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Guide to Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil

Annette McDermott
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Coconut

Unrefined organic coconut oil is a great ingredient to have in your home. Though the oil is high is saturated fat, it's considered "good fat," and the oil is not the villain of the culinary world that it was once made out to be. Instead it's fast becoming a powerhouse pantry staple for use in cooking and personal care.

What is Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil?

According to Tropical Traditions, a leading retailer of coconut oil, there are distinct differences between refined and unrefined coconut oil.

Unrefined organic coconut oil, or virgin/extra virgin coconut oil, is minimally processed without bleach or other chemicals. It remains unhydrogenated and uses fresh coconut mean as opposed to dried as a starting point. This form of oil retains the aroma and flavor of the coconut. It's the most commonly available form as well as the healthiest option.

Refined coconut oil uses dried coconut meat, called copra, as a starting ingredient. Because the copra drying process is unsanitary, the meat must undergo a rigorous sanitation process which includes bleaching, exposure to high heat, and the use of sodium hydroxide to create a long shelf life. In addition, refined coconut oil is often hydrogenated. This type of oil is unlikely to be found on store shelves in the United States but is sometimes used in the processing of candy and other foods.

Health Benefits

Unrefined coconut oil is a very healthy oil. It contains lauric acid, a type of saturated fat known as a medium-length triglyceride. According to a National Institute's of Health (PubMed) abstract, consuming fats containing lauric acid has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and doesn't seem to contribute to heart disease like other saturated fats.

In addition, lauric acid is believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. PubMed cites a study showing virgin coconut oil may be effective against Staphylococcus and some fungi that cause atoptic dermatitis.

Other studies show that coconut oil may also help with the following health concerns:

  • Alzheimer's
  • Diabetes
  • Weight Loss
  • Candida

Ways to Use

Coconut oil has an extremely long shelf life. It can be stored at room temperature for as long as a year without going rancid. This, along with its nourishing properties, makes it ideal for everyday use.

Cooking

One of the best ways to enjoy the benefits of coconut oil is to cook with it. Coconut oil can be used in place of other oils in almost any recipe including baked goods. Tropical Traditions offers a huge selection of kitchen-tested coconut oil recipes. Keep in mind that virgin coconut oil has a lower smoke point than other oils and should be used with caution with high heat.

Here are some culinary uses for coconut oil:

  • Coffee creamer
  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Use as a butter replacement in pie crusts and baked goods
  • Use instead of butter to make candies and fudge
  • Melt and pour over popcorn
  • Frosting
  • Spread for toast or muffins
  • Salad dressings
  • Use as a fry or saute oil

Skin and Beauty Care

The fatty acids in coconut oil make it idea for skin care. Use the oil sparingly, since a little bit goes a long way. Straight from the jar, you can use it in a number of creative ways.

  • A non-irritating eye make-up remover
  • Hydrating face and body moisturizer
  • Cuticle cream
  • Hair cream or dry scalp treatment
  • Lip balm
  • Diaper rash cream
  • Massage oil -- add your favorite essential oil blend for a wonderful aromatherapy experience
  • Nursing cream
  • Natural baby lotion
  • Personal lubricant
  • Shaving Cream

Side Effects

Coconut oil is considered very safe to use internally and externally. Because coconuts grow on trees, people with tree nut allergies often express concern about using coconut oil; however, coconuts do not contain tree nut proteins. The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology states that coconut allergies are extremely rare and coconut oil allergies rarer.

There is some evidence that coconut oil may cause "die-off" symptoms when used to treat Candida. Dr. Bruce Fife indicates on The Yeast Connection's website that as coconut oil kills off fungus, there is often a period of flu-like symptoms that develop. These symptoms range in severity but are usually short in duration.

Since it's possible to have an allergic reaction to any ingredient, if you develop symptoms such as hives, swelling, itching, rash, or respiratory issues after using coconut oil, discontinue use and seek medical treatment immediately. In addition, if you're allergic to tree nuts or concerned about a potential allergic reaction to coconut oil, consult your doctor before using.

Buying Organic Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil is available at your local organic food store, grocery store, or you can buy it online. Here are some high quality brands to look for:

  • Tropical Traditions: This company offers many varieties of coconut oil on their website. Their USDA certified organic oil is available from pint sizes for $19.99 to a five gallon pail for $250.00 plus shipping. They offer weekly sales and their website has a wealth of information about the benefits of coconut oil as well as recipes and tips for using.
  • Spectrum Organics: Spectrum offers organic virgin coconut oil in many grocery and natural food stores and online. Their oil is available on Amazon in 14 ounce jars for $12.49 plus shipping. Their products are available at Kroger, Walmart, Amazon, and Target.
  • Nutiva: This company sells organic unrefined coconut oil in a large variety of sizes. There oil is USDA certified organic and GMO free. A 15 ounce jar costs $15.99 plus shipping.

Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Whether you're looking to reduce the levels of artery clogging fats in your diet or you simply want to find an organic and nourishing skin care option, unrefined coconut oil can help. It's a relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to use product, and evidence is quickly stacking up to support its many health and beauty benefits.

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Guide to Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil