Choosing the Best Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is fast becoming a favorite oil among health enthusiasts. It’s loaded with the best kinds of saturated fat and metabolism-enhancing medium chain tryglycerides, tastes delicious either on its own or added to other foods, and holds up well under higher temperatures in cooking.

Shopping for coconut oil can be confusing, however. Refined or unrefined? Virgin, extra virgin, expeller-pressed… Yikes! How to choose?

Following are a few guidelines that may be helpful.

Refined vs. Unrefined

Basically, refined coconut oil, while not as beneficial health-wise as a virgin, completely raw coconut oil, is still a good source of many of the healthy fatty acids. The advantage to using a refined oil is that it has a higher smoke point, meaning it’s good for cooking at higher temperatures. Most of the coconut oils you will find on the shelf of your local grocery store will be refined, unless the label says otherwise. Unfortunately, the refining process used for the majority of coconut oil involves a distillation process that uses chemicals, and some are even hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenating creates synthetic trans-fats, transforming this healthy oil into a very unhealthy one that should definitely be avoided.

If you want to use a refined oil and are have trouble finding a non-hydrogenated one, there are several online sources. Here is a link to one.

Cold-Pressed, Expeller-Pressed, and Centrifuged

These terms refer to how the oil is extracted from the dry or fresh coconut. Any of these methods will produce good tasting, heathy oil.

Keep in mind that “cold-pressed” doesn’t necessarily mean “raw”, unless it is labeled as such. In fact, these oils are sometimes heated up to 200°. While this is not a high enough temperature to damage the oil or cause it to become rancid, it will intensify the coconut flavor of the oil. This may be fine in baking or smoothies, but probably not ideal for vegetables or frying. Centrifuged oil, on the other hand, will taste more mild since it has not been exposed to as much heat.

If you have trouble finding expeller-pressed or centrifuged coconut oil, the above link or this link may be helpful.


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