Ah, coconut oil. It’s exploded in popularity over the past few years, and with good reason. Because it’s made of primarily medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oils is easily digested and converted into energy in the body. It also contains lauric acid which has been linked to amazing health benefits. It has anti-viral, antibacterial, anit-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. It’s been shown that consuming coconut oil is good for overall immunity, reduces hypertension, helps reduce arterial injury, and helps keep proper cholesterol balance. It’s a great source of healthy (yes, healthy) saturated fats.
And I love using it in many of my diy beauty products.
Of course for those new to the world of coconut oil there are a lot of questions: What do I look for when buying? What’s the difference between raw, organic, expellar pressed, etc? Is all coconut oil the same?
Well, today is the day we break down the info so that you can feel confident about getting this awesome little super food into your homes. Ready? Let’s go!
Coconut Oil Basics: Appearance and Storage
Depending on the temperature, your coconut oil can have a different look. Coconut oil is liquid above 75 degrees F. (25 C.), and below that it will be a solid fat. Coconut oil in its solid state is white, thick, and creamy. In its liquid state it’s clear (sometimes a little “cloudy”) and easy to pour. You can easily liquefy coconut oil by applying low level heat or solidify it by putting it in the fridge.
Coconut oil can be stored in either its liquid or solid form, does not need to be refrigerated, but should not be stored in direct sunlight. Due to its stability, coconut oil has a long shelf life of two or more years (the longest of any oil).
It is best not to cook beyond the smoke point of coconut oil, as this will begin to deteriorate the oil and turn it yellow. Once it has turned dark yellow, the oil should be discarded and no longer used.
What kind of coconut oil should you buy?
Labeling can get really tricky with coconut oil, which is why I probably get so many questions about it. My first rule of thumb is to simply read the labels. Most commercial coconut oil found in your typical grocery store are not what you want to put in your body.
Some oils are refined using chemical processes that use harsh solvents or are made from the rancid byproducts from making coconut flakes. Some coconut oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
Do not buy these types of coconut oil.
And for the most part, if something isn’t labeled, you should assume it’s the chemically processed, hydrogenated oil that you want to avoid.
Decoding coconut oil labels
There are a lot of different labels and claims plastered over the various goods brands of coconut oil. Knowing what these labels mean can help you pick a product that want to consume. So let’s get to the varies labels you might see:
Organic vs. Non-Organic
Certified organic coconut oil (always look for the “USDA Organic” label) means that the coconuts that were used for the oil were grown without the use of pesticides. Generally speaking this is important when choosing a coconut oil. However, there are some brands that claim to use coconuts that are grown in more remote locations without pesticides that do not go through the organic certification process. This is where reading labels and doing a little research could save you money without compromising your food standards. In this instance, Google really is your friend.
Refined vs. Unrefined
Refined coconut oil has been more processed than unrefined oils. The refining process usually takes out much of the coconut “flavor” and the oil has a higher smoke point making them excellent choices for cooking foods at higher temperatures. But there is a huge difference in how coconut oil has been refined, so it’s important to know the terms. Look for coconut oil that uses only chemical-free methods. Examples include oils that use friction, some heat, or spinning/gravity to remove the oil from the “meat.”
Unrefined or “Raw” coconut oil is made from fresh, raw, coconut meat. There are no added chemicals and high-heat is not used to further refine the oil. With this, you also experience more coconut flavor. It contains all the health benefits of coconut oil.
Virgin vs. Extra Virgin
Unlike olive oil, there is no difference between “virgin coconut oil” and “extra virgin coconut oil.” You can feel confident buying coconut oil that uses either labeling.
Centrifuge Extracted Coconut Oil
This coconut oil has a light coconut flavor… often enjoyed by people who eat coconut oil right off the spoon. It is made from freshly pressed coconut milk, chilled and separated by centrifugal force. This coconut oil is considered raw and retains all of its nutrients. It’s also usually the most expensive coconut oil you can find.
Cold pressed coconut oil is made from fresh, low temperature dried coconut flakes. It has a stronger coconut flavor and tiny traces of the soluble constituents extracted from the dried coconut meat. It is also considered ”raw” and retains all its nutrients.
Expellar-pressed coconut oil
Expellar-pressed is a mechanical extraction process that does not rely on solvent extracts or chemical processes. It has less coconut taste than cold-pressed or “raw” coconut oil, and a higher smoke point. This makes it a great oil to use for cooking. (Definitely better than using rancid vegetable oils.)
So what do you buy?
Honestly, there are several brands of coconut oil that I think are great. I usually buy coconut oil that is labeled organic, virgin (or extra virgin), and cold-pressed. This is what I use for non-heat or low-heat cooking or in anything that I want a coconut flavor. I will use organic, virgin (or extra virgin), expellar-pressed for cooking in higher heats. I always have these two types of coconut oil in my pantry… but the brand will vary depending on what I can get on sale. (Keepin’ it real, folks.)
The key is to avoid chemically-processed, hydrogenated coconut oil. That stuff is just gross.
I like to buy my coconut oil in bulk sometimes on Amazon.
Tell me… do you have a favorite brand?