Coconut Oil Benefits & Uses
Coconut oil is one of the super foods, which has potential health benefits and several medicinal uses. It is beneficial for skin, hair, heart, brain and digestive system. However, coconut oil contains high amount of saturated fats, but now scientific community believes it is the best edible oil. LAURIC ACID present in coconut oil contributes many of its health benefits. Organic Coconut oil is also used in preparing medicinal oil. It acts as base of for certain medicated oils used in ayurveda and alternative medicines. Most of them are used for hair and skin conditions.
The scientific name for coconut palm or coconut tree is Cocos Nucifera. Coco is a Spanish and Portuguese word meaning ‘a grin’, ‘a monkey face’. Since the past 4000 years, coconut palm has always been in use as food and as a pharmaceutical. Materials harvested from coconut are its fruit, coconut flesh, coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil. Many may think that coconut is a nut but botanically, coconut is a drupe (stone fruit), not a nut. The use of coconut oil is so respected that it was and still it is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine since 1500 BC. Organic coconut oil oil has been consumed in the tropical countries for thousands of years. Coconut is now grown in more than 60 countries throughout the world some of which includes Maldives, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
|Melting Point||24 °C (76 °F)|
|Smoke Point (Unrefined/Virgin coconut oil)||177 °C (350 °F)|
|Smoke Point (Refined coconut oil)||204 °C (400 °F)|
|Plant Name||Coconut Palm|
|Botanical Name of Plant||COCOS NUCIFERA|
|Fatty Acids||LAURIC ACID, CAPRIC ACID|
|Other Names||Copra oil, Nariyal Tail|
Coconut Oil Nutritional Value
10 grams coconut oil contains.
|Calories from Fat||86.2 Kcal|
|Total Fat||10 g|
|Carbohydrates||Value per 10 g|
Fat, Lipids & Fatty Acids
|Lipids||Value per 10 g|
|Total Fat||10 g|
|Saturated fat||8.6 g|
|Monounsaturated fat||580 mg|
|Polyunsaturated fat||180 mg|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Zero|
|Omega-6 fatty acids||180 mg|
|Vitamins||Value per 10 g|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.01 mg|
|Vitamin K||0.05 mg|
How is Organic Coconut Oil Made?
Coconut oil is produced by crushing the dried kernel (dried kernel is also known as ‘copra’). This dried kernel contains at least 60-65% of the oil. This oil has a natural sweet taste of the coconut. Coconut oil contains 92% saturated fatty acids in the form of triglycerides.
Extraction Process: Dry and Wet Processing
Coconut oil can be extracted using two methods.
- Dry processing
- Wet processing
In dry processing meat is extracted and dried using sunlight, kilns or fire to remove the moisture while preventing scorching and microbial invasion. This type of drying is done to create copra. Once copra is created, it is dissolved with solvents or pressed to produce high protein, high fiber mash and coconut oil. This mash is then used as fodder for animals.
In wet processing method, the coconut kernel does not go through the drying process. Wet method is further divided into fermentation, chilling and thawing, enzymatic and pH method or any of these methods are used in combination. The main aim of wet processing method is to destabilize the emulsion.
- Fermentation method: In this, fresh coconut milk and distilled water are mixed in 1:1 proportion. In one liter of this mixture 2 grams of Baker’s yeast is added for the process of fermentation to take place. It is then mixed rigorously to obtain a homogenous mixture. The mixture is left to stand for 36 hours at room temperature. After 36 hours, the layer of oil and water separate and the upper oil layer is decanted.
- Chilling and thawing method: In this method, coconut milk is centrifuged at 3600 g for 10-15 minutes and the upper layer of cream is removed for chilling. Chilling is usually done at 5 degrees Celsius for 24 hours. The chilled cream is then thawed in water bath at 50 degrees Celsius to extract the oil.
- Enzymatic treatment: In this method, coconut milk with papain enzyme at 0.1% (w/w) of the milk. It is stirred to obtain a homogenous mixture. It is left to stand at 55 degrees Celsius for 3 hours. This is the optimum temperature for enzyme papain. Later this mixture is centrifuged at 4900 g for 25-30 minutes to obtain oil.
To purify the crude coconut oil into an edible coconut oil, various procedures have been carried out, which include physical separations and chemical treatments. Crude coconut oil purification is a four-stage process of degumming, neutralization, bleaching and deodorization.
Types & Classification of Coconut Oil
However, there is no industrial standard maintained for types of coconut oil, but manufacturers use certain words like virgin, unprocessed, organic etc. before coconut oil. What do they mean we will discuss here.
Virgin Coconut Oil
- Crude coconut oil
- Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Pure Coconut Oil
- Unprocessed Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is actually unprocessed coconut oil and does not undergo through refinery processes. It is unfiltered and manufactured without any additives. This oil is minimally processed. It does not undergo any further processing such as refining, bleaching and deodorization.
It is different from refined coconut oil, as it is not refined, bleached and deodorized. It is natural form of coconut oil and not hydrogenated. There is no bleaching chemicals are used during its extraction. It is also not refined and deodorized.
It is the crude coconut oil, which is directly obtained from the coconut and the extraction process. It is also known as ‘pure coconut oil’. Unrefined coconut oil tastes better as compared to refined coconut oil. In addition to this, it retains a natural flavor of fresh coconuts since it is not processed.
Two available forms of virgin oils are available.
- Extraction using heat: The oil is extracted from the dried coconut fruits through hydraulic press using heat. Virgin and crude coconut oil are same.
- Cold Pressed Coconut Oil: In this, mechanical methods are used for extraction of coconut oil. Some heat also generates during this method naturally, but there is no external heat source is used. Some manufacturers also control self-generated heat to maximum 49 °C (120 °F). Temperature does not exceed from 49 °C.
Virgin Organic Coconut oil is used abundantly in a variety of products such as in functional foods, infant foods, health foods, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. Virgin coconut oil has a different flavor and aroma and is clear in color. It can be produced either from processing of coconut milk, coconut meat, or coconut milk residue. Virgin coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides and high content of lauric acid.
Refined Organic Coconut Oil
Refined Coconut Oil is prepared from crude coconut oil using some bleaching and refining methods. It is also known as RBD coconut oil, which stands for refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. The smoke point of refined coconut oil is higher than unrefined coconut oil.
This oil is derived from copra or dried kernel. As it is directly derived from copra, it may contain dust particles, insect remains, microbes, fungal spores and many other contaminants that are not fit for human consumption. Therefore, this oil needs to be purified with bleaching clay in order to make it fit for human consumption. To remove its distinctive odor and flavor high heat is used to deodorize the coconut oil. Often SODIUM HYDROXIDE is added to prolong and improve the shelf life.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
To increase melting point, refined coconut oil is further processed through hydrogenation process. It increases melting point of the coconut oil to 35 to 40 °C (95–104 °F).
Chemistry of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the most desirable oil for confections, bakery goods and deep-fat frying products. This is possible due to two special characteristics of coconut oil.
- Good stability and
- High degree of saturation
At lower temperatures, coconut oil is hard and brittle. Below 30 degrees, it has a sharp melting point, but it remains solid at cool ambient temperature. Oleic acid, lauric acid and phospholipids are some of the components of coconut oil that extend the induction period for coconut oil crystallization at 15 degrees Celsius. This crystallization behavior of coconut oil makes it very important as biscuit filling creams and chocolate flavored coatings.
When exposed to atmospheric oxygen, coconut oil is very stable to oxidative deterioration. However, processing and refining may have some amount of effect on the stability of the oil. This means that virgin coconut oil is more stable as compared to refined coconut oil. One factor that distinguishes coconut oil from other ordinary oils is that coconut oil contains high content of short and moderately long chain fatty acids.
The composition of crude coconut oil includes.
- Fatty acids
- Trace metals
- Monoacylglycerol and
Coconut Oil has following healing properties.
- Anti-inflammatory (effects are visible on the skin)
- Demulcent (soothing and softening effect on the skin)
- Fat Burner
- Antacid (beneficial in acid reflux and hyperacidity)
- Digestive (Light in digestion)
Good for Diseases
Coconut Oil is helpful in following health conditions.
Brain & Nerves
- Alzheimer’s disease
Heart & Blood
- High cholesterol levels
- High LDL cholesterol
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High triglycerides level
- Chronic Gastritis
- Acid reflux
- Peptic ulcer
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Teeth & Gums
- Tooth decay
- Gum diseases
Skin & Hairs
- Hair fall
- Acne or Pimples
- Dry Skin
- Chronic fatigue
- Thyroid disorders
- Weight loss
Coconut Oil Benefits
Coconut oil is beneficial for weight loss (obesity), Alzheimer’s disease, heart diseases, hair fall, skin diseases etc. Here are some evidence-based benefits of coconut oil. We have also answered your common question about coconut oil.
Helps in weight loss
Dietary fat is always blamed for the rising prevalence of obesity, but not all fat and lipids are the same. Research has shown that dietary fat with medium chain fatty acid are beneficial and do not promote weight gain. These medium chain fatty acids, which are present in coconut oil, are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and are transported to the liver without incorporation into chylomicrons. This means that coconut oil is not stored in the body and is directly absorbed and used as a source of energy. As it is not stored, it does not lead to weight gain. In addition to this, coconut oil also increases fat burning, thus body uses fat as a source of fuel/ energy.
As compared to other types of fat and oils, virgin coconut oil has high antioxidant properties. It has high scavenging effects on certain free radicals that may cause damage to the body cells and organ systems. Furthermore, it also has high phenolic content (contains Ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid).
Many studies have found a strong correlation between total phenolic content and scavenging activity, that is, higher the phenolic content, higher is the scavenging activity and lesser is the damage caused by the free radicals and oxidants. As coconut oil has higher phenolic content, it efficiently protects the body against the harmful effects of free radicals.
Coconut oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, that is, it protects the body against the harmful actions of bacteria and other microbes and keeps infections at bay. Antibiotic associated diarrhea is caused by microbe ‘clostridium difficile’. Studies have found that virgin coconut oil helps to control infection caused by clostridium difficile. This protective effect is attributed to the presence of lauric acid in coconut oil that inhibits the growth of microbes and prevents its further expansion.
Lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid present in coconut oil have antifungal properties and thus it retards the growth of fungi and prevents the onset of fungal diseases and fungal skin infections.
Diseases of pancreas and liver
In diseases of pancreas and liver, the digestion of dietary fat becomes difficult, that is, fat intake may lead to abdominal pain/cramps, steatorrhea and fat malabsorption.
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which is directly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and is then transported to the liver. Thus, coconut oil is better digested and absorbed in people with pancreatic insufficiency and liver conditions as compared to dietary fat with long chain fatty acids.
Treats acid reflux
A condition in which acid from the stomach rises up into the esophagus is known as acid reflux. Lower esophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle that prevents the acid from entering the esophagus. However, if there is a problem with lower esophageal sphincter that is, if it does not closes properly or if it opens too often, acid may escape from the stomach to the esophagus. This may lead to burning in the chest known as heartburn.
Coconut oil coats the esophagus and lining of the throat and thus prevents pain and discomfort associated with acid reflux. Some studies have shown that acid reflux is associated with overgrowth of bacteria. As coconut oil has anti-bacterial properties, it promotes the elimination of bacteria and cures the condition.
Research has shown that virgin coconut oil prevents bone loss and delays the onset of osteoporosis and osteomalacia. In addition to this, virgin coconut oil contains high amount of polyphenols and antioxidants, which further improves bone health and reduces inflammation.
Virgin coconut oil has shown to be more protective as compared to other unsaturated oils. Coconut oil inhibits the induction of carcinogenic agents in the colon and breast. In addition to this, coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids and is ideal for immune suppressed individuals. Therefore, coconut oil acts a dense source of energy in people with suppressed immune systems such as cancer patients. Furthermore, studies have shown that virgin coconut oil consumption during chemotherapy helps to improve the functional status of cancer patients.
A clot or plaque formation in the walls of arteries gives rise to atherosclerosis, which may further lead to heart failure. Research has shown that medium chain fatty acid rich coconut oil may help in preventing atherosclerosis. It further has anti-coagulation effects. It has also shown to reduce the levels of serum cholesterol. In addition to this, medium chain fatty acids also have a slight hypoglycemic effect, which may help in the management of diabetes. These glucose and lipid lowering properties of coconut oil may prevent the onset of atherosclerosis.
Antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil are very effective in reducing the inflammation, joint pain and swelling.
Medicinal Uses of Coconut Oil
Natural Skin Moisturizer
Coconut oil is a natural skin moisturizer and gives a non-greasy look. Virgin coconut oil fights pre-mature aging and reduces wrinkles and spots.
Helps in the treatment of tooth decay
Coconut oil attacks the cavity-causing bacteria. Furthermore, it is a powerful destroyer of microbes. Hence, it protects teeth and prevents cavities.
Coconut oil is a sunburn remedy and a natural sunscreen that protects the skin against sun damage and ultraviolet rays.
Scars, Rashes, Blemishes & Ulcers
Coconut oil is very effective in reducing scars, rashes, blemishes and ulcers.
Joint Pain with Tenderness and Redness
A regular gentle massage with coconut oil reduces joint pain, joint tenderness and redness.
Natural Hair Conditioner
Coconut oil acts as a natural conditioner and improves overall hair growth.
Ways to Use Coconut Oil in Daily Diet
- Not all oils are safe to cook with at high temperatures. Coconut oil is one such option that is safe and can be used at high temperatures.
- Coconut oil can be added to smoothies to improve the overall energy content and to make it calorie dense. Such smoothies can be given to children who are underweight or malnourished, people with poor immune levels such as those with tuberculosis, HIV and cancer.
- One can easily use coconut oil for baking, grilling, stir-frying and sautéing.
- Instead of butter on the toast, coconut oil can be used.
- Coconut oil can also be used as a salad dressing.
- Homemade granola bars can also be made using coconut oil.
Recommendation & Dosage
Recommendation of coconut oil depends on various factors such as an individual’s present body weight, physical activity, lifestyle and presence or absence of a particular clinical condition.
- Healthy individuals who are not overweight or obese and without any clinical condition can consume 4 teaspoons per day.
- Athletes, individuals who are underweight, growing children can consume 5-6 teaspoons coconut oil per day.
- Individuals with heart disease, altered lipid profile and increased body weight (overweight or obese or with abdominal obesity) can consume 3-4 teaspoons of virgin coconut oil per day.