Are you using the right coconut oil?
Tips for using the right coconut oil?
There’s no doubt that coconut oil is one of the most versatile and useful oils you can have at home. It has a wide array of uses, from cooking and baking to being a beauty staple. It works as a lotion, or can be added to your homemade facial mask or hypoallergenic soap recipe.
But how do you know if you are choosing high-quality coconut oil that is truly worth its weight in gold?
There are several important factors that you must consider when buying coconut oil to ensure that you’re getting one that’s truly high-quality.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut is an edible oil extracted from coconut meat. Both coconuts and coconut oil were staples in many tropical countries and regions, including South and Central America, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Polynesia, and Asia. Dating back as early as 1500, India’s Ayurvedic literature recorded coconut oil’s uses for the mind, body and spirit. Even early European explorers noted its benefits for Pacific communities who integrated it – and coconuts – into their daily lives.
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easily digestible and stored in your body as energy. Fifty percent of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which converts into monolaurin.
However, coconut oil’s wholesome profile was tainted in 1953, when Dr. Ancel Keys published a study that linked saturated fats to heart disease. What many people didn’t know is that Keys’ study was seriously flawed, as he only based his study on six countries, ignoring data from 16 other countries that did not fit his theory.
Keys’ flawed study paved the way for polyunsaturated vegetable oil manufacturers to step up and dominate the market. Ironically, these so-called “heart-healthy” oils are actually a lot more harmful because they oxidize when heated, putting a great deal of burden on your body.
But the tides have changed, and now coconut oil is back in the spotlight as the ideal, all-around edible oil.
Why You Should Buy Coconut Oil Instead of Other Cooking Oils
I have steadfastly recommended coconut oil as the smartest and most versatile oil you can use. It’s perfect for cooking because of its high heat tolerance. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn, canola, and soy become rancid when they are heated or mix with oxygen. In fact, they can actually go rancid within a few hours of being produced. When this rancid oil enters your body, it can lead to disastrous health effects.
You won’t have to worry about this with coconut oil, as it does not easily go rancid. Coconut oil is a complete saturated fat, which makes it very stable against heat damage. It is the ONLY safe oil you can use for cooking – olive oil is also a good oil but only when used cold, drizzled over salads or mixed into cold sauces. Due to its stability, it has a long shelf life of two or more years – the longest of any cooking oil.
So whenever you need to cook or sauté your food, choose coconut oil. It’s great for frying (even though I don’t recommend frying foods), as well as baking, and is a wonderful substitute for shortening, margarine, or butter. When you bake with coconut oil, you’ll find that your muffins, pastry, or bread will be lighter and have a mildly sweet and enticing fragrance.
But that’s not where coconut oil’s convenience ends, because it also has numerous uses outside the kitchen. Coconut oil can actually replace over a dozen beauty products found in your beauty kit, such as your:
- Makeup remover – Apply a small amount on a moist cotton ball and wipe all over your face.
- Facial scrub – Make a gentle facial scrub by mixing coconut oil with baking soda, or with oatmeal and a dash of cinnamon.
- Lip balm – Apply a small amount of coconut oil on your lips. You can also make your own lip balm using coconut oil as a base ingredient.
- Carrier oil for essential oil – Use it to dilute potent essential oils that may be too harsh when applied on your skin in concentrated amounts.
- Shaving cream – Apply a thin layer on the area to be shaved, and then shave as usual.
- Body scrub – Mix equal parts organic cane sugar and coconut oil in a glass jar, and then scrub on your dry skin before bathing.
- Massage Oil: For decades, coconut oil has been used by professional massage therapists as a soothing massage oil.
Coconut oil can also have practical uses around the house, such as:
- Polishing metal (test it on a small area first)
- Moisturizing and softening your leather goods
- Lubricating squeaky hinges, sticky mechanisms, and even guitar strings
- Cleaning and conditioning wooden furniture (also test it on a small area first)
- Cleaning, conditioning, and sanitizing your wooden chopping board
Know the Different Types of Coconut Oil
Considering this impressive roster of uses, it definitely makes sense that you choose a high-quality coconut oil. There are numerous brands and types of coconut oil, and they vary according to source, production method, packaging, and price.
When you shop for coconut oil, one of the first things you’ll notice is that they are classified as either refined or unrefined. They may seem similar, but there is actually a very great difference between these two types of coconut oil.
Refined coconut oil, also known as refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) coconut oil, is made by mechanically and chemically refining, bleaching, and deodorizing dried coconuts (copra). Since copra is not fit for consumption, it needs to go through the RBD process to filter out impurities and make it more stable. It’s thin, tasteless, and doesn’t have a coconutty aroma, but has a high cooking temperature before it reaches its smoking point.
While RBD coconut oil is a great source of healthy fatty acids, I do not fully recommend it. Many brands are adulterated because of the chemical distillation processes that use lye and other harsh solvents. What’s more, manufacturers sometimes use rancid oil byproducts that are made from creating desiccated coconut flakes. Many RBD coconut oils are also hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, which can lead to the production of synthetic trans fats.
Meanwhile, unrefined coconut oil is made from pressing fresh, raw coconut (not copra) using mechanical methods but without adding chemicals and solvents. This is actually my coconut oil of choice, as it retains the coconut’s flavor and aroma, and is loaded with antioxidants and medium-chain fatty acids.
Be sure to also check the extraction method used. Coconut oil can be expeller-pressed, cold-pressed, or centrifuged. Expeller-pressing is a mechanical process that uses pressure to extract the oil, which creates friction and higher heat that may compromise the taste and nutrition of the oil. Cold-pressing is nearly similar to expeller-pressing, except that it’s done in a heat-controlled environment that keeps the temperature below 120° Fahrenheit (49° Celsius). In this sense, cold-pressed coconut oil is a better option.
However, I advise you to look for cold-pressed centrifuged coconut oil, where fresh coconuts are cold-pressed to make a coconut emulsion, then chilled to help pull out the oils. Afterwards, the milk goes through a centrifuge, where the pure oil spins away from the water layer, resulting in a pure, organic, unrefined and highly stable coconut oil.
In summary, shop for an unrefined, unbleached coconut oil that’s produced from organic and GMO-free coconuts, and made without chemicals, harsh solvents, and heat processing.
Where to Buy Coconut Oil: Don’t Settle for an Inferior Product!
With the growing popularity of coconut oil, people are now making the switch to this versatile cooking oil. But remember that not all coconut oil products are created equal, and not all of them have been subjected to the best manufacturing practices.
I would also advise you to be very careful when buying coconut oil from grocery stores, as you only have to rely on what is on the label to determine the quality of the product. There have been reports of large bottles of cheap supermarket coconut oils going rancid quickly, which means that either the oil was blended with vegetable oils that spoil easily, or that it has been filtered improperly, which led to coconut remnants to contaminate the oil.
You can buy coconut oil online as well, but you must thoroughly scrutinize the product. Check out their website to learn more about the company, where they source their coconuts, and how the oil is produced. Make sure that the company is truly committed to providing you with a high-quality product that is worth your money.
In addition, keep an eye out for these signs of a good high-quality coconut oil:
- Appearance – It should be white in its solid form, and colorless as a liquid. Coconut oil stays liquid in temperatures above 25° Celsius (75° Fahrenheit), and will solidify like butter in lower temperatures or if refrigerated. Simply put it under low heat or leave it out for a few minutes to transform it into liquid.
- Aroma and flavor – It should smell and taste like coconut, but should not be overpowering or strong. If it tastes neutral and is odorless, then it’s been refined. If it smells roasted or smoky, it may have been heat-pressed.
- Shelf life – High-quality coconut oil can stay fresh for up to two years. It does not need refrigeration, but should be stored away from direct sunlight.
How to Keep Coconut Oil from Going Rancid
Despite being heat-resistant and more stable than other cooking oils, it is important that you know how to take good care of your coconut oil to prevent it from going bad quickly. Remember these simple tips:
- Never place coconut oil in direct sunlight.
- Use a clean spoon to scoop coconut oil from the container, to prevent mold and bacterial contamination the oil. Don’t use your fingers and avoid double-dipping.
- Always keep the lid on, sealed tightly, to prevent moisture from going in.
- Signs that your coconut oil has gone rancid are: turning yellow in color in liquid form, a blotchy consistency, foul taste and smell, and specks at the bottom of the container, which could indicate the presence of mold.
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Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Anne Sullivan
Dr P Carrothers