all of your needs (from taming frizzy hair to beefing up your smoothie) this type of coconut oil is truly for the person seeking the most health benefits from the product. Along with this, unrefined coconut oil is great for anyone wishing to add a slight coconut flavor to their dishes—particularly to sweet, baked goods.
Types of Extraction Methods
Once you have decided on either an unrefined or refined coconut oil, you may be faced with an array of varieties based on the extraction method used. The most common types of extraction methods for coconut oil are:
Cold-pressed: Unprocessed, this type of coconut oil is generally made in a heat controlled environment without bleaching, deoderizing or refining. It is also processed at temperatures under 120 degrees.
Expeller-pressed: Expeller-pressed coconut oil involves physical extractings and does not involve chemicals or solvents. These are commonly produced in tropical countries.
Centrifuged: This coconut oil is generally produced from fresh coconuts that are shelled, chopped and then gently expeller pressed. It is less likely to be exposed to heat during the extraction process, not exceeding 40°C or 104°F. This oil is best used for those who want to use coconut oil in a variety of cooking, as it has a more mild and delicate flavor.
When picking a coconut oil, the most important choice will be whether you choose refined or unrefined. The methods of extraction do not necessarily mean that one is better or more healthy than the other—the choice really comes down to your preference of flavor and usage.
An Unhealthy Exception
Touted as a miracle product, coconut oil can be really great, but beware of hydrogenated coconut oil. Possibly leading to negative health conditions, this is a variety of coconut oil to avoid, as the hydrogenation process creates synthetic trans-fats that are potentially harmful to your health.
Knowing that not all coconut oil is created equal can only be a benefit to you and your health. Implement that coconut-y flavor and scent into your daily life and reap the full benefits of this healthy superfood.
Photos: Africa Studio / Shutterstock, MaraZe / Shutterstock