Most of us find it difficult to differentiate between various verities of coconut oil. Many people end up believing that raw and virgin coconut oil are the same.
The different verities of coconut oils come from the types of manufacturing processes used to make the oil.
Virgin coconut oil is recommended by nutritionists as best for health. It is known for its taste, medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), antioxidants and vitamins.
The common labels of coconut oils available in the stores are refined and unrefined. Most companies are just using marketing gimmick and try to sell their mediocre oil labeled as virgin coconut oil (VCO) or extra virgin coconut oil (EVCO).
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil, depending on its method of extraction, can be exposed to heat or not.
Virgin coconut oil is extracted from coconuts without using heat. It is pure, raw, and organic. However, not all raw coconut oil is virgin.
Unrefined coconut oil is usually called pure coconut oil or virgin.
The quality of raw coconut oil depends on the quality of coconut kernel, method of extraction and preservation.
These days raw and pure coconut oil has gained a lot of popularity because of its several health benefits.
How is Virgin Coconut Oil extracted?
Unrefined coconut oil is typically labeled “virgin” or “extra-virgin”.
Commonly used coconut oil is extracted by cold compression or cold milling of copra, the dried coconut kernels.
VCO is extracted from coconut milk obtained from fresh kernels of the coconut. This extraction process involves fermentation, churning, cooling, and enzyme activity. From the fermented coconut milk, the oil is separated from water or moisture.
Boling the fresh coconut oil at a moderate temperature is the easiest way to get rid of water and moisture. But heating the oil may change its organic composition, color, and taste. Such oil is not virgin oil.
Authentic VCO is made without using heat while separating oil from the coconut milk. Most of the manufacturers use the cold compression (micro-expelling) method to extract oil from raw coconut kernel. The cold compression method is better than the fermentation method. Because the oil produced through the fermentation method retains some amount of moisture content that can make the oil rancid faster.
Difference between Virgin and Regular Coconut Oil
Regular coconut oil is made by pressing copra. Most manufacturers then refine bleach and deodorize the oil to make it suitable for consumption and healthcare.
Virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut milk/kernel and is left unrefined.
The Virgin coconut oil looks like clear water and has thicker consistency because of certain particles, colloidal and moist within it.
Regular coconut oil is refined and contains mainly fatty acids. It is yellowish if not bleached.
The smell and taste of VCO are superior because of its freshness and very low exposure to heat and sunlight. It has all-natural goodness of the coconut. VCO contains no preservatives or bleaching substances, unlike the regular refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil contains a higher amount of minerals, Vitamin E and medium-chain fatty acids.
Ordinary coconut oil loses some amount of nutrients during the process of refining, heating, filtration, and bleaching. The color and consistency of the oil regular coconut oil are different from pure coconut oil.
VCO has more vitamins, minerals, polyphenols than the refined coconut oil.
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Key Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil
VCO has excellent health benefits as the goodness of this oil is not lost in the natural extraction process of the oil. It is extracted from fresh coconut kernel without applying heat and contains no added chemicals in it.
It is rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and medium-chain fatty acids that are naturally present in the coconut kernel.
Perhaps, it is the best cooking oil because of the healthy fats contained in it. Also, it gives excellent taste and fragrance to foods.
The VCO can last for several years compared to refined coconut oil that lasts only about 18 months. As a general rule, coconut oil made by a wet-milling process takes longer to expire.
Virgin coconut oil is also well known for its health benefits like:
- The fatty acids in it have potent medicinal properties
- Aids in weight loss by reducing excess fat, especially the abdominal fat
- Helps to kill harmful microorganisms
- Fatty acids from it may reduce seizures
- Lowers LDL and raises good HDL cholesterol
- Beneficial for skin, hair and dental health
- Improves brain function in Alzheimer’s patients
What is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?
You will find a lot of companies merchandizing coconut oil with the label ‘Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.’ It is quite confusing for all.
According to the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), “virgin coconut oil is obtained from the fresh and mature kernel of coconuts by mechanical or natural means with or without the application of heat, which does not lead to an alteration of the oil.”
In the term ‘extra virgin coconut oil’ the word ‘extra’ is indeed extra. There is no such product does exist. VCO is simply labeled and sold as “extra virgin” as a marketing gimmick. It is just a mimicking of ‘extra virgin olive oil’.
In fact, you will not find USDA recognized grade of extra virgin coconut oil.
In other words, EVCO/VCO is the oil extracted fresh coconut kernel without heat and chemical treatment. It is not refined and contains no preservative and added flavor.
Virgin Coconut Oil Price
The price of virgin coconut oil varies in different countries. Virgin coconut oil costs much more than the regular coconut oil because of the special manufacturing process involved. Prices can also vary according to sourcing country, quality, and quantity (bulk and retail).
Coconut is commercially cultivated in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, and Brazil. VCO is cheaper in these countries.
In the USA and Canada VCO costs about $10 for 16 fl.oz.
The Bottom Line
Coconut oils come in different qualities according to the mode of extracting the oil. Virgin coconut oil has the following characteristics:
- Unrefined (not refined, bleached or deodorized or flavored)
- Expeller pressed without applying heat
- Extracted from fresh or dried coconut meat instead of copra
- Antioxidant nutrition is retained as in fresh coconut
- Made either cold-pressed or separated from coconut milk
- Contains healthy medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid
- Superior flavor and scent
- 76-degree melt point