Stop the Confusion - The Different Types of Coconut Oil Explained
Coconut oil is insanely popular right now and wherever you look, it seems that there’s a blog, magazine or health store that’s preaching its benefits. People use this stuff for everything, from cooking, to moisturizing, to shaving… even going as far as to use it as shampoo!
So with all this hype and excitement, you might be considering jumping on the bandwagon yourself and getting involved with coconut oil, which is great! But before you get too carried away, you first need to spend a moment coming to grips to all the different types of coconut oil
If you head out looking for coconut oil and don’t take the time to do your research, then you may find that you end up confused while at the store as you try and work out which product is right for you. Worse, you may end up buying the wrong thing and being unable to use it in the way that you had intended! So let’s take a closer look at all the types of coconut oil and see what the different kinds of coconut oil are and how they work.
Storage and Appearance
You can categorize coconut oil in a few different ways, which only makes things even more complicated. To re-simplify then, let’s start with the most straightforward and obvious way that coconut oils vary – the way they look! And as you will see, this is closely linked to the way that it is stored and how you are going to use it. This section will look at what different appearances mean for coconut oil, as well as how you should store it once you have made a purchase.
Coconut oil is liquid whenever it is above 75 degrees F. Below that, it will become a solid fat. When solid, coconut oil is thick and creamy and may be lumpy in parts. When liquid though, coconut oil is often cloudy and easy to pour. If you want to change the state of the coconut oil you have bought, then you can simply heat it or cool it and the good news is that it can be stored either way. Coconut oil does not need to be refrigerated if you are happy to consume it in its liquid form, but it shouldn’t be kept in direct sunlight.
Another good thing regarding the versatility of coconut oil is that it can be kept for two or even more years - this is longer than any other oil.
One thing to be aware of, is that you shouldn’t cook oil past its smoke point. At this stage, it will start to turn dark yellow and that’s a sign that it’s done and you should discard it.
Labeling to Consider
So you can buy coconut oil as a solid or liquid, as long as it isn’t yellowing…
What else is there to know about the types of coconut oil?
Organic or Non Organic
One thing to consider is whether you want organic or non-organic coconut oil. To make sure it is truly organic, look for the ‘USDA Organic’ label. This means that the coconuts were grown without the use of pesticides and while this is a topic that is open to some debate, many people feel that this type of oil will be more nutritious and less harmful.
Refined or Unrefined
Another consideration is whether you want refined or unrefined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil has had more processing than unrefined oil. Refining removes a lot of the flavor of the oil and will give it a higher smoke point, which essentially means that you’re likely to want to use this primarily for cooking. Another consideration in this regard though is also how the oil has been refined. If you are buying refined coconut oil, then it is very important to ensure that it has been refined using friction, heat or gravity… anything so long as it hasn’t been refined with chemicals.
Virgin vs. Extra Virgin
This is an expression that you might usually associate with olive oil. Interestingly, it is also used in a lot of coconut oil packaging, which is odd considering there’s no difference! Use either.
Several Interesting Types of Coconut Oil
As well as defining coconut oils by their types, it’s also possible to find coconut oils with particular names that will often boast specific advantages and features. Here are some other kinds of coconut oils you may run into:
Centrifuge Extracted Coconut Oil
This is a type of coconut oil that has been made by using centrifugal force to separate the oil from the pressed coconut milk. This is a ‘raw’ form of coconut oil that is particularly nutritious and that some people enjoy to eat directly off the spoon. It’s also more expensive than other forms.
Cold pressed coconut oil is made from coconut flakes that have been dried at a low temperature. This is stronger in flavor compared with other types and is another slightly more fancy and expensive form.
This is a ‘mechanical extraction process’ that doesn’t use solvent extracts or chemicals. It has a milder taste and a higher smoke point, once again making it a good choice for cooking.
Some Other Considerations
If you became interested in coconut oil thanks to health blogs and ‘biohackers’ that report its benefits for energy levels and brain power, then you might decide to skip the nutrition and flavor of ‘real’ coconut oil and to instead go straight for the most potent active part – called MCT oil. MCT oil is ‘Medium Chain Triglyceride’ oil, which in turn is a particular type of fat that will stimulate the body to produce more ketones. This can be useful for giving you a surge of energy without risking fat storage and it can also help improve brain function.
Then of course you also have all the other ways to eat coconut: coconut milk, coconut water and… coconut! Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and each will be best for different specific circumstances.
The best way to find what works best for your diet, your tastes and your intended health benefits is simply to do your research and try a few!