Coconut Oil

Coconut OilCoconut oil is one of the most widely used oils today and plays a major role in our everyday lives. It is edible and appears as a thick, viscous liquid which is produced from the kernel of matured coconuts. The intensity of its colour depends on its level of refinement, with the most refined version being colourless. Freshly squeezed coconut oil is typically light brown to bright yellow in colour.

Coconut oil is largely comprised of saturated fatty acids, making it extremely stable and resistant to oxidation. It typically has a shelf life of 2 years, but it can last a lot longer than its stated expiration date in most cases. Its high stability combined with its nutritionally rich content and low production cost makes it very economically viable and accounts for its widespread use all over the world.

Coconut oil is the primary source of fatty acids for the majority of the people around the world today and is used in large scale for industrial, commercial and household purposes.

There are 2 types of coconut oil which are commonly sold today – the RBD (or refined) coconut oil or the virgin (or extra virgin) coconut oil.

RBD/Refined Coconut Oil

This is the most common type of coconut oil that is sold today and is used for cooking and other commercial and industrial purposes. Refined or RBD coconut oil is odourless, colourless and tasteless.

In the mass production of the RBD coconut oil, the edible meat of the coconut is first extracted and dried to produce copra. The copra is then treated with solvents like hexane which is later separated out to produce coconut oil. The age of the coconut used greatly affects the efficiency of this process and the quality of the coconut oil produced. Copra from immature coconuts tend to yield less and lower quality oil when processed.

When the kernel of the coconut is left to dry, it is done so under unhygienic conditions. As a result, a small proportion of the oil extracted would incidentally turn bad and become unsuitable for use. Since the coconut oil is not sanitary, it has to be refined before it can be commercially feasible. This involves removing the odour by deodorizing it with heat and filtering it to remove fine particles and other impurities.

RBD is an acronym which perfectly describes the purification process of the coconut oil. It stands for refined, bleached and deodorized. Only properly refined coconut oil is suitable for cooking because it removes contaminants and other microorganisms.

Occasionally, the coconut oil is hydrogenated to further increase its melting point (although it is already naturally mostly saturated). However, partially hydrogenated coconut oil contains a lot of trans fats and is not recommended for consumption.

Virgin Coconut Oil

The virgin coconut oil is produced in a slightly different way from the refined coconut oil. The oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat instead of copra by physical means. No chemicals, solvents or heat are involved in the extraction process but the coconut meat is instead manually pressed out for its oil. A more traditional way would be to crush the coconut meat and then boil it until a layer of coconut oil forms at the surface of the water.

The end product would be a superior, high-quality, coconut oil with an exceptionally long shelf life. This is the purest form of coconut oil. It retains its brown-yellow colour and its sweet coconut scent because most of the naturally-occurring substances in the coconut oil remain intact. On the contrary, these substances are altered or destroyed by either chemicals or heat in the RBD process, causing it to lose its colour and distinctive scent.

Some manufacturers label their coconut oil as extra virgin instead of virgin. These two terms essentially mean the same thing and the term “extra”  used in this case is simply arbitrary and brings no special meaning.

Since this process is more time consuming and requires more labour, virgin coconut oil is generally more expensive than refined coconut oil. However, the virgin coconut oil retains most of its rich nutritional content whereas a significant portion of the nutrients in the RBD coconut oil are destroyed during the heating and extraction process. This makes virgin coconut oil ideal for use for culinary purposes.

Coconut Oil Benefits

The coconut oil is a unique oil because unlike other oils, it is made up of about 90% saturated fatty acids. Most of those saturated fatty acids are in the form of lauric acid, which is regarded as a healthy fatty acid. The coconut oil has a high Oxidative Stability Index and exhibits strong anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Its lauric acid content have also been proven to help the immune system fight off infections. All these properties attribute to the numerous benefits of coconut oil. Some of the coconut oil benefits are discussed below.

Coconut Oil For Hair

Coconut Oil For HairUsing coconut oil on your hair consistently can result in a healthy and glamorous hair texture. The minerals and protein in the coconut oil stimulate hair growth and provide the essential building blocks for proper hair growth and repair. When absorbed into the hair, it strengthens the entire hair shaft and gives off an attractive glow.

Actively using coconut oil on your hair can help you treat a myriad of scalp and hair conditions. It is especially effective in treating dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis and other scalp conditions which results in flaking. This can be attributed to the high fatty content of the coconut oil which fine tunes the production of the sebum on the scalp, resulting in a more balanced environment. An excess of sebum on the scalp is usually the root cause of many scalp problems, including dandruff, and by using coconut oil you are ultimately tackling the problem at its source. It also cleans up the scalp by dissolving any flaky residue, hiding any possibly embarrassing symptoms.

Coconut oil kills off fungus and other parasites like lice that might be present on your scalp with just a single application. This property, combined with the controlling of sebum production by the coconut oil mentioned above gives a very powerful dual-action effect, making it versatile and suitable for use for almost all types of hair or scalp conditions.

More and more people are starting to realize the use of coconut oil for hair. Today, it is commonly found as a passive ingredient in many medicated hair shampoos and conditioners.

Coconut Oil For Weight Loss

Coconut Oil BenefitsThe notion that coconut oil can actually help with weight loss is ironic but true. The medium-chain triglycerides that coconut oil contains are very easily digested and help regulate healthy digestion. These fatty acids are not stored as fats in the body but are instead rapidly broken up for energy in the liver. By doing so, it increases the body metabolism rate, meaning you burn through your calories faster. The end result? A leaner, fitter body with noticeably less fat. The most common way to include coconut oil in your diet for this purpose would be to use it as your daily cooking oil.

Coconut Oil For Culinary Purposes

Coconut oil is commonly used as a cooking oil in many countries because of its cheap price and ease of use. It can withstand high temperatures because of its high saturated fat content and is especially great for frying. Some people use the sweet, unrefined version of the oil to add flavour to their food.

However, there is controversy about the use of coconut oil in cooking. Saturated fatty acids have long been thought to increase the risk of heart diseases and strokes by encouraging clots to form in major arteries. Opponents who are against the use of the oil claim that since the coconut oil comprises mostly of saturated fatty acids, it is unhealthy for consumption and therefore should be replaced with other, less saturated oils.

This argument is not necessarily true. The saturated fatty acids are predominantly in the form of lauric acid, which are converted to monolaurin when digested. Monolaurin is a remarkably beneficial substance which can boost your immune system and promote healthy development of the bones and muscles. Besides that, lauric acid itself has been proven to raise “good” cholesterol levels, or HDLs in the blood system, making it a cardio-friendly oil.

It is commonly added into drinks for professional athletes as it supplies a large amount of energy and does not contribute to weight gain.

If you intend on incorporating coconut oil into your diet, make sure you use the virgin coconut oil instead of the refined one. Although more expensive, the virgin coconut oil is the most pure and contains the most medium-chain triglycerides which assists in weight loss. The minerals and vitamins are also intact since no heat is involved in the extraction of the virgin coconut oil.

 

Other Coconut Oil Uses

Coconut Oil For Skin

Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer, suitable for all types of skin. It is also often used as a massage oil because of its rich mineral content and its moisturizing properties. Antioxidants in coconut oil help prevent symptoms of aging by fading wrinkles and tightening flabby skin.

Source Of Energy

Coconut oil yields a huge amount of energy when burned as it contains large amounts of fats. It is being used prevelantly as a biofuel in certain countries such as the Philippines and is proving to be a viable energy source.

Conclusion

After laying out all the coconut oil benefits in this article, it is blatantly true that the coconut oil is exceptionally good for health. It provides you with energy and healthy fats, increases your good cholesterol level, lowers the risk of heart diseases, boosts your immune system and helps you lose weight. How’s that for a regular vegetable oil?