Refined Vs Unrefined Coconut Oil: Which One Should You Use?

In recent years, coconut is being featured in every aspect of our life such as while cooking, baking vegan goods, shampoos, conditioners, etc. Apart from giving benefits to the outer body, it also helps in cleansing the inner body too. If you are thinking of using coconut oil, you might as well know that it comes in both refined and unrefined forms. 

In this article, we are going to know about the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil. How are they made and how it can be used?

How is unrefined coconut oil made?

Unrefined coconut is also known as virgin or pure coconut oil. It carries the tropical coconut flavor and aroma since the coconut flesh does not go through any chemical process. The fresh coconut flesh is pressed without involving any sort of heat. This oil can be used in those recipes which can handle the prominent flavor. 

Refined Coconut Oil

The smoke point of unrefined coconut oil or point at which the oil imparts smoke is 177 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit. 

Two methods of extracting unrefined coconut oil: 

The dry method

This method uses a machine with customizable pressure. The dried coconuts are inserted into the machine which presses the product until all the oil has been extracted. The pressure produced by the machine involves no heat.

The wet method

This method involves pressing fresh coconut flesh or meat only. So, the products achieved are both coconut milk and coconut oil. Later, the coconut oil is separated from the milk in a precise manner. Most of the time this wet method is used while extracting unrefined coconut oil. 

How is refined coconut oil made?

The process of making refined coconut oil involves heat. This oil has no particular coconut taste and aroma so, it is considered neutral. The coconut flesh is filtered and dried before being pressed into oil or cooked under mild heat until the oil comes out. 

Refined Coconut Oil

The smoke point of refined coconut oil or the point at which the oil imparts smoke is 204 to 232 Celsius or 400 to 450 Fahrenheit. Due to this property, it is well suited for cooking at high temperatures. 

Methods of extracting refined coconut oil:

Pressing the copra

The process begins by pressing the copra of the coconut to extract crude coconut oil from it. 

Degumming

This process is named after a degumming agent that is added to the crude coconut oil in order to remove the gums. It is important to remove the gum as it can alter the texture and the quality of the coconut oil. The oil is then washed in water to be completely separated from the gum. 

Neutralizing 

After the washing process is finished, the next element that is added to the oil is sodium hydroxide. The sodium hydroxide when mixed forms a soapy consistency with the free fatty acids in the oil. 

In the next step, the soapy oil is added to the water. The water then washes away all the soap and the free fatty acids. This process decreases the risk of rancidity. Rancidity is the situation during which the free fatty acids tend to get oxidized. 

Bleaching 

This process does not involve any kind of bleach. The oil next goes the step of filtration that involves going through an activated clay filter. 

Deodorizing 

The last step of extracting refined coconut oil involves the removal of the remaining coconut taste or scent. To achieve this, the oil is heat-deodorized.

The oil is passed through some stripping agent, for instance, steam at a temperature greater than 200 Celsius and under a high vacuum. All the odoriferous compounds are removed in this whole event. 

The nutritional difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil

Both the oils involve the same energy, that is 120 calories per tablespoon or 14 grams. Though they might differ in nutritional values. Refined coconut oil might carry a lesser amount of health sources as compared to unrefined ones.

The refined one loses some qualities because of going through so many steps before being ready to be used. Refined vs unrefined coconut oil, both types of coconut oils contain similar amounts of MCTs, saturated and unsaturated fats as well as lauric acid. 

When to use refined and unrefined coconut oil?

Hair and skincare

Using unrefined coconut oil will be more beneficial as it has more properties as compared to refined ones. During the process of extracting refined coconut oil, it losing some of its qualities while going through different various steps. Thus, it might not be gentle on the skin and hair.

Refined Coconut Oil

But on the other side, unrefined coconut oil might leave a distinct smell on the hair or skin. To avoid this, you can go for refined coconut oil. 

Cooking 

While cooking, you need oil which has a high smoke point. So, in this case, refined coconut oil is suitable. It enables the cooking to be carried out at a higher temperature, such as sauteing and stir-frying. This also prevents food from burning. 

Virgin coconut oil can be good for cooking too. But you are required to switch to a lower temperature and cook for a longer period. 

Baking

As we know by now that unrefined coconut oil has a sharp coconut smell. So, if you are baking coconut-flavored foods, then incorporating unrefined coconut oil is considered to be well and good. But if not, it will be wise to go for refined coconut oil. 

Refined or unrefined, either type of coconut oil makes an amazing alternative for vegan and healthy baking. 

Benefits of coconut oil 

Below are given the various benefits one will get by making use of coconut oil: 

Refined Coconut Oil
  • Lowers the level of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body.
  • Controls the blood sugar level, hence decreasing the risk of heart-related diseases. 
  • Gives natural shine to the hair as well as makes it stronger from the roots. 
  • Massaging coconut oil on the skin helps in getting rid of acne scars

The bottom line

Coconut oil is such a good fat that provides us with essential nutrients. Though it is better than most of the refined oils available in the market, make sure you use it in moderation. Because an excess of anything might be harmful to health.  

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