Is Your Coconut Oil Extracted with Toxic Chemicals? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Sep 12 | BY |
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Is virgin or “pure” coconut oil better than regular?

Coconut oil has experienced a resurgence lately, as scientific research has revealed that its unique fatty acids are beneficial to health. The ingredient was actually once considered bad for us because of the fat content. But now researchers have discovered that the fatty acids in coconut oil are different than those we find in meat, milk and eggs, and act differently in the body.

From making hair more healthy and lustrous to supporting the development of healthy bones and teeth to possibly helping to fight heart disease, coconut oil has been found to have so-called “medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs)” as opposed to the long-chain fatty acids we normally find in foods with fats. In fact, MCFAs are suspected of helping to lower the risk of atherosclerosis and help potentially control blood sugar levels.

If you’ve added coconut oil to your diet, you may wonder about quality. Is what you’re buying processed with potentially toxic chemicals?

Two Basic Types
At the most basic level, we have two types of processing for coconut oil.

Refined: This is the most common type of coconut oil. The kernel (meat) of the coconut, called “copra,” is dried by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying, or a combination of these. During this drying process, the meat may gather hazardous bacteria and pathogens, so once the oil is collected, it requires purification.

The oil is then extracted from the meat. This can be done in several ways. An oil press actually squeezes it out with pressure. The expeller method heats the coconut and puts it into a barrel where a rotating metal rod crushes it, breaking it down to separate the oil. A chemical solvent, hexane, is used to separate the coconut cake from the oil. In either case, the resulting oil is then filtered through bleaching clays to remove impurities. The final step is deodorization.

Most oils in the grocery store are refined unless they say otherwise on the label.

Unrefined: Also called “virgin” or “extra-virgin,” unrefined oil is made from pressing raw, fresh coconut rather than the dried kind. In addition, no chemicals or high heats are used during the extraction process.

A Few More Details
In addition to these two main types of refining, there are other different steps that may happen along the way. For example, unrefined or virgin coconut oil may be made by either:

  • Quick drying fresh coconut meat and then mechanically pressing it to make the oil.
  • Wet-milling. A more traditional method, wet milling means the oil is extracted from the fresh coconut meat without drying first. Coconut milk is expressed first through pressing, then the oil is separated from the water using boiling, fermentation (natural separation of the coconut oil from water using gravity), refrigeration, enzymes, or mechanical centrifuge. The oil is then filtered. This method has been used by native peoples for hundreds of years, and is reputed to produce a very high quality coconut oil that tests higher for antioxidant content.

Wet milling often uses a mechanical centrifuge to separate the oil. After the milk is extracted from the meat, the remaining coconut is placed in a high-speed mechanical centrifuge that rapidly spins the coconut.

What’s the Difference?
One of the main differences people notice between refined and unrefined coconut oil is that refined has practically no scent or taste. Because of the deodorization and bleaching processes, it may be hygienic, but has no flavor. Some people actually prefer this in cooking, as the coconut flavor won’t affect the recipe. It also has a higher “smoke” point, which means that you can heat it to higher temperatures before getting the smoke.

Pure or unrefined coconut oil, on the other hand, can have a mild to intense scent and flavor. In general, the more heat that was used, the more flavor. A truly raw, unrefined virgin coconut oil will have a mild coconut flavor and scent.

So-called “cold-pressed” coconut oil, which simply means the oil is pressed from the meat at low temperatures, is claimed by some to have more nutrients, particularly enzymes, as these can be destroyed by heating. Others claim both oils—refined and unrefined—have similar nutritional value.

What you need the coconut oil for will likely determine which type you get. Those more concerned about using it as an everyday cooking oil may be fine with the refined types. But most who are looking for a natural oil high in nutrients and antioxidants that has a light scent and flavor will prefer the unrefined, virgin type.

Which form of processing do you prefer and why?

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Teadye says:

    I like Dr Bronner’s coconut oil. I’ve always trusted the absolute integrity of the brand and the price is reasonable just like everything else they make. Smells heavenly too…

  2. Dana says:

    I want to be on the Coconut oil band wagon but there is so much conflicting information out there. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is against it for his cardiac patients. Is anyone aware of any peer reviewed studies done on the benefits that are not paid for by the promoters of Coconut oil? My understanding is that approximately 55% is MCT, so 45% would be artery clogging saturated fat right? I also know there are reports of using it for weight loss but my understanding is all oils are highly concentrated calories. I would appreciate if anyone could lead me to scientific proof of the benefits.

    Thanks Kevin for all your great topics, You’re awesome!!


  3. Elizabeth Williams says:

    I have been using the Wilderness Family Naturals cold pressed virgin oil. I add at least two tablesppons to my smoothies most mornings.

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