Most of us need help to differentiate between various varieties of coconut oil. Many people believe that raw and virgin coconut oil are the same.
The different varieties of coconut oil come from the manufacturing processes used to make the oil.
Nutritionists recommend virgin coconut oil as the best for health. It is known for its taste, medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), antioxidants, and vitamins.
The common labels for coconut oils available in stores are refined and unrefined. Most companies are just using marketing gimmicks and trying to sell their mediocre oil labeled as virgin coconut oil (VCO) or extra virgin coconut oil (EVCO).
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Depending on its extraction method, Coconut oil can be exposed to heat or not.
Virgin coconut oil is extracted from coconuts without heat. It is pure, raw, and organic. However, not all raw coconut oil is virgin.
“VIRGIN COCONUT OIL may be defined as the naturally processed, chemically-free, and additive-free product from fresh coconut meat or coconut milk that has not undergone any further chemical processing after extraction.”
Unrefined coconut oil is usually called “pure coconut oil” or “virgin coconut oil.”
The quality of raw coconut oil depends on the coconut kernel’s quality, extraction method, and preservation.
These days, raw and pure coconut oil has gained much popularity because of its several health benefits.
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How is Virgin Coconut Oil extracted?
Unrefined coconut oil is typically labeled “virgin” or “extra-virgin.”
The dried coconut kernels, copra, are cold-compressed or cold-milled to extract the commonly used coconut oil.
VCO is extracted from coconut milk obtained from the fresh kernels of the coconut. This extraction process involves fermentation, churning, cooling, and enzyme activity. The oil is separated from the water or moisture from the fermented coconut milk.
Boiling fresh coconut oil at a moderate temperature is the easiest way to eliminate 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 coconut milk. Most manufacturers use the cold compression (micro-expelling) method to extract oil from raw coconut kernels. The cold compression method is better than the fermentation method. Because the oil produced through the fermentation method retains some moisture content, it can go rancid faster.
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Difference between Virgin and Regular Coconut Oil
Regular coconut oil is made by pressing copra. Most manufacturers then refine and deodorize the oil to make it suitable for consumption and healthcare.
Virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut milk or kernels and left unrefined.
The Virgin coconut oil looks like clear water and has a thicker consistency because of certain colloidal and moist particles 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 their freshness and very low exposure to heat and sunlight. It has the all-natural goodness of coconut. VCO contains no preservatives or bleaching substances, unlike regular refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil contains more minerals, vitamin E, and medium-chain fatty acids.
Ordinary coconut oil loses some nutrients during refining, heating, filtration, and bleaching. Regular coconut oil’s color and consistency differ from pure coconut oil.
VCO has more vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols than 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. It is extracted from fresh coconut kernels without applying heat and contains no added chemicals.
It is naturally rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and medium-chain fatty acids 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.
Compared to refined coconut oil, which lasts only about 18 months, the VCO can last for several years. The general rule is that wet-milled coconut oil has a longer shelf life.
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 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.
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What is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?
Many companies are merchandising coconut oil with the label ‘Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.’ It isn’t very clear to everyone.
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 that does exist. VCO is labeled and sold as an “extra virgin” as a marketing gimmick. It is just a mimic of ‘extra virgin olive oil’.
You will not find a USDA-recognized grade of extra-virgin coconut oil.
In other words, EVCO or VCO is the oil extracted from fresh coconut kernels without heat or chemical treatment. It is not refined and contains no preservatives or added flavors.
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Virgin Coconut Oil Price
The price of virgin coconut oil varies in different countries. Virgin coconut oil costs much more than 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.
VCO costs about $10 for 16 fl. oz in the USA and Canada.
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Coconut oils come in different qualities according to the mode of extraction. Virgin coconut oil has the following characteristics:
- Unrefined (not refined, bleached, 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
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- Fabian M. Dayrit, et al., “Quality characteristics of virgin coconut oil: Comparisons with refined coconut oil,” Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 83, No. 9, pp. 1789–1799, 2011.
- Apcc Quality Standard Virgin Coconut Oil
- Laurene Boateng et al., “Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health, and national development: A review”, Ghana Medical Journal, 2016 Sep; 50(3): 189–196.
- Jon J. Kabara, et al., “Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents,” Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1972 Jul; 2(1): 23–28