How Healthy Exactly is Coconut Oil

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Virgin or Extra Virgin (interchangeable terms): If using a “dry” method, the fresh coconut meat of mature coconuts is dried quickly with a small amount of heat, and then pressed with a machine to remove the oil. If using a “wet” method, a machine presses fresh coconut meat to yield milk and oil. The milk is separated from the oil by fermentation, enzymes, or centrifuge machines. The resulting oil has a smoke point of about 350 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which can be used for quick sautéing or baking but is not appropriate for very high heat such as deep-frying. You may also see the following terms on labels of coconut oil:

  • Expeller-pressed—A machine presses the oil from coconut flesh, often with the use of steam or heat.
  • Cold-pressed—The oil is pressed without use of heat. The temperature remains below 120 degrees F; this is believed to help retain more nutrients.
  • Refined: The copra is machine-pressed to release the oil. The oil is then steamed or heated to deodorize the oil and “bleached” by filtering through clays to remove impurities and any remaining bacteria. Sometimes chemical solvents such as hexane may be used to extract oil from the copra. The resulting oil has a higher smoke point at about 400-450 degrees F, and is flavorless and odorless.
  • Partially Hydrogenated: The small amount of unsaturated fats in coconut oil is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to extend shelf life and help maintain its solid texture in warm temperatures. This process creates trans fats, which should be avoided.

Store coconut oil in a cool dark location in a sealed container or in the refrigerator. The shelf life will vary, depending on the type of processing and how it is stored. Refined coconut oil generally lasts for a few months, whereas virgin coconut oil may last for 2-3 years if stored properly away from heat and light. Signs of spoilage include mold, a yellow tint, or “off” odors or flavors.

Make

Coconut oil has a melting point of 78 degrees F. If the oil liquefies on a very warm day, stir well before using.

When substituting coconut oil for butter or vegetable shortening, use 25% less coconut oil than the amount of butter listed in the recipe due to its higher percentage of fat solids. Use refined coconut oil if you do not want a coconut flavor.
Sauté vegetables in one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil to vary the flavor.
Add a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil to sauces and curries to enhance flavor.

Did you know?

The Philippines is the greatest worldwide producer of coconut oil. Indonesia and India are the next largest producers. The Philippines, European Union, United States, and India are the greatest consumers of coconut oil.

Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer for skin and hair. Using a small amount, gently massage directly into skin. For dry or frizzy hair, apply a small amount to the hair shaft and leave in for desired time (a few minutes to overnight), and then wash out.

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