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Picking a product out of supermarket shelves is no easy task these days. Having a whole range of goods to choose from means consumers have more options, but it can also be confusing. Such is the case with coconut oil and virgin coconut oil – products that sound virtually the same but are actually different. So, how do they differ?
The main distinction is in the way the oil was extracted and processed.
Most of the coconut oil that you will see in the market is RBD – refined, bleached, and deodorized. Oil is pressed from dried coconut kernel known as copra. The oil is refined through heat exposure, bleached through an activated clay filter, and heat-deodorized to remove any coconut scent or taste. Sodium hydroxide is also added to remove mono fats and other free fatty acids, reducing the risk of rancidity.
This process ensures longer shelf life. But it also extracts the natural values, flavor, and antioxidants found in coconut.
Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is the least processed kind of coconut oil. This oil is obtained by cold-pressing fresh coconuts. Because there is no heat exposure, the antioxidants in coconut are retained. It doesn’t go through refining, bleaching, and deodorizing, so it’s additive-free. The slightly nutty flavor and tropical aroma of coconut also remain intact.
Both refined and virgin coconut oil contain healthy fatty acids that can encourage the body to burn fat and raise good cholesterol in your blood. This helps reduce heart disease risk. But some coconut oils are hydrogenated to extend shelf life and increase melting point. This process creates trans fat, which increases bad cholesterol. VCO does not undergo hydrogenation.
Aside from antioxidants, virgin coconut oil is also rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This type of fatty acid doesn’t need pancreatic enzymes for digestion or absorption. Instead, it goes straight to the liver and quickly gets converted into energy.
MCTs are also believed to curb hunger and increase metabolism so VCO can aid weight loss. Studies also suggest that ketones converted from MCTs help improve brain function.
About 40 to 50% of the fatty acids in VCO is lauric acid, which possesses antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. This makes VCO great for gut health, dental health, and even skincare!
Cold-pressing is also an eco-friendlier process as it does not require high temperatures and chemicals that are used in refining oils. So VCO is not just good for consumers but ultimately, good for the environment.
Here are some ways to incorporate virgin coconut oil into your lifestyle:
Keep a stash of virgin coconut oil in your pantry for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle!