Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 May

Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil

We’ve written about the nutritional benefits of coconut, shared recipes that include coconut milk, and discussed the merits of coconut flour, but we’ve never actually fully covered one of the best coconut products out there: coconut oil.

Coconut oil consists of about 92 percent saturated fat and is therefore nearly solid at room temperature. It can be used in cooking, but is also a common ingredient in home remedies and skin care products.

Although it gets a bad rap in some circles for its high saturated fat content, we know that such fats can offer many health benefits. For example, coconut oil has been found to help normalize blood lipids and protect against damage to the liver by alcohol and other toxins, can play a role in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases, and is associated with improved blood sugar and insulin control and therefore the prevention and management of diabetes. In addition, coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. On a more superficial level, meanwhile, coconut oil is thought to help strengthen mineral absorption, which is important for healthy teeth and bones, and can also help improve the condition and appearance of the scalp, hair and skin when ingested or topically applied.

So how is this veritable miracle food manufactured? In brief, coconuts are collected, broken open and then the flesh is allowed to dry. To extract the oil, the dried flesh is then heated at a low temperature until any moisture is evaporated, leaving you with an oil residue. Now, the thing to note here is that in most coconut oil manufacturing processes chemicals are used to expedite drying as well as to speed the heating process. However, if you select an organic coconut oil, no chemicals will have been used during processing and the original coconut itself will have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Regular coconut oil production, however, often subjects the coconut meat to chemical solvents in order to maximize extraction. If you want to avoid any chemical residues, stick to organic coconut oil. This shouldn’t be difficult, since most coconut oil available in stores seems to be organic.

One other thing to note is that with coconut oils there are many different grades, or values of refinement. According to the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Standards for virgin coconut oil, coconut oil can only be sold as such when it is “obtained from the fresh and mature kernel of coconut by mechanical or natural means with or without the application of heat, which does not lead to alteration of the oil.”

Refined coconut oil – which is generally what you’ll see in stores – is made from copra, the dried meat of the coconut. However, because the process of drying the coconut is somewhat unsanitary – it includes laying them out in the sun, putting them in a kiln, or smoking them  – the oil is inedible, and is therefore required to undergo a refinement process that includes some combination of using high heat to deodorize the oil, filtering the oil through bleaching clays, adding sodium hydroxide to remove impurities and prolong shelf-life, or performing some kind of hydrogenation or partial-hydrogenation process. In industry terms refined coconut oil is RBD – refined, bleached, deodorized.

The choice is clear – steer clear of the refined stuff and stick with organic virgin coconut oil.

A word of warning about coconut oils labeled as extra virgin. Experts note that there is no other – or more virginal – process of extracting oil from coconuts and the concept of the “extra” is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Coconut oil is less sensitive to heat than other oils (won’t oxidize as easily) so it’s great for stir-frys and sauteeing. You can substitute it in baking (when making Primal energy bars, for example) and in recipes that call for butter, lard or any other high-saturated fats. It is fairly similar in consistency to butter so it can be used as a spread for vegetables. It makes an excellent addition to a smoothie and can also be used in place of a creamer in coffee or tea.

Our verdict? This is one seriously tropical way to get some more healthy fat in your diet.

What do you use coconut oil for? Share your thoughts in the comment board!

Further Reading:

10 Steps to “Primalize” Your Pantry

Choose Your Own Stir-Fry Adventure

Guest Post by Modern Forager: Tropical Oils

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Someone else asked this but I saw no answer. What do you know about Louana coconut oil? I looked on their website but it didn’t give any info. Has it been hydrogenated? It says “all natural” and “pure coconut oil” on the label. “Ingredients: coconut oil”. I will ask the company, too, but has anyone already asked and gotten an answer?

    Olivia wrote on May 30th, 2012
  2. Thanks for the explanation on types and debunking the ‘extra virgin’ label. The food co-op got me for triple the price on organic ‘extra’ virgin coconut oil when I can buy organic virgin at the supplement store instead. Now I’m an educated primal consumer.

    Mark, your work (passion?) is appreciated.

    Kenny

    Kenny wrote on June 1st, 2012
  3. I am trying to put on quite a bit of lean weight. I am currently adding a couple glasses of organic whole milk to my diet with a 2 eggs in the morning. I am eager to add coconut products but am not sure that the fat in the milk, eggs, and coconut oil will be too much saturated fat. How many TBSP of coconut should I be including per day? Suggestions are more than welcom

    Doug wrote on June 2nd, 2012
    • Good question; I dont see any comments, have you found out anything?

      chuck wrote on September 4th, 2012
  4. I use organic virgin UNREFINED coconut oil as a substitute for mct oil when I make bulletproof coffee.

    Rob D wrote on June 8th, 2012
  5. Unless one is doing a shangri-la style method, it is odd to me that anyone would take coconut oil from a spoon as a supplement. Why not enjoy it as a delicious food? Also, I wonder why people don’t use full fat coconut milk more often when they want to supplement coconut oil/MCT. The milk is mostly just coconut fat and water anyway.

    Last night I made a tall glass of chocolate milk using a big spoonful of organic cocoa powder (dissolved in a very small amount of hot water), a few drops of stevia, a touch of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, a good dose of sea salt, and about a third cup of full-fat coconut milk. I filled the rest of the large glass with water and ice and stirred. OH MY was it delicious!

    Robin H wrote on July 22nd, 2012
  6. I like to put a tablespoon in my morning oatmeal. I also enjoy a tablespoon with my protein drink after a workout. Plus it’s the best oil for sex lubricant.

    Kenneth Mac wrote on August 6th, 2012
  7. Love to use it in curries and as a hair oil.Thanks for sharing this article.

    jik wrote on August 7th, 2012
  8. Your article says that coconut oil should be rather solid at room temp. I live on a small island and buy coconut oil from a little Thai lady that I witness make my oil. I actually gather the coconuts that she uses to make it!! (gets me a discount)It is VERY pure! But, it does not congeal at room temp.
    Anyone know why??

    Bear wrote on August 15th, 2012
    • If you live in a climate that’s around 73*F or higher, VCO will not solidify but stay in semi liquid or liquid state. The “purer” the oil the longer it takes to solidify.

      KS

      KS wrote on November 4th, 2012
  9. Thanks for sharing the health benefits of coconut oil. This article has added more useful information and had further established my belief that these are true.

    jik wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  10. I never cook with coconut oil because I don’t like the flavor with savory foods. But, I have found at night that I crave coconut oil. I have about 4 tablespoons at night before bed. I eat frozen coconut oil with dark chocolate and almonds, and sometimes afterwards add a tablespoon of coconut oil to Paleo Fuel and have that as well. Why am I craving coconut oil so much? It is a really intense craving and I feel so good after I eat it.

    hilarydanette wrote on September 4th, 2012
  11. Does anybody know anything about Spectrum Refined Coconut Oil (expeller pressed, organic)? Their website claims that no chemicals are used in the refining process and that they use temperatures under 250F. Mark’s main text says Refined is RBD, but Spectrum’s process doesn’t sound offensive.

    Am I missing anything?

    josh wrote on October 16th, 2012
  12. Mark,

    Is Organic, expeller-pressed coconut oil ok? Its much cheaper than what is labled as organic virgin coconut oil, and seems to follow most of your guidelines of what is acceptable coconut oil for primal.

    Her is the source I found for it:
    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/expeller-pressed_coconut_oil.htm

    Thanks!

    Rhett wrote on October 28th, 2012
  13. I have an autistic son so VCO is the only thing I put on his skin, hair, rashes, scrapes, etc.
    VCO is also EXCELLENT oil for “private” areas and sex. My husband and I love it! It can also be used in oil lamps, and to polish leather shoes.

    KS

    KS wrote on November 4th, 2012
  14. Interesting news stories out there on coconut oil today…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2258665/Alzeimers-Can-coconut-oil-ease-Families-whove-given-loved-ones-swear-it.html

    http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/archive/club/700Club010713_WS

    What if High Fructose Corn Syrop was a contributing factor that could be long term diminishing the ability of the brain to pick up the glucose which is part of the issue for Alzheimers sufferers…

    JustinH wrote on January 9th, 2013
  15. Wonderful & healthy oil to use in many ways. I use it in cooking anything that I am sauteing or frying. I use it on baked potatoes. I also rub it into my dry, cracked heels and feet. It is amazing for that use! I rub it in before bed and then put on an old pair of socks and let it soak in there all night. My horribly dry, cracked heels are now well, soft, and young looking again. Amazing since I am NOT young at all. The newest thing I am trying it on is my dog’s dry, flaky, itchy skin. I just rub a small amount of it into her skin (she’s a short haired dog) and massage it directly into the skin as much as possible. I’ve only done this for a couple of days but she is definitely scratching LESS already. I don’t know. I’ve tried everything on her for the last 5 years and nothing works so far except antibiotics, steroids and anti-fungal meds which I don’t want to keep her on. Once she gets off of them, it all comes back immediately anyway. Since coconut oil is antibacterial and anti-fungal, I’m hoping this might just be the answer. I also put it in her food too. I highly recommend trying coconut oil if you haven’t yet. There’s lot of research on it on the internet so you can research it first if you’re leery about using it.

    Luane Hisle wrote on February 18th, 2013
  16. Where can I buy coconut oil in Kansas City? Anyone know???

    JUDY MELROSE wrote on March 1st, 2013

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