Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil - What's the Difference?

Prevailing in the recipes of the tropical areas for ages, coconut oil has gained more and more positive attention among its users over recent decades. As more and more of its health benefits come to light, coconut oil is used as a healthier alternative to vegetable oil and butter in the kitchen and the magic cure for skin and hair. Study shows that the main advantage arises from the two third of the fatty acids and MCT (medium-chain triglycerides, more known as lauric acid) in its content, which are directly sent to the liver and immediately convert to energy, stimulating body metabolism. On the market, coconut oil exists in both unrefined and refined form. Get to know their differences will guide us to make better choices.

Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil is modified through bleaching, heating, and deodorizing to remove its distinctive odor and flavor. The refined process made it better withstand high cooking temperature. Because it is odorless, it does not alter the flavor of the main ingredient, making it excellent cooking oil. Even though with less health benefits of virgin coconut oil, it still delivers most of the beneficial fatty acids - MCTs. A majority of the coconut oil available on the market are refined unless specified otherwise on the label.

However, it is common for the seller to add sodium hydroxide to prolong the shelf life. To maximize the extraction results, some use lye or other harsh chemical solvents during the distillation process. Many coconut oils are even partially hydrogenated, which means it will contain synthetic trans-fats. We advise against consuming trans-fats to avoid raising cholesterol levels. When making a purchase, be discreet and only choose the coconut oil refined through a natural, chemical-free process.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Referred to as “virgin” or “pure”, unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh, raw coconut meat without adding any chemicals. Pressed soon right after the coconut is picked, it has a more natural touch and retains most of the compounds of coconut meat. Undergoing no bleaching process, unrefined coconut oil does not withstand high heat as well as its refined counterpart. However, unrefined coconut oil has a stronger coconut flavor and is richer in proteins, vitamins and antioxidants hence more nutrient. That’s why it is particularly popular among people who say no to artificial chemicals.

Lauric acid consumption comes wih plentiful of health benefits, to name a few, antibacterial, anticancer, and immune-boosting effects. Both refined and unrefined coconut oil has the same level of lauric acid, only that unrefined coconut oil is richer in phytonutrients. Polyphenols, acting as antioxidants in the body, are damaged by the bleaching and deodorizing process. Also, in terms of hygiene and availability, unrefined coconut oil is not as good as refined ones for it costs extra to preserve and ship. That explains why unrefined oil is relative rare and more expensive.


Which One to Choose - Refined or Unrefined Coconut Oil

When the intact coconut flavor and the most phytonutrients are desired, unrefined coconut oil is your first choice. Also, it is more often used in beauty products for its restoring properties. Use it on a regular basis to gain healthy-looking skin, add luster to hair, feel and look younger. With a smoking point as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees higher than the unrefined, refined coconut oil is more hygienic and better in cooking. 



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