Coconut Oil


Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera)

 Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconut harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations.
Coconut oil is uniquely different from most other dietary oils and for this reason, has found use in a multitude of applications in food, medicine, and industry. What makes coconut oil different from most other dietary oils is the basic building blocks or fatty acids making up the oil.

Types of oil available:

Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil is produced from fresh coconuts (rather than dried, as in copra) with minimal processing so that it retains a slight coconut flavor and aroma. Virgin coconut oil is regarded as the highest quality coconut oil and is preferred for food preparation and home medicinal use.

There are several ways to produce virgin coconut oil, each of which can be processed under two general methods: wet process or dry process.

In the wet process, coconut milk is made first and then the oil is extracted from the milk. Coconut kernel is shredded, mixed with a little water, and then squeezed or pressed to extract the oil. The resulting oil/water mixture produces coconut cream or coconut milk depending on the percentage of oil. The coconut milk is then allowed to separate naturally. Since oil is lighter than water, the oil rises to the surface. This takes 12 to 24 hours. The oil can then be skimmed off. This is the traditional method of making coconut oil from coconut milk and is the way many people make the oil at home. Other methods incorporate heating, fermentation, refrigeration, or centrifugal force to separate the oil from the water. Some minor heating is generally done afterwards (often in a low temperature vacuum chamber) to drive off excess moisture and produce a more purified product and to extend shelf life.

In the dry process the oil is extracted directly from the kernel. The coconut kernel is first shredded and dried in an oven to about 10 to 12% moisture. The dried, shredded coconut is then placed into a press and the virgin oil is expelled.

The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), whose 18 members produce about 85% of the coconut sold commercially, has published its Standards for Virgin Coconut Oil. The Philippines has established a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) governmental standard.

RBD Coconut Oil

Coconuts sundried in Kozhikode, Kerala for making copra, which is used for making coconut oil
RBD stands for “refined, bleached, and deodorized.” RBD oil is usually made from copra (dried coconut kernel). Copra can be made by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying. The dried copra is then placed in a powerful hydraulic press with added heat and the oil is extracted. This yields up practically all the oil present, amounting to more than 60% of the dry weight of the coconut.

This “crude” coconut oil is not suitable for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with further heating and filtering. Another method for extraction of a “high quality” coconut oil involves the enzymatic action of alpha-amylase, polygalacturonases and proteases on diluted coconut paste.

Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil has no coconut taste or aroma. RBD oil is used for home cooking, commercial food processing, and cosmetic, industrial, and pharmaceutical purposes.

Hydrogenated Coconut Oil

RBD coconut oil can be processed further into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to increase its melting point. Since virgin and RBD coconut oils melt at 76° F (24° C) foods, such as chocolate, tend to melt in warm climates. A higher melting point is desirable in these warm climates so the oil is hydrogenated. The melting point of hydrogenated coconut oil is 97-104° F (36-40° C).

In the process of hydrogenation, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) are bombarded with hydrogen atoms to make them more saturated. Coconut oil contains only 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this process some of these are transformed into trans fatty acids.

 Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of the whole oil, in which the long-chain fatty acids are removed so that only medium chain saturated fatty acids remain. Lauric acid, a 12 carbon chain fatty acid, is often removed as well because of its high value for industrial and medical purposes. Fractionated coconut oil may also be referred to as caprylic/capric triglyceride oil or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil because it is primarily the medium chain caprylic (8 carbons) and capric (10 carbons) acids that make up the bulk of the oil.

MCT oil is most frequently used for medical applications and special diets.

Cosmetics and skin treatments:

Coconut oil is excellent as a skin moisturizer and softener. A study shows that coconut oil is effective and safe when used as a moisturizer, with absence of adverse reactions. Coconut Oil is the source of two of the most powerful anti microbial agents found in any food substances. These are Capric Acid and Lauric Acid. They are the same acids that are found in mother’s milk and keep the baby protected from infections. When these are applied on skin, some microbes (good ones) present on skin convert these acids into Monocaprin and Monolaurin respectively, thereby replacing the protective acid layer on the skin.  Further, coconut oil is a rich source of Vitamin-E. This keeps your skin healthy and ensures proper functioning of sebum glands. Finally, Coconut Oil is soothing on skin and highly penetrating. So, when applied on skin, it is absorbed readily. It also helps heal any sort of wound on skin.  And above all, Coconut Oil improves the rate of metabolism. This also indirectly affects proper secretion and balance of hormones...Read more...

Fractionated coconut oil is also used in the manufacture of essences, massage oils and cosmetics

In India and Sri Lanka, coconut oil is commonly used for styling hair, and cooling or soothing the head. People of Tamil Nadu and other coastal areas such as Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa bathe in warm water after applying coconut oil all over the body and leaving it as is for an hour in the belief it keeps the body, skin, and hair health.

Soaps and Detergents
Coconut oil has long been regarded as one of the best base oils for soap, shampoo, and detergent making. It produces a thick rich lather that is superior to other oils. Coconut oil based soaps are prized because they can produce a foamy lather in any type of water including mineral-rich hard waters and even seawater.

The antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties of the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil, makes the soap an effective disinfectant. This natural germ-fighting action eliminates the need to add antiseptic chemicals to the soap.

Soaps can be made from any type of fat or oil. Soaps that are made with 100% coconut oil are very cleansing and may even be too harsh on sensitive skin, so most soap manufactures tone down the cleansing action by combining coconut oil with other oils or conditioners.

Coconut oil is a natural white color and produces a pure white soap. Other oils, such as olive, corn, and palm many impart their natural coloring into the soap, producing green, yellow, and orange colored products. White soap is often preferred because it is perceived as an indication of purity and cleanliness.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein  is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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