Hopefully this will be helpful in understanding the various terms you see associated with coconut oil, but if you just want to know where to buy quality coconut oil, visit this organic virgin coconut oil post.
In some forums I belong to, I’ve read about the confusion and misinformation when trying to figure out the various words used to describe coconut oil: raw, unrefined, refined, expeller pressed, virgin, blah, blah, blah, and now I have a headache!
photo by Koshyk
I think I’ve figured it out, but if I messed up, please set me straight!
- Organic means that the coconuts are from areas that don’t use chemicals.
- From what I can pull together, “extra virgin” and “virgin” are the same – there are no industry standards to gauge this with. They both have to do with how many times the coconut meal (or coconut “meat”) was pressed to get the oil out. One time is called “extra virgin”, “virgin or “first pressed”. Another source said that “extra virgin” means the least amount of pressure (and therefore less heat) that is used, and “virgin” means more heat, more friction, but higher yields. I think the fact that most (all?) coconut oil comes from other countries muddies things up – we can have certain U.S. standards, or standardized terms, but it may mean different things depending on the country it comes from.
- “Raw“, “unrefined” and “refined” all have to do with how much heat is used to process the coconut oil. All coconut oils use some heat, because otherwise certain components won’t be removed that give an off taste. (And many sites noted that even in transport, the oil will be heated quite a bit.) Thankfully coconut oil isn’t harmed by heat, which is why it is a good oil to cook with. (As with all oils, it does have a smoking point that you don’t want to go over, though.) But the higher the heat, the more it is “processed”, and the less nutritional benefits you’ll receive when using it to cook with or on your skin (I love the coconut creams, lotions, etc. at this post, just scroll down.)
- Expeller pressed or mechanical pressed means no chemicals were used to remove the oil, but it was done “physically”, with a machine. The oil can be just expeller pressed, OR cold expeller pressed, which is tied in with the last point as far as the heat involved in processing. (Do you see why all this is so confusing?!)
- Refined, bleached, deodorized – this is the kind of coconut oil you can use if you don’t want a coconut taste or smell. It is still beneficial to us, but no where near as much as the unrefined. (I use it for recipes that a coconut flavor won’t “work” in.) Here is the best deals I found on the refined organic coconut oil. This is NOT “virgin coconut oil”.
If I missed anything or you have anything else to add to this information, please do so!