Coconut Oil Types — Which Type Best Benefits Your Health?
By Laura Ng
As more and more people begin to recognize coconut oil for its remarkable health benefits, it's good for you to learn about the different types of coconut oil so you know which one you should eat to reap the most health benefits.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains about 92% saturated, 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids (different brands carry slightly different fat composition). Due to its high amount of saturated fatty acids, this healthful oil rates chemically more stable (less likely to react with free radicals to become a health-damaging oil) than many other types of oils.
But to make it even more stable and favorable for baking and making ice-cream, some companies hydrogenate the oil. This also extends the oil's shelf life. However, hydrogenation may likely produce trans-fatty acids which form solid fat at body temperature, thereby difficult to break down by the body, which can cause damage to your health. Hence, I wouldn't suggest you to risk your health by consuming this type of cheap oil just to save your wallet.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Manufacturers separate coconut oil's beneficial acids to form different products for use in different industries. Fractionated coconut oil is one in which they remove all long-chain fatty acids (and even the medium-chain lauric acid) to retain only its fraction of caprylic and capric acid. They do this to lower its melting point so people can use the oil in liquid form even at some countries with relatively lower temperature. (Unrefined coconut oil begins to solidify at about 76 °F or 24 °C).
This type of coconut oil is commonly used:
- As a superfatting oil in soaps.
- In skin-care lotions, cream and similar products to give emolliency.
- In massage oil blends (famous for not staining the sheets)
- As a carrier oil for essential oils, vitamins and actives.
- In medicines due its antiseptic and disinfectant properties.
Some people also use fractionated coconut oil in their fitness diets. But I personally prefer unrefined virgin oil for its better health-boosting properties due to the inclusion of lauric acid — the key nutrient found in human breast milk that protects you against various types of cancer and degenerative diseases.
RBD Coconut Oil
RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized), also known as highly refined coconut oil, is almost as nutritious as its virgin type except for its colorless, tasteless and odorless characteristics. Manufacturers extract the oil from dried coconuts (copra) and then apply heat and chemical to process the oil to remove any impurities, taste and smell. This type suits you best if you're not used to the natural coconut flavor yet. But remember to get one which is pure and non-hydrogenated.
Virgin Coconut Oil (Unrefined)
Virgin coconut oil is by far the "holy grail" among the different types of coconut oil due to its almost all-round health benefits for mankind. Manufacturers extract the oil through mechanical means free from high heat and chemical to preserve its full nutritional values. It's best commonly used in cooking, stir-frying, or even as dressing in salad. You can also eat it on its own or apply to your skin to keep it soft and moisturized.
Depending on your needs, you may like to go with fractionated, RBD or virgin, but definitely not hydrogenated type which does nothing good to your health. I personally recommend virgin type if you want to reap the most health benefits of coconut oil, which is preferred by many health-conscious people.