Coconut Oil: Facts, Info, And Tips For Picking The Right Kind

Hey everybody! One thing that I have really grown to love over the past couple of years is Coconut Oil. What started out as an interest in something used strictly for cooking/baking/eating, it has quickly grown into an all-out love affair. I have done quite a bit of researching and reading up on almost every aspect of this product, so today I thought I would share with you some of the most useful information I've come across regarding Coconut Oil. I'll also include what brands/types I use and how I use them. 
We will start off pretty basic. Coconut Oil is oil from a coconut (obviously). You would think that would basically be it, right? Well, not so much. If you've ever set out on a mission to buy a bottle, then you know there are NUMEROUS varieties and picking the right one can be, well, somewhat of a challenge. Words like....refined, unrefined, naturally refined, fresh pressed, first pressed, expeller pressed, cold pressed, virgin, extra virgin, raw, whole kernel, etc. seem to go on endlessly. What do all of these things mean? Well, I'm getting ready to tell you. Keep in mind, I'm no expert. These are just things I've learned along the way in my Coconut Oil journey. 
 We probably need to start off with why Coconut Oil is so great. Without being too technical, I'm gonna briefly talk about it's chemical makeup and how the body benefits from it. Coconut Oil is full of wonderful fatty acids and polyphenols (antioxidants) that our body loves. But to fully understand what that statement means, you first have to understand what 'fatty acids' actually are. Fatty acids are the components, or what makes up, the fats in our bodies and the foods we eat. When we eat, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids and then they are absorbed in the blood and used for fuel and energy storage. There are good and bad fats/fatty acids. Coconut Oil contains very little polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It is mainly made up of medium-length saturated fatty acid chains (MCT's). This type of fatty acid is extremely healthy and actually improves blood cholesterol by increasing the ratio of HDL to LDL (good and bad cholesterols). Coconut Oil is known to be soothing to the hair/skin/nails, and also to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Fun fact: Ever wonder why Coconut Oil is a solid at room temperature? It's because of it's chemical makeup. When fats contain so many fatty acids, they are often solid instead of a liquid. Next up, how Coconut Oil is made and why it's important.
 The method used to extract the oil from coconuts is vitally important in the quality of the oil. 
  •   Fresh Pressed - this refers to oils that are made from the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut without the addition of any chemicals. 
  • First Pressed - this just means that the fruit was crushed exactly one time. 
  • Virgin - Unrefined, pure coconut oil. Virgin and Extra Virgin coconut oils are the same. They are made from first pressing of fresh, raw coconuts without any chemicals. 
  • Expeller Pressed - this is a mechanical, chemical-free process that extracts oil from nuts/seeds/fruit. No external heat is used, but the harder the nut/seed/fruit the more pressure is required to extract the oil, which creates higher friction resulting in higher heat. Temperatures can reach up to 200 degrees F.
  •     Cold Pressed - the oils are expeller pressed in a heat controlled environment. Temperatures do not exceed 120 degrees F. This is useful in delicate oils to preserve their flavor (like olive oil). 
Refined vs. Unrefined. This is probably the biggest defining factor in Coconut Oils.
  •    Unrefined Oil - this is the least processed, highest quality oil you can get. The oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat and there is no bleaching or additives/chemicals used in the process. There is a 'Quick Drying' process where the coconut meat is promptly dried and the oil is mechanically expressed. The oil is not exposed to any high heat, so it keeps it's luscious coconut flavor and scent. This oil is great for skin and hair care due to it's pure properties and lack of chemicals.
  •   Refined Oil - This is oil that has been cleaned, bleached, and deodorized. The process for this usually involves high heat to deodorize, then Sodium Hydroxide is added to preserve it, then chemical solvents are used to extract the most oil from the meat of the coconut. Usually the oils are partially hydrogenated as well, adding ugly trans fats that are terrible for you. Sometimes this oil is made from dried coconut or from rancid oil byproducts left over from making dry coconut flakes. (Refined oils are good for cooking because they are tasteless and odorless and have higher cooking temperatures before they smoke). I know all of this doesn't sound too good, does it? Well, not all 'refined' oils are bad. 
  • Naturally Refined - this type of oil has been cleaned using a natural chemical-free process. Although some of the health benefits are lost in the process, lots are kept (fatty acids, etc). 
 Whew. A lot of info, huh. Well, it gets easier as you go. I want to show you the two Coconut Oils I have and use. Both are organic, one is refined and the other is unrefined. BOTH are great quality.


Spectrum Organic Coconut Oil is what I use for baking/cooking, as it is tasteless and odorless.  Details: organic, naturally refined, expeller pressed, non-hydrogenated.

Dr. Bronner's Organic Coconut Oil is what I use for skin and hair care. Details: organic, fresh pressed, virgin, whole kernel, unrefined, non-hydrogenated.  Because of it's purity and how it is made, this oil has retained it's yummy coconut flavor and scent.  Note* The scent is not like something you go out and buy at BBW or something.  Just a light, natural, coconut aroma.

There are some differences in these oils. The Dr. Bronner's unrefined one is a bright white at room temperature (solid) and the Spectrum one is a light off white. 

Dr. Bronner's melts more evenly and easily. When you take a dab of this and rub it on your skin, it melts immediately and rubs right in. The Spectrum one, however, acts like it's going to melt immediately, but it leaves these little beads of hard oil that take forever to melt.

Where to get them....I got the Dr. Bronner's Coconut Oil from Vitacost for around $11.  That's what makes Vitacost so great, they have such high quality products for very little $.  I found the Spectrum Coconut Oil at my local grocery store, but it is also available from Vitacost for around $7.  Both really good quality and both really affordable.  And when you are using these, it takes so very little for what you need.  They last FOREVER.  Definitely a wise investment.

Overall, I love both of these oils.  While I prefer them for different purposes, you could use them both for any purpose.  They are both good quality and I highly recommend them.  Hopefully you learned a thing or two from this.  Let me know your favorite brands and how you use them!
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