Not only is coconut oil full of healthy saturated fat and metabolism-boosting medium chain triglycerides (also known as MCTs), it holds up incredibly well under high cooking temperatures. Coconut oil is celebrated for its versatility; it can be a great addition to a smoothie recipe or used to make a healthy spin on french fries!
Picking the healthiest, most cost-effective option can be a headache! With all the options available on the market, it can be overwhelming. What’s the difference between “virgin” and “extra-virgin” options? What’s the difference between cheap coconut oils you find on grocery store shelves and their high-quality counterparts available online?
Consider this your guide to all things coconut oil!
Where to Get the Benefits of Coconut Oil
Refined Coconut Oil
A telling sign of refined coconut oil is its lack of taste and odor. Since it’s refined, it can withstand slightly higher cooking temperatures before reaching its peak smoking point. Refined coconut is best used to cook foods that call for clean, pure, malleable fat without the dominating coconut flavor. In other words, when you’re simply in need of fats for cooking without the overwhelming your pallet with coconut, refined options are your best bet!
Unfortunately, since it’s refined, it doesn’t offer the same coconut oil health benefits as the “virgin” or “raw” options. However, it still offers an excellent source of benefits which include fatty acids and MCTs.
When buying refined coconut oil, look for options that are not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (these create synthetic trans fats).
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Unrefined Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil, typically, is labeled at “virgin” or “extra-virgin.” Despite differences in labeling across brands, all “virgin” and “extra-virgin” coconut oils are made from the pressing of fresh, raw coconuts without any additives or chemicals.
In contrast to refined coconut oils, unrefined varieties have a wide spectrum of flavor profiles, from the very intense to milder varieties. However, as a general rule, the more heat the oil is exposed to, the more strong the coconut flavor will be.
Methods of Extraction (Cold-pressed vs. Expeller-pressed)
In general, “expeller-pressed” or “cold-pressed” don’t necessarily mean “raw.” In fact, both of these extraction processes can be heated at high temperatures throughout the extraction process. While the oil’s temperature alone will not make the oil go rancid since coconut oil is stable fat and can withstand heat well. But the more heat you use in the process, the more prominent the “toasted” and coconut-y flavor profile will be.
When it comes to extraction processes, look out for “centrifuged” oils, as these are less likely to be exposed to heat in the extraction process, making this variety much milder in flavor.
How to Save and Still Get the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
In general, store-bought coconut oil can get a bit pricey! To save money, it’s best to buy in bulk. Since oil is so stable and keeps for over 6 months, you can easily buy anywhere from one to five gallons at a time. Before committing to buying in bulk, try out that coconut oil variety in a small amount, to ensure you like that brand’s smell and taste.
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