In today’s fast moving world, health conscious people are slowly and gradually using coconut oil in their daily lives. Even dieticians are recommending the use of coconut oil in cooking.
The reasons for coconut oil gaining immense popularity is due to its multiple rich attributes such as high level of saturated fat which promotes good cholesterol and anti-bacterial nature. Also, it helps in boosting cardiovascular health and provide overall positive effects on the entire health system.
Coconut oil is a pale yellow or white oil obtained from the nut of palm tree (cocos nucifera). There are basically two main varieties of coconut oil viz. refined coconut oil known as processed version and unrefined coconut oil which is called as ‘pure’ oil.
Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil
The main difference between refined coconut oil and unrefined coconut oil lies in the method of extraction and processing. Refined coconut oil is extracted from dried coconut meat and subjected to high processing. Unrefined coconut oil is made from fresh coconut meat which is cold pressed to extract oil.
However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:
Comparison Table Between Refined and Unrefined Coconut Oil (in Tabular Form)
|Parameter of Comparison||Refined Coconut Oil||Unrefined Coconut Oil|
|How made||Dried coconut meat is machine pressed to release oil||Fresh coconut meat is dry or wet processed|
|Type of coconut meat used||Dried coconut meat (known as ‘copra’ is used)||Fresh coconut meat|
|Usual method of processing||Steam-refined, subject to high heat||Cold pressed|
|Is bleaching involved?||Yes||No|
|Does extraction yield milk after machine press||No||Yes, which is separated from oil|
|Odour||Odourless or neutral||Strong scent of coconut|
|Subjected to low heat||No||Yes|
|Ideal in use||Quick baking, stir frying||Medium heat cooking, body care|
|Commonly used at||Restaurants, hotels||Home, body care|
|Preferred by||Those who don’t like coconut smell||Those who like purity and strong coconut aroma|
|Cost||Less expensive than unrefined||More expensive than refined|
|Nourishment value||Less as processing takes away the nutrients||High as it is unrefined|
|Shelf Life||Shorter||Longer than refined oil|
What is Refined Coconut Oil?
Refined coconut oil means processed oil. It is made by drawing coconut meat (‘copra’) and machine pressing it to release the oil. There are multiple ways for refinement such as steam refining, dry milling, bleaching, deodorizing etc. Essentially, ‘copra’ is dried, baked and preserved for longer period.
Refined coconut oil is odorless and clear because the oil is subjected to high temperatures while refining. This process essentially removes the coconut scent and also any impurities such as bacteria, microbes, dust particles, insects, etc. Basically the process ensures that the extracted oil is clean and odorless.
Refined coconut oil has no special coconut taste or aroma. This stems from the reason that the meat is dried, smoked or stored for a longer period, and later filtered and pressed to removes coconut scent. Drying the meat and subjecting to high heat (at 400-degree temperature) eventually removes any coconut scent during the filtration process
Refined coconut oil is ideal for use in baking, quick frying and since it is less expensive one may find it more utilized in restaurants. If someone wants to heat healthy snacks and fried foods but don’t like to have coconut scent to come in their way, then refined coconut oil is a preferred option.
Unrefined coconut oil is also known and labelled as “virgin” or “pure” or “high quality” or “nutritional” oil. The reason being it is made from fresh coconut meat and is less processed. The aroma of unrefined coconut oil bears strong and natural coconut flavor and aroma.
Unrefined coconut oil is made by a ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ method. The later one yields milk and oil which are separated through fermentation and other methods. Unrefined coconut oil has lower smoke point meaning it is subjected to lower temperature or cold pressed to provide an oil which has strong health benefits.
Unrefined coconut oil is ideal for people who like pure oil in their cooking and want to taste something which is natural. It is also recommended by health experts due to its high and natural nourishment value.
Unrefined coconut oil since it possesses a high nutrient value containing anti-oxidant properties, strong aroma and obtained from fresh coconut meat is expensive on the pocket. It would be apt to state that unrefined coconut oil is a less processed variation of a refined coconut oil.
Main Differences Between Refined and Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Refined coconut oil is made using dried coconuts. Unrefined coconut oil is made using fresh coconut meat.
- Refined coconut oil is heated at high temperatures. Unrefined coconut oil is subject to low/medium heat.
- Refined coconut oil does not possess coconut flavour or taste. Unrefined coconut oil has a distinct tropical coconut aroma.
- Refined coconut oil may be devoid of essential nutrients. Unrefined coconut oil possesses high nutritional value.
- Refined coconut oil has shorter shelf life (may be a year). Unrefined coconut oil possesses longer shelf life (more than 2 years).
- Refined coconut oil is less expensive than unrefined one.
One has the option to buy either refined coconut oil or unrefined coconut oil. This preference will be based on the purpose, individual choice, cost, and taste. If one likes coconut flavor, go for unrefined one, else refined. If one is tight on budget, look for a refined version.
The distinction between refined and unrefined does not matter much from a health perspective as both are saturated fats. As per WHO, using unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado oil should be preferred. An ideal practice would be to use coconut oil in moderation with other oils to boost one’s health line.