Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: Understanding the Differences

Coconut oil, derived from the coconut palm seed, has a wide variety of uses, from cooking to cosmetics and medicines. It can be obtained in two forms: refined or unrefined. Both types have health benefits, but there are some key differences between them.

Key Takeaways

  • Unrefined coconut oil, also called virgin or extra virgin, is obtained by pressing the flesh of fresh coconut fruit and retains its natural flavor and aroma.
  • Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut fruit, called copra, and may undergo bleaching, deodorization, and the addition of chemicals to increase shelf life.
  • Unrefined coconut oil has more phytonutrients and antioxidants than refined oil, while refined oil may contain trans-fats that can increase bad cholesterol levels.

Unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin or extra virgin, is made by extracting oil from the fresh coconut fruit’s flesh. No chemicals or preservatives are added, and it is not bleached or deodorized. It is made through either quick drying or wet milling processes. Quick drying involves drying the coconut flesh and then pressing it to extract the oil, while wet milling involves boiling and fermenting the fresh meat to separate the oil from the coconut milk. Both techniques retain the oil’s natural flavor and aroma.

Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is made from dried coconut fruit, which is called copra. The drying process can introduce impurities, which are removed using bleaching agents. The oil is then deodorized to remove its distinct aroma, resulting in a more bland and refined version. Sodium hydroxide is added to increase shelf life, and some companies may add chemicals to extract more oil, resulting in the presence of trans-fats. These fats are known to increase bad cholesterol levels in the body.

The main differences between refined and unrefined coconut oil are:

  • Refined oil is made from dried coconut fruit, while unrefined oil is made from fresh coconut flesh.
  • Unrefined oil has a distinct aroma and flavor, which is lost during refining.
  • Refined oil can withstand high temperatures without reaching its smoke point, making it more suitable for cooking.
  • Refined oil may contain trans-fats due to the addition of chemicals, while unrefined oil does not.
  • Unrefined oil contains more phytonutrients and antioxidants than refined oil.

When choosing between refined and unrefined coconut oil, consider your intended use and personal preferences. If you prefer a more flavorful and aromatic oil, opt for unrefined. If you plan to use the oil for cooking at high temperatures, refined oil may be a better choice. However, be cautious of refined oils containing added chemicals, as they can negatively impact your health.

Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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