How to Choose the Best Coconut Oil (and What I Use)
Coconut oil has become a hot trend in recent years. It’s a superfood! It’s a natural beauty essential! It’s the most amazing thing since coffee! (OK, maybe not, but it comes close!)
So how do we even know where to begin? Which companies are good? Do you buy virgin, refined, unrefined, or fractionated? How do you decide which coconut oil is best for you?
Let me say this first: there is no cure-all or magic food that will transform your health, but that an overall whole food lifestyle is the key to optimal health. So while choosing the right coconut oil for you is important, don’t confuse that single choice with a magic pill to weight loss or a healthy diet.
There are umpteen blog posts out there listing 25 or even 100 ways to use coconut oil and believe me, I’m a coconut oil fanatic myself and use it in more ways than I can count using all of my fingers and toes, but did you know that not all coconut oil is rated for healthy consumption?
Learning about Coconut Oil
Lets take a look at coconut oil, see where it comes from and what refined, unrefined, virgin, and fractionated mean so you can choose which oil suits your needs best.
Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil has no coconut taste or aroma.
“Refined, bleached, and deodorized” (RBD) oil is used for home cooking, commercial food processing, and cosmetic, industrial, and pharmaceutical purposes.
It oil is usually made from copra, dried coconut kernel, which is placed in a hydraulic press with added heat, and this is how the oil is extracted. This yields practically all the oil present, amounting to more than 60% of the dry weight of the coconut. This “crude” coconut oil is not suitable for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with further heating and filtering. [source]
Fractionated coconut oil provides fractions of the whole oil so that its different fatty acids can be separated for specific uses. Lauric acid, a 12-carbon chain fatty acid, is often removed because of its high value for industrial and medical purposes.
The fractionation of coconut oil can also be used to isolate caprylic acid and capric acid, which are medium-chain triglycerides. These are used for medical applications, special diets, and cosmetics. You’ll sometimes also find them being used as a carrier oil for fragrances and essential oils.
Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is obtained from fresh, mature coconut kernels through means that do not lead to alteration of the oil.
Refined vs. Unrefined
Refined oils are cheaper and have no flavor or even smell of coconut, the coconuts have been dried.
Unrefined oil is sometimes labeled as virgin or even extra virgin. Depending on the freshness and quality of the coconuts, the oil will have a slight taste. Processing also affects the taste and aroma. For the most nutritional benefits, choose a coconut oil or any food product that has had the most minimal of processing or is raw.
How Your Oil is Processed Matters
Oils are not naturally found on their own; they must be removed from the plant.
Expeller pressed is a mechanical method of processing nuts and seeds with high pressure and heat, and is usually for refined oils.
Cold pressed is a method where manufacturers keep the temperature below 120 degrees. Beware! This is an area where you need to research the brand you use to make sure they are adhering to standards and not skating around them.
Direct micro expelling (DME) is where local growers process the coconuts on the spot by manual pressing.
Good, high quality companies:
- pay attention to the laws and requirements of cold-pressing
- use fresh coconuts
- have a fast turnaround from picking to processing and selling
- practice Fair Trade
- practice transparency…here’s where good stories come in!
Note: coconuts are not GMO and they are not high on pesticide use so organic may not be necessary on your list of priorities.
It’s more important to me that my coconut oil is Fair Trade certified, ensuring that the farmers who grow the coconuts are earning a fair wage and are treated well by the manufacturing company that I am supporting.
I choose to purchase as many products as I can in glass containers and my coconut oil is one of them. With so many products in plastic and the amount of toxins that we are exposed to…if you are choosing a coconut oil that has been processed through heating, be sure it comes in a glass jar to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.
Some of the brands of coconut oil I’ve found to be great on most of these levels:
Nutiva Coconut Oil, which you can find in a number of places.
Tropical Traditions specializes in coconut oil, and if you’ve been around here for long, you know that our founder Stephanie was a big fan of theirs (I am too!).
Dr. Bronners sells coconut oil in addition to the castile soaps you may know them for.
Skinny & Co. is actually my top pick…and I’ll tell you why!
Why Skinny is My First Pick for Coconut Oil
You know I am a sucker for a story and when I discovered that this company, which I found literally in my own front yard!, was changing the world, I knew I had to learn more.
“Together with Kim in Vietnam, Luke and Matt formed a company to bring healthy foods to America while giving back to the people of Vietnam.
We believe in the power of a tight-knit community. From our direct trade coconut oil to our team members and partners, we are building a community centered on high quality products with a higher purpose”
When choosing a good coconut oil for you and your family be sure to research the company and weigh the pros and cons depending on your needs and your priorities. This is true for any product you use. Be responsible to yourself and the planet.
The Skinny Coconut Oil Process
Skinny uses a process of heating at less than 100 degrees:
“Our Nutralock System™ crafts the ONLY raw & alkaline coconut oil on the market today! This internationally exclusive extraction uses no heat to extract, rather cooling the coconut to release the oil (yes that’s right ZERO heat!)”.
Skinny is the closest you can get to a raw coconut. Just open the jar, and find out why so many people are making Skinny their coconut oil!
“Our coconuts are WILD HARVESTED –meaning not plantation grown-from the jungles of Vietnam. The coconuts are hand-picked and transported directly to our plant; a controlled environment ensuring quality. Once cracked open, the coconut meat is put into the closed-loop, dehumidifying Nutralock System™. This extracts the moisture without heat, leaving all of the raw nutrients of the coconut intact.”
What difference does alkalinity make? Here’s a graphic from their website to show you:
Did you know?
If you have hard water from a well like me, take note that soaps made with coconut oil are more soluble in hard water and salt water than other soaps, allowing them to lather more easily. My favorite shampoo is a hard bar shampoo made with only coconut oil and essential oils.
A repellent made from coconut oil may be effective to prevent sand fleas from penetrating the skin.