If you’re like me, you probably have spent hours trying to figure out how to pick out the right kind or healthier coconut oil in your local health food store. I’ve spent half an hour or more reading and comparing labels determining the difference between extra virgin coconut oil, unrefined virgin coconut oil, and refined coconut oil!
Difference between extra virgin coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, and refined coconut oil?
Let’s start with the processing of coconut oil.
Whether coconut oil becomes refined or unrefined depends on what processing methods the oil undergoes. Refined coconut oil starts out as dried coconut meat, known as “copra.” Because coconut oil producers frequently dry the meat in open air, it can gather hazardous bacteria and pathogens-so any oil extracted from copra needs further purification before it’s safe to consume. During the refinement process, copra undergoes bleach filtration to screen out impurities, as well as heat treatment to remove its distinctive odor.
Unrefined coconut oil, on the other hand, starts with fresh coconut meat rather than dried copra—ensuring the extracted oil is sanitary without the need for further purification. To produce unrefined coconut oil, the meat goes through one of two methods: “quick drying” or “wet milling.” Quick-dried coconut meat receives a small amount of heat to remove moisture, and then mechanical extraction separates the unrefined oil from the meat. With the wet-milling process, machines press the liquid out of fresh coconut meat—and then use boiling, refrigeration, centrifuging, fermentation or enzymes to isolate the oil from the extracted liquid. With both the quick drying and wet milling methods, the resulting coconut oil is safe for consumption without bleaching or deodorization.
Unrefined, Expeller Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
As the name suggests, it is the crude coconut oil that has been obtained right from the expeller; unrefined, unfiltered and without any additives. Sometimes, it is also called the Pure Coconut Oil to mark its differences with the Refined Bleached Deodorized Coconut Oil, known as the Refined Coconut Oil.
Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, and Organic Virgin Coconut Oil can be unrefined too.
Note: there is no difference between extra virgin or virgin coconut oil.
Advantages of Virgin Coconut Oil
- Taste: Unrefined Coconut Oil is tastier than the Refined Coconut Oil as it is neither bleached nor refined.
- Flavor: Unrefined Coconut Oil has a beautiful flavor of that of fresh coconuts which is absent in Refined Coconut Oil, since it is deodorized.
- Nutrients: It is more nutritious than the refined one, being least process and subjected to least heat. It is richer in proteins (this is almost absent in refined oil), vitamins and antioxidants. Contains medium chain fatty acids.
- Natural: It does not undergo any chemical processing therefore is not refined. It has a more natural touch. It is derived from fresh coconuts and is not subject to heat. This preserves all the natural goodness of this oil, such as high content of Vitamin-E and minerals, which are otherwise almost stripped from the Ordinary Coconut Oil during processes like heating, filtration, refining, and bleaching which are done to make it colorless and odorless.
- Wholeness: It is wholesome coconut oil.
- Virgin Coconut Oil is very effective as a moisturizing agent.
Disadvantages of Virgin Coconut Oil
- Hygiene: It is less hygienic than the Refined Coconut Oil, since it does not undergo any refining and may contain dust particles and other unwanted stuff.
- Therapeutic Uses: It may not be suitable for therapeutic uses.
- Internal Applications: The Refined Coconut Oil is better in this respect, being more hygienic.
- Cost: Despite being less processed, it is bit more money than the refined one, since most of the coconut oil produced is converted to refined oil.
- Availability: Unrefined Coconut Oil is less easily available than the refined grade.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
The health benefits of coconut oil include:
- Hair care
- Skin care
- Stress relief
- Maintaining cholesterol levels
- Weight loss
- Increased immunity
- Proper digestion and metabolism
- Relief from kidney problems
- Heart diseases
- High blood pressure
- Dental care
- Bone strength
These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. Its properties are antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, and soothing.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil can be purchased at Whole Foods, Mother’s Market, and Sprouts.
For more information on coconut oil, a good book to read is The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife, CN, ND. It is available on Amazon.com or your local health food store.