Coconut oil is no longer just a fad—it’s a full on national obsession. You can’t get within 10 feet of the Internet before you stumble across another article extolling its many virtues: It’s delicious, it makes killer baked goods, it may have some health benefits, and it even doubles as an all around beauty product.
But coconut oil’s explosion in popularity has come with one major downside: Now grocery store shelves are packed with countless varieties of the stuff, all bearing a confusing carousel of label claims. So which type should you buy for max nutrition and taste? We’ve got you covered.
Coconut oil is definitely one of the healthiest oils on the planet, with a myriad of health benefits and uses. Over 1,500 studies have confirmed its miraculous medicinal properties, which are mostly due to its unique content.
It contains healthy fats known as medium-chain fatty acids, which have lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid.
It is primarily a natural, healthy and highly beneficial solution for many health issues. However, not all sorts of coconut oil are made in the same way. There are two main types of coconut oils: virgin and refined.
How are they made?
- Virgin coconut oil. It is made out of fresh coconut meat which is scooped out of the shell and then is pressed. This meat leaves behind the coconut oil. It is completely natural and has a pure flavor.
- Refined Coconut oil. It is made out of dried coconut meat. The neutral flavor is achieved by steam refine of the oil. Be careful because some producers add some harmful chemicals to produce this type of oil.
There are three basic types of fatty acids—short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain. Long-chain fatty acids have more carbon atoms, which means they require higher temperatures to melt. Fats that are solid at room temperature have longer chain lengths—thus, coconut oil.
One of the fatty acids that’s mostly removed in fractionation is lauric acid—a type of “healthy” saturated fat found in high quantities in coconut and palm kernel oils. It’s a great fat to have in skin care because it’s so moisturizing and cleansing.
Once the lauric acid and other long-chain fatty acids are gone, you’re still left with a lot of good stuff, including medium chain fatty acids like capric, caprylic, myristic and palmitic, all of which retain their super-moisturizing capabilities. You also still have the natural antioxidants, which protect from environmental stressors, and nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, which help maintain a tighter, firmer look.
Whenever possible, buy coconut oil that’s labeled as “unrefined,” “extra virgin,” and/or “cold pressed,” but avoid coconut oil that’s labeled as “deodorized.” Sticking to these guidelines ensures that you’ll get oil subjected to the least amount of processing. Unrefined coconut oil, also called extra virgin, is extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without the use of chemicals or high temperatures. This means it retains some nutrients that act as antioxidants.