Just like olive oil comes in all shapes and sizes, so too does coconut oil. The quality of the product that you choose has a lot to do with the health benefits of coconut oil. The way it’s processed has a lot to do with the final product, and just like olive oil, paying a few extra dollars is well worth it.
5 Tips for Getting All the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Unrefined versus refined
Refined coconut oil is usually tasteless and odorless. It’s good when you don't want the flavor of coconut to dominate the food that you’re preparing--for example, if you’re preparing a pie crust or french fries. While you're definitely not getting as many health benefits of coconut oil, it’s still a good source of medium chain fatty acids. Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut, while refined oils are often sourced from the dried copra (dried meat of the coconut). To find unrefined coconut oil, look for the words unrefined or virgin on the label.
2. Chemical processing
Refined coconut oil typically goes through chemical processing, which can include deodorization or bleaching. Additionally, some coconut oil goes through a process of hydrogenation, or adding hydrogen to make the oil less likely to spoil. This makes it a trans fat, which by most doctors standards is considered the worst type of oil. Trans fats increase your cholesterol, and as a result, your risk of heart disease.
3. Expeller versus cold pressed
Expeller processing extracts oil from the coconut using heat while cold pressed expels oil from the coconut, but in a more temperature controlled environment. With cold pressed oils, the temperature doesn’t go above 120 degrees F. This means that the oil doesn’t lose many of the health benefits of coconut oil as it would if heat were added.
Organic coconut oil means that coconuts were grown in accordance with the National Organic Program standards and without the use of synthetic chemicals.
5. Fair Trade Certified
While not a health benefit, Fair Trade certification, guarantees human rights during all stages of production along with good and fair working conditions and fair shares for small farmers.
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Image: Hafiz Issadeen