What is coconut oil? How is it created?
Dried coconut meat is known as copra. It is a valuable agricultural product for many coconut-producing countries. Coconut oil, also called copra oil, is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts. The coconut cake that remains as a by-product of the extraction process is used as livestock feed.
After coconut oil is refined, it is known as RBD coconut oil. You may have noticed RBD stated on the ingredient list of certain oil products in the supermarket. RBD stands for Refined, Bleached and Deodorized.
This is the process whereby the oil is deodorized under high heat and filtered to bleach the oil to remove any forms of impurities. Sodium hydroxide is used to remove any free fatty acids to prolong the oil’s shelf life and last longer.
Some modern RBD refining methods include an additional step of using chemical solvents to extract every bit of oil from the copra (dried coconut meat). This results in higher yields of oil and increased profitability for the oil producer. RBD oil is highly valued in the aromatherapy and soap-making industry for its ability to produce a hard soap with a rich and fluffy lather.
Coconut oils remains as a liquid all year round in hotter climates. In these cases, the oils sometimes undergo a hardening process called hydrogenation to make it solid. This is not practiced in cooler climates as coconut oil remains as a solid at temperatures below 25°C whereby no hydrogenation is required.
Due to its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize and can thus last for a longer duration without spoiling. Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), a kind of saturated fat, mainly consisting of capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, and lauric acid.
Page Contents - Quick Links
- What is coconut oil? How is it created?
- Types of coconut oil
- Coconut oil health controversy
- 10 simple tips to use coconut oil
- Coconut oil for different skin types
Types of coconut oil
Not all types of coconut oil are created equal. Learn to understand the different types available to find one that suits your needs:
Refined coconut oil
Refined coconut oils generally have a higher smoke point; this means that they can withstand a higher cooking temperature without getting destroyed. Smoke point refers to the temperature whereby an oil starts burning and smoke. This imparts a burnt flavor to foods.
Fractionated coconut oil
These oils are used mainly in the cosmetic industry. They are usually highly stable and have a long shelf life.
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oils have a stronger coconut flavor since they have undergone minimal processing. High heat and chemicals are not used. As it imparts a stronger flavor, it is less versatile than the refined coconut oils. Different brands will have varying degrees of flavor.
Note that the terms ‘virgin’ and ‘extra-virgin’ have no difference in this context, unlike olive oil. Hence, do not believe marketing gimmicks of products labeled as ‘extra-virgin’ coconut oil.
Organic coconut oil
Organic refers to products grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Many individuals prefer organic as it ensures that they are buying a high-quality product. However, it can be hard to spot a significant difference between an organic and conventionally-grown coconut product simply via the coconut’s taste or odor.
Conventional products can be just as nutritious. Organic does not necessarily mean healthier if you do not consume in moderation.
Hydrogenated coconut oil
These ones should be avoided where possible. The process of hydrogenation(hardening) results in the production of unhealthy fats known as trans fats. Trans fats are commonly found in confectioneries and deep fried foods in which the oil has been re-used when deep frying.
Trans fat leads to a rise in bad cholesterol levels and thus an increased risk of heart diseases. When you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ on a food product, it’s best to put it back on the shelf.
In addition, hydrogenated coconut oil generally has a poor taste because it’s made with inferior-quality coconuts.
Naturally refined coconut oil
Aside from hydrogenation, some coconut oils are made via natural processes such as steam and filtration. These ones have a high smoke point while retaining the mild flavor. More importantly, it does not contain the harsh products produced because of hydrogenation.
Coconut oil health controversy
In recent years, many have debated on whether naturally occurring saturated fats found in coconut oil are beneficial in improving heart health. One first needs to have a clear understanding of the basics of fats. There are 3 types of fats:
- Unsaturated trans fat.
- Trans fat
Saturated and trans fats are coined as the bad fats while unsaturated fats are the good fats. The type of fat consumed will alter the lipoproteins in your blood. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol while low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad cholesterol.
Nutritionists recommend reduced consumption of the bad fats, commonly found in fried foods and certain oils, such as coconut oil. On the contrary, nuts and certain oils such as canola oil and olive oil contain the healthy unsaturated fats.
Now comes the question, coconut oil contains saturated fats yet many argue that it is healthy and some even say that it is more easily digestible. True or False? The answer is false. More studies need to be done to substantiate this point.
Coconut indeed imparts a wonderful flavor and there’s no issue with using it on certain occasions. Being solid at room temperature, it may be a good substitute for butter or vegetable shortening in the preparation of baked goods that require a solid source of fat.
US Food Drug and Administration has not released any official statement on the benefits of coconut oil as a superfood. Most research conducted so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels.
It’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils for long-term heart health. Nutritionists recommend using it sparingly and switching to healthier oils such as olive oil and soybean oil which consists mainly of unsaturated fats that have been proven to lower LDL and increase HDL, hence a lowered risk of atherosclerosis.
10 simple tips to use coconut oil
At room temperature, coconut oil is a creamy solid. It turns into a liquid when heated to 25°C. Run the jar of coconut oil under warm water and apply generously to wet hair before twisting into a bun. Leave it to absorb for at least five minutes before rinsing off. Guaranteed to add shine to damaged hair!
Moisturizers should always be applied right after you get out of the shower for optimal skin absorption. The longer you wait, the drier the skin gets. Add a few drops of lavender essence for a more relaxing scent.
Combine half cup of sea salt or sugar with an equal amount of melted coconut oil, and rub it over rough patches of skin, such as elbows and heels. The scrub moisturizes while removing dead skin cells. The result – baby smooth skin!
Given that coconut oil is a great moisturizer, apply some to your chapped lips to help fight the harsh weather conditions. Scoop some into a contact lens case or simply grab a small container from the drugstore.
Having dry cuticles but think that a bottle of cuticle softener is too expensive? Use coconut oil to strengthen your nails and hydrate the cuticle skin.
We all know that the skin under your eyes is thin and delicate, making it prone to fine lines and dark circles. Yet the miserable fact is that eye creams do not come cheap and usually come in a small bottle.Fret not. Just rub a pinch of coconut oil between fingers to warm it up before lightly patting it under the eye area to combat all eye problems.
Rinse your mouth with coconut oil to rid your mouth of bacteria, and prevent gum disease.
Coconut oil leaves hair extra soft and shiny. Rub a minute amount of coconut oil between your fingers to warm it up, and apply it to the bottom couple inches of your hair for all day frizz protection. You can also apply from mid-shaft to ends for additional frizz control; if you find that your hair is coarser.
Ladies will be glad to find out that you can make your own coconut oil makeup remover wipes. Melt 1 – 1 ½ teaspoon of coconut oil in the microwave. Spread them over cotton pads and leave overnight to soak. There you go, DIY makeup remover wipes!
Coconut oil allows your razor to glide smoothly, allowing for a closer-to-skin shave. At the same time, coconut oil helps to hydrate your leg.
Tip: Coconut oil can get slippery. Shave outside the shower where your hands are dry, this makes it easier to hold onto the razor.
Coconut oil for different skin types
The most important thing to know before applying any products – your skin type.
Coconut oils works best with dry skin due to its hydrating factor. Dry skin is highly prone to itching, scaling and irritation and deep cleansing is required to remove dead skin cells.
Combination skin is partly oily and partly dry. Some may find it hard to care for combination skin as different products may be needed. Many skin care products made for combination skin contain coconut oil.
For the individuals with sensitive skin, common breakouts and irritation to light, dust and stress can be frustrating. Coconut oil in skin care products for sensitive skin will soothe easily-irritated skin and provide a protective layer against harmful rays of the sun.
In general, coconut oil is a wonderful natural remedy for almost any skin problem.
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