Unfortunately like many “health” products today, not all coconut oils are created equal and to find the best it is important to understand the processing that happens in the birth of a batch of coconut oil – because more often than not it is the processing of foods that depict their quality.
Coconut oils can be manufactured using either fresh coconut (fabulous) or copra (not so fabulous)! Copra is basically the dried kernel (meat) of the coconut and is made by: smoke drying, sun drying, kiln drying or a combination of these three.
The process begins when the dried copra is collected and bulked up before being exported by ship to a large industrial oil mill — often in Europe or Asia. With less than charming conditions that include unhygienic drying, humid tropical conditions and bulk shipping across long distances, the result is lengthy delays and the growth of moulds on the copra or worse – aflatoxin (toxic carcinogen) contamination!
This is all before the oil is even created!
Now, if standard copra is used as a starting material it would be in-consumable, as the unrefined coconut oil extracted from copra is not suitable for consumption due to the un-sanitary conditions. Ultimately the copra must be purified through a refining process leading to a host of other processes that must be administered before you can consume this “health food.”
The oil extracted from the dried copra flakes is subjected to; refining, bleaching, and deodorising (RBD).
The refining of the oil process uses chemical distillation dependent on lye (sodium hydroxide potassium hydroxide) or other harsh solvents which are designed to remove free fatty acids. This process prolongs shelf life as well as creates a higher yield (return) of oil as opposed to a natural extraction method.
High heat is used to deodorize the oil, to eliminate any taste and smell. The refined and deodorized oil is then typically filtered through (bleaching) clays to remove impurities and bring the colour back from a light brown to white.
This is the most common way to mass-produce coconut oil, which when the oil is extracted leaves behind an oil that is odourless, colourless and tasteless. This oil is sometimes partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated fractionated and even interesterified for a long shelf life.
So what does this mean…?
In short it is the process by which coconut becomes coconut oil that clarifies whether or not it is in fact a “health food” or simply a “healthier version of food.”
The key is to find a coconut oil that is naturally extracted. When shopping for a great coconut oil packed with benefits look for the following:
Oil that is non hydrogenated (this also means no partially hydrogenated oils)
Oil with nothing added to it or taken away (it is a whole natural product)
Oil that has not been fractionated or interesterified.
So after my own (long) search for an oil that I would use personally, and the ongoing frustration of not finding one, I did what I always do and sourced my own.
At Changing Habits we now have a Coconut Oil that has all the attributes I wanted. Mainly and most importantly the oil is extracted within one hour of the picking of the organic coconuts and there is NO REFINING, DEODERISING OR BLEACHING resulting in a complete, whole and natural extra virgin coconut oil with a mild flavour and aroma that is packed full of benefits:
Great for skin, nails & hair
Assists in the management & alleviation of digestive disorders
Reduces type II diabetes
In short a good quality coconut oil is packed full of benefits that will make a positive impact on your body and your health! So start oiling today just make sure it’s the right oil!
Happy Changing Habits
P.S A coconut oil that has been subjected to refining, bleaching and deoderising may be called RBD Coconut Oil or it could be called natural coconut oil because it has had no hydrogenation or interesterification processes done – BE CAREFUL!