Evolving Wellness

Holistic, Natural, and Green Approach to Optimal Wellness

How to Choose A Coconut Oil: Comparing Best and Worst Brands

How to Choose A Coconut Oil: Comparing Best and Worst Brands

Updated April 2015 — Our understanding of fats and oils, what is healthy and what isn't has been greatly changing over the past few years and decades. One of the products that has generated a lot of questions and interest is coconut oil. Today, it has become one of the most popular superfoods and recommended oils for raw and cooked consumption. With this product's increased popularity came many brands with wide-ranging quality. It seems everyone wants a piece of this market's share, but not all are equally optimal for our health or our wallet. In this essay, I will share with you how to pick the best coconut oil, what brands are recommended and not recommended, and address commonly asked questions about coconut oil.

Vital Information About Coconut Oil

When I first wrote this article back in the spring of 2011, I, like many others, was enchanted by the whole coconut oil superfood trend, on both a personal and professional level. Being someone who loves all things coconut and also helping people be smart, discerning consumers who know how to make the best choices for their health, it was easy to see why. That was 4 years ago, and since then I've taken a more neutral stance, in terms of what I share and recommend, when it comes to this product. This is why I have decided to do a critical re-write of this article so that my commitment to helping people achieve and maintain optimal health is honored first, and foremost.

What I've learned over the last 4 years is that finding high quality and accurate information today about coconut oil is no easy feat. Since the re-emergence and fanatic popularization of coconut oil in the West, the Internet has become polluted with all sorts of claims and information about coconut oil. It has grown to become a massive industry, with both small-scale and large-scale businesses competing for a piece of the pie. This is where major issues arise because most of the information shared is coming from those who have a direct stake in the matter (the coconut oil industry) or those who have a direct stake in a rival product (the vegetable oil industry). And so, due to a conflict of interest on both sides, we as consumers get information that is distorted in a number of ways, including:

  • blown up or over-embellished facts
  • shared half-truths or unproven facts
  • information presented in a way that supports the nature of each industry
  • information left out that would harm either industry, including long-term health impacts and sustainability considerations

It seems that everyone has an opinion to share, and it does not help when authoritative experts get involved, some of whom are for coconut oil use, while others against coconut oil use, further confusing the public. Secondly, too many bloggers and media writers have used questionable information to publish their own content, proliferating misleading information about coconut oil. Finally, quality research and studies on coconut oil are few and far between, and it appears premature to consider coconut oil as any kind of miracle food. This should come as no surprise to us by now, as our health will never be created or maintained optimally by any single food. Just like olive oil is not the key to health for the Mediterranean culture, coconut oil isn't either for the south-Asian cultures. It is in the overall quality of our diet and lifestyle where the most rewards can be reaped. Of course, the latter is not the popular route for most of us here in the West; people prefer to focus on some illusory magic bullet, than to make truly meaningful and effective changes for their health and wellbeing. Thus, I suspect the coconut oil trend is nowhere near its end, just yet.

Coconut Oil and Your Health

Our health shouldn't have to depend on the swinging pendulums of nutritional bureaucracy, so what is one to do in the midst of the questionable claims and expert contradictions? Here is what I can tell you for sure when it comes to nourishing your body for optimal health. My perspective on this matter comes as a whole-food, plant-based nutrition and holistic health expert.

Nature has provided for us perfectly packaged foods in the form of whole, natural plant foods. There is a rhyme and reason for every one of these in terms of its macro and micro-nutrient compositions, health, and medicinal properties. When we take these foods and process them in some way, we are moving away from this packaged perfection. The more we process foods and isolate nutrients, the more controversial, problematic, and unpredictable the food becomes. Therefore, I will be the first to tell you about the health benefits of the coconut in its whole glory, but I cannot in good faith or certainty tell you the same about coconut oil. We have to understand that all oils are extracts of the original food, providing isolated fat — something that does not exist anywhere in nature, just like isolated sugar, and something our bodies had no experience with until we adopted oil extraction practices. We have finally come to understand the problems associated with isolated sugar and cannot dismiss similar concerns as they apply to isolated fats via oils.

The scientific community may have demonstrated that coconut oil is not as unhealthy as we once believed, but that conclusion is still a big leap from demonstrating that it is healthy.

Severine Kirchner, Ph.D. The Coconut Wars

Having shared the above does not mean that coconut products, like coconut oil, hold no value. We just have to be smart about how we use them. For example, virgin coconut oil is an outstanding moisturizer and skin nourisher. Many people use it in various ways as part of their regular skin, hair, and even oral care routines, in the form of oil pulling. Being mostly composed of saturated fat, coconut oil is also one of the few oils that is stable in the presence of some heat, which makes it a viable option for those who use any oil for cooking (not frying), as opposed to unsaturated oils. Some people have also experimented with it for helping dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

What is not okay, or a smart way to go, when it comes to coconut oil is consuming excessive amounts of it as part of one's daily diet, which has become very popular amongst many low-carb dieters. We have to remember that about a tablespoon of oil is equivalent to about 120 calories and for many people several tablespoons of this a day adds up to hundreds of extra calories of pure fat! Regardless of how coconut oil is metabolized or the kinds of saturated fats that it contains, excess calories are excess calories and saturated fat is not ideal for us in large amounts. Not to mention, high-fat diets can be hard on our major organs and precipitate all sorts of health and weight problems.

In the midst of the many seductive, yet questionable claims, we have to understand that coconut oil in no way gets the "all-you-can-eat" green light. So aside from using coconut oil topically (skin, hair, teeth) or as part of some medically-sound therapy, if you choose to consume any coconut oil, it is essential to use it sparingly. This is not only a smart way to approach this food for your health, but also for our planet's health and ecological sustainability. To get more wholesome health benefits of the coconut, consider consuming it fresh when available, or dried (unsweetened, unsulfured), or as coconut butter, which is made by pureeing the whole coconut.

The Coconut Oil Brand Explosion

From the time when I first used coconut oil (2009), to the time of first writing this article (2011), and now a second time (2015), the number of coconut oil products and brands has grown exponentially! As consumers, we have to understand that there are a select number of coconut farmers and coconut oil processors, but lots of middle-man and distributors. Anyone with any ties to a final product is then trying to convince us why theirs is the best one.

However, unless one makes it their life calling to fully research and explore each brand, and follow its trail back to the original coconut, it is impossible to comment with certainty on the quality of each company's product. Plus, with the market constantly changing, we need to find and apply a general formula for how to make the best choice, rather than attempt to decipher who is supposedly "the best".

I will also add that as smart and responsible consumers, we need to take it into our own hands and research the brand we are interested in using, rather than primarily relying on the opinions of others. Weigh the pros and cons of any given product in light of your personal priorities. This is critical when it comes to really any decision or choice in life, be it food and health-related, or not. Visit the company website and/or call the company and speak to a knowledgeable personnel who can effectively answer your questions. Get a feel for who you are choosing to support.

How to Choose the Best Coconut Oil

1. Virgin versus Refined

There are two main kinds of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Refined oils are cheaper and possess no coconut flavor or aroma. They are produced from dried copra, not fresh coconuts, and the oil typically undergoes various levels of processing, including being deodorized and bleached. Unrefined coconut oil is normally considered virgin (incorrectly labelled extra virgin in the past) and it possesses a light coconut taste and aroma, that will vary from brand to brand. This mostly depends on the freshness of the coconut used and type of processing it was subjected to. Virgin oil is typically made from fresh coconuts, but processing techniques will still vary in determining the product's quality.

As mentioned above, the less processing that is done to our food, the more nutritionally sound and beneficial it is. Therefore, to benefit from the most value, choose a coconut oil that is virgin (unrefined).

2. Processing Methods

The nature of all oils is such that it involves processing; oils are not whole, natural foods and do not naturally exist in nature, as shared above. Coconut oil is most commonly processed using expeller-pressed or cold-pressed methods. Expeller-pressed is a mechanical process that extracts oil from seeds and nuts, at high pressure and heat, and is usually used for refined oils. Cold-pressed coconut oils are expeller-pressed in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 49ºC or 120ºF degrees. Unfortunately, labeling laws are weak in this area and producers may not be adhering to proper cold-pressed standards. This is where it is helpful to learn more about how the brand in question fully processed its oils.

Many high quality companies today are paying attention to using fresh coconuts, having a quick turnaround time from picking the coconut to bottling, keeping heat so low that it can be classified as a RAW product, and transparently describing their process. Even though coconut oil is one of the few oils that does not get easily destroyed in the presence of heat, the less heat applied to our food and the less harsh the processing, the better for maximum nutritional integrity.

Other factors to be considered by serious coconut oil connoisseurs include: whether the coconut oil was dry or wet-processed, fermented, or centrifuge-processed, as well as the freshness of the coconut and quality of the copra used.

A select few oils on the market use the DME method of extraction: Direct Micro Expelling. This process brings the processing to the coconuts, rather than the coconuts to the processing, by-passing the common copra-based coconut industry. Coconuts are prepared, typically right where they grow, by local families for manual pressing. This process tends to ensure the freshest coconut oil and provides the least invasive processing methods possible. It is also the most eco-friendly and supportive of native people's livelihoods.

In certain tropical parts of the world, coconut oil may be hydrogenated or fractionated. These oils are even more refined and should not be used for optimal health.

3. Organic versus Conventional

Although the coconut is not a high-risk food when it comes to pesticides, nor is it genetically-modified, it is still best to opt for organic options whenever possible. Whether it is the type of fertilizer used or the post-harvesting applications, there are many reasons why organic is a better way to go for both our personal health and the health of our planet.

I will mention here also about the importance of Fair Trade certification when it comes to coconut products, like coconut oil. Our mentality to get the most product for the least amount of money is unfortunately one of the most harmful attitudes when it comes to social justice and environmental sustainability issues. It is time we start to look past our own interests and consider the bigger picture and what is at stake. Cheap final products and trying to drive down prices is normally reflected in more ruthless processing approaches, environmental degradation, and unfair wages and treatment of people who are on the front lines of production. In the context of coconut oil, this is especially applicable to native coconut farmers. We can become part of solution and embody the change we wish to see by supporting fair trade coconut products.

4. Glass versus Plastic Jars

Food and plastic do not mix for optimal health. This is not yet a popular stance in our society, but one that cannot be avoided. Plastics are an environmental disaster all on their own, and given the majority of the plastic comes from refined petroleum products, not something that will ever get the safe stamp of approval. Will one product in a plastic jar harm you? Most likely not, but you have to think of the bigger picture today. It is never about one product and our bodies simply have too many chemicals all around thrown at them. So why not minimize where we can?

Every few months or years, we learn about some new toxicity issues related to plastic and its potential to leach various harmful compounds into the food or drink being housed in it. It becomes an even bigger problem when we mix heat and plastic. Seeing that most coconut oils are heated and then bottled, we can hopefully appreciate why glass jars are a big incentive.

FINAL TIP: To pick a high quality product, focus on coconut oil that is virgin, organic, processed in the least invasive way, and packaged in glass jars. Focus also on reputable companies who provide fair trade products and accurate, detailed information about their coconut oil.

Ultimately, there is no need to nitpick amongst similar quality brands and get overwhelmed by the choices. Find a high quality coconut oil from a company you can trust, feel good about, and is relatively convenient for you to purchase.

My Top 5 Coconut Oil Choices

Below, I will share with you my top 5 brands that I am comfortable using and recommending based on my personal priorities, positive experiences with them, local availability, and professional advice based on the general formula shared above. Please note that this does not necessarily mean that these choices are superior, as compared to some of the brands mentioned in the "Other Coconut Oil Brands" with similar characteristics and high (4 or 5) rankings.

1. Maison Orphée Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Virgin
  • Organic
  • Cold-pressed from fresh coconuts
  • Fair Trade certified
  • Glass Jar
  • Non-deodorized
  • Coconut Origin: Philippines
  • Company Origin: Quebec City, Quebec
  • Learn more: Maison Orphée Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Personally tried; used many times, pleasant coconut flavor and aroma


2. Alpha DME Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Virgin
  • Organic
  • DME Hand-pressed from fresh coconuts
  • Fair Trade certified
  • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
  • Non-deodorized
  • Coconut Origin: Solomon Islands
  • Company Origin: Burnaby, British Columbia
  • Learn more: Alpha DME Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Personally tried; very faint coconut flavor and aroma


3. Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Virgin
  • Organic
  • Cold-processed from fresh coconuts
  • Fair Trade certified (certain sizes)
  • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
  • Non-deodorized
  • Coconut Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Company Origin: Richmond, California
  • Learn more: Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Personally tried; used many times, pleasant coconut flavor and aroma


4. Artisana Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Virgin
  • Organic
  • Cold-pressed — Raw
  • Lacks Fair Trade certification
  • Glass Jar
  • Non-deodorized
  • Coconut Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Company Origin: Oakland, California
  • Learn more: Artisana Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Personally tried; used several times, pleasant coconut flavor and aroma


5. Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Virgin
  • Organic
  • Traditional small-batch pressing of fresh coconuts
  • From family plantations, use GMP standards
  • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
  • Non-deodorized
  • Coconut Origin: Philippines
  • Company Origin: Wisconsin, United States
  • Learn more: Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Personally tried; very faint, almost unrecognizable coconut flavor and aroma


Other Coconut Oil Brands

I have listed below for you brands, in alphabetical order, that I've either had some experience with personally, or have researched, or have been asked about by readers. Please remember as I mentioned in the initial parts of this article, it is next to impossible to cover and be familiar with every brand out there. If you are in doubt about a particular coconut oil, follow the final tips provided above to make the best choice, as it pertains to your priorities.

I have ranked each of the brands/varieties below based on the formula tips I shared with you above, with a rating of 0 (worst) through 5 (best) depending on how many of the 5 important characteristics — virgin, organic, fair trade, glass jar, and at minimum cold-pressed — the coconut oil has. Any of the oils below, rated as either a 4 or 5 can be good potential options. Deciphering between two products rated as a 4, for example, will then come down to things like learning about the company and its overall practices or weighing what may be more important to you personally, i.e. a glass jar or fair trade certification, etc. I have also indicated which of the oils I have personally tried and included brief comments about my experience.

Coconut Oil Brands

  • Aunt Patty’s Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade variety only = 5

    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Eugene, OR
    • Have not personally tried
  • Bali'Sun Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Ultra-cold extraction using Rapid Enhanced Chill Phase
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: unknown
    • Have not personally tried
  • Barlean's Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 3.5

    • Cold-expeller-pressed
    • Plastic (black) jars
    • Company origin: Ferndale, WA
    • Have not personally tried
  • Carrington Farms Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Closter, NJ
    • Have personally tried and enjoyed (common obvious coconut flavor and aroma)
  • Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Cold-pressed from fresh coconuts
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Vista, CA
    • Have not personally tried
  • EcoIdeas Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed, Raw
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Markham, ON and Burnaby, BC
    • Have not personally tried
  • Dr. Mercola's Fresh Shores Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed from fresh coconuts
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Hoffman Estates, IL
    • Have not personally tried
  • Garden of Life — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed from fresh coconuts, Raw
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
    • Have personally tried and enjoyed (pleasant, delicate aroma and flavor)
  • Grace Foods Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed from fresh coconuts
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Jamaica (various world distributors)
    • Have not personally tried
  • Heartland Gold Coconut Oil (no website available) — Virgin, Organic variety only = 2

    • Expeller-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Toronto, ON
    • Have personally tried and did not enjoy
  • International Harvest Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed, Raw
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Mount Vernon, NY
    • Have not personally tried
  • Jarrow Formulas Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic variety only = 2

    • Expeller-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Santa Fe Springs, CA
    • Have not personally tried
  • Kelapo Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
    • Company Origin: Clearwater, FL
    • Have not personally tried
  • Klassic Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
    • Company Origin: Simcoe, ON
    • Have not personally tried
  • LouAna Coconut Oil — Refined = 0

    • Not virgin, not organic, plastic jar
    • Have not personally tried
  • Lucy Bee Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Cold-pressed, Raw
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
    • Have not personally tried
  • Naked Coconuts Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Vancouver, BC
    • Have not personally tried
  • Nature’s Way Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Lehi, UT
    • Have not personally tried
  • NOW Foods Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Bloomingdale, IL
    • Have not personally tried
  • Ojio Ultimate Superfoods Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold Centrifuge Extraction
    • Glass Jar (certain sizes)
    • Company Origin: Moorpark, CA
    • Have not personally tried
  • Omega Nutrition Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic variety only = 3

    • Extracted from fresh coconuts at low temperatures
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Bellingham, Washington
    • Have personally tried refined only (no flavor or aroma)
  • Spectrum Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic variety only = 3

    • Expeller-pressed
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Boulder, CO
    • Have personally tried refined only (no flavor or aroma)
  • Spring Valley Walmart Coconut Oil - Virgin, Organic = 2

    • Not stated
    • Plastic jar
    • Company Origin: Bentonville, AR
    • Have not personally tried
  • Swanson Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic variety only = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Fargo, ND
    • Have personally tried and did not enjoy
  • Tiana Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Cold-pressed, Raw
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Harrow, United Kingdom
    • Have not personally tried
  • Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4

    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Monrovia, CA
    • Have personally tried and enjoyed (pleasant coconut flavor and aroma)
  • True Fresh — Virgin, Organic, Fair Trade = 5

    • Cold centrifuge extraction from fresh coconuts (within 48 hours)
    • Glass Jar
    • Company Origin: Torrance, CA
    • Have personally tried and enjoyed (very gentle flavor and aroma)
  • Vitacost Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Lexington, NC
    • Have not personally tried
  • Viva Labs Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 3

    • Cold-pressed
    • Plastic Jar
    • Company Origin: Hebron, KY
    • Have not personally tried
  • Wilderness Family Naturals Coconut Oil — Virgin, Organic = 4.5

    • Raw, centrifuge-extraction and cold-pressed varieties
    • Glass Jar (most sizes)
    • Company Origin: Silver Bay, MN
    • Have not personally tried

Common Coconut Oil Questions and Answers

Where should I buy my coconut oil from?

One can find virgin, coconut oil today at every natural health food store, and nearly all major grocery stores across North America. (Selection and availability varies widely across other continents and specific countries.) See what your local or online stores carry with respect to the selection.

My most common recommendations (or personally used online store choices) are listed below. They tend to have a wide variety of options, quick shipping, and low free shipping minimum purchase requirements. (My top US choice is Vitacost.com and top Canadian choice is Well.ca)

In the US:

In Canada:

Coconut oils are so diversely priced from $6 to $30 for a, roughly, 16oz jar. Why would I pay more if I can get a jar for $5?

Typically, the saying "you get what you pay for" holds valuable truth. If we are interested in optimal health, then we are not looking for the cheapest product, but the highest quality product. The good news is that with coconut oil's increasing popularity, prices have come down and are very competitive with many higher quality virgin, organic oils in glass jars costing around $12 to $15 per, roughly, 16oz jar. This is the typical ballpark area one should be expecting for a decent quality oil. Several oils are superior in quality and/or sustainability characteristics and therefore justify higher (over $20/16oz) price tags.

How much coconut oil should I be eating daily?

If you choose to consume any coconut oil internally, this will depend on your personal health needs, goals, and priorities. Remember that each tablespoon will yield about 120 calories of pure fat; not nutrient-dense calories by any means. So be discriminate with how you use this product. Unless you are working with a holistic or integrative healthcare professional and have good reason to use coconut oil for some therapeutic use, it is best to use it very sparingly.

Most importantly don't get influenced by some of the recommendations written on bottles or passed around on the internet. The source of most of these claims originates from companies or professionals who have a stake in the matter, and thus encourage frequent or excessive use.

How should I consume coconut oil?

Virgin coconut oil can be consumed in numerous ways: on its own, cooked with, or incorporated into numerous cooked or raw, meals or snacks.

What if I don't like the aroma or flavor of coconuts?

Then it would make most sense not to eat or use coconuts or coconut products. We have to remember that while coconuts and coconut oil can be a beneficial and healthy product, it is also not an essential one. I fully recognize that the coconut hype makes it sound like we are missing out on some incredible health benefit if we don't consume them, but that is simply not true. Again, as smart, discerning consumers, we have to navigate intelligently in the midst of over-embellished and unsubstantiated claims.

From my perspective, and that of leading-edge nutritional science, it is much more valuable to focus on the overall quality of one's diet than try to force in some, one, food product that may not agree with us. With respect to cooking options, we should be moving away from all oils. I am fully aware that an alternate stance on this issue is to just go with a refined oil, which will have no coconut flavor or aroma, but this is simply not my solution as part of an optimal approach to health, neither is using unsaturated oils to cook with. Ultimately, it all comes down to our personal priorities, what we are willing to gamble with, and how we each weigh our personal pros and cons.

Consider also that some virgin coconut oils are stronger in flavor and/or aroma, while others are more gentle and barely noticeable. (See the Q & A about flavor and aroma below.) Try experimenting with several varieties to perhaps find one that agrees most with you. Ultimately, during cooking, the flavor and aroma of coconut oil is greatly neutralized and most people find it is not an issue at all. If anything, it highlights meals in very pleasant ways. Additionally, if we add some herbs, spices, or salt to the mix, then the coconut oil becomes effectively concealed and unrecognizable.

What does RBD stand for and what is RBD coconut oil?

RBD stands for REFINED, BLEACHED, DEODORIZED. This is one of the lowest quality types of coconut oil one can get. It is a heavily processed product, and will typically contain toxic or chemical compound residues, like hexane, as well as provide a nutritionally inferior product. I always invite people who want to go to this oil to consider their priorities, as most people are attracted to coconut oil thanks to being health-conscious, so wouldn't you naturally want the least processed product?

According to Wikipedia:

The dried copra is placed in a hydraulic press with added heat and the oil is extracted. This "crude" coconut oil is not suitable for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with further heating and filtering. 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.

Aren't refined coconut oils the best options for cooking purposes?

They are often marketed that way. However, for optimal health we only want to use the least processed coconut oil whether we are eating it raw or cooking with it. Secondarily, being health-conscious we must re-consider our use of heat when it comes to our food. The higher the heat and the longer our food is subjected to it, the more nutritional value is lost and harmful properties created. So if you are serious about your health, it is not about trying to find an oil that can withstand the highest amount of heat, but about changing our cooking methods to be reflective of our priorities. Virgin coconut oil can be used to cook any meal in the most common and least destructive ways, like sautéing, low/medium heat stir-frying, and gentle roasting.

Can a coconut oil quality be determined by the product's aroma or flavor?

Yes and no. What is certain is that refined (not virgin) varieties will have NO aroma or flavor. Unrefined, virgin varieties will have recognizable coconut aromas and flavors that will vary from very mild to very obvious, depending on the freshness of the coconut, processing method employed, particular batch, packaging, etc. A stronger or weaker, aroma or flavor does always indicate a better or worse product.

However, what I have found from my experience over the years is that the highest quality oils had the faintest, fresh coconut aroma and flavor tones, not the overly fragranced coconut type, which is common amongst many low and mid-end virgin brands. I've also heard from people, and experienced myself, some virgin oils that had the presence of some unpleasant flavor, including burnt-like, chemical-like, and sour-like tones. Keep in mind that each person's sense of smell and taste varies, so it is not always a good indicator to go by what a particular oil smelled or tasted like to someone else, but valuable to be aware of nonetheless.

Can a coconut oil quality be determined by the product's color?

According to coconut oil expert and proponent, Dr. Bruce Fife, it can. He shares the following on this topic:

High quality virgin coconut oil should be snow white in color when it is solid and water clear when liquid. If the oil is some shade of yellow, it is of an inferior quality. Pure coconut oil is colorless. Any discoloration is a sign of contamination or excessive heating during processing. Contamination can be from mold or smoke residue.

Bruce Fife, ND.

How can coconut oil benefit my skin and hair?

Coconut oil makes an excellent moisturizer and infuses our skin with valuable nutrients. Generally, you can use the coconut oil simply on skin or hair as a moisturizer, however the best way to nourish our skin and hair is always from the inside out. So eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, which can include high quality coconut products, will do wonders for our overall health, including the quality of our skin and hair. Using it externally then further helps. Ultimately, we do NOT want to use harsh chemicals on our skin and hair, such as the numerous conventional hair products, body washes, soaps, lotions, etc.

Which brands of coconut oil are best for topical or external use, such as for skin and hair?

The same ones that you would pick to ingest (see final tips above). There aren't coconut oils specifically designed for cooking and others for body use. There can be, but it is predominantly done for marketing purposes. Your skin is a living organ and absorbs most of what you put on it, therefore it is beneficial to put the purest, highest quality of coconut oil on your body, just as you would into your body.

How do I use coconut oil for my skin, hair, or for oil pulling?

On your skin, you can use coconut oil just like a typical cream or moisturizer. Take a small amount and massage a thin layer of it onto your skin (body or face) as needed. Coconut oil typically absorbs very well if a thin layer has been applied.

On your hair, some people just massage it into their scalp and not wash their hair for at least a few hours (if not a day). Some people also work coconut oil into their hair. It all depends on your personal preference and need.

For oil pulling, you would typically put about a tablespoon of coconut oil into your mouth. It will naturally melt in your mouth within a few seconds if it is in solid form. You would then simply swish the oil around in your mouth, for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. It is essential that you do not swallow the oil and spit it out fully upon finishing. Here is a resource to learn about the benefits of oil pulling.

How should I store my coconut oil? Does it have a long shelf-life?

Coconut oil does have a long shelf-life, due to the fact that it is a very stable fat, being mostly saturated, and is not prone to quick oxidation like most other oils. It can store from several months, usually up to a couple years, under the right conditions and depending on its quality and methods of processing. Some people choose to keep their coconut oil in the refrigerator, though this is typically not needed. It will usually depend on the climate you live in. Normally, coconut oil is stored at room temperature.

Published May 16th 2011
Updated Jul 31st 2015
Evita Ochel
Author Evita Ochel
Evita is a consciousness expansion teacher. Her diverse passions and expertise include being a writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, web TV host, and author of the book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition. Her health oriented teaching focuses on natural, whole, plant-based and organic nutrition for optimal health and longevity. Her spiritually oriented teaching focuses on consciousness expansion and heart-centered living for optimal joy and inner peace. Evita is also the creator of several online publications: Evolving Beings, Evolving Wellness, Evolving Channels and Evolving Scenes, as well as Healthytarian—a lifestyle for the well-being of the mind, body and spirit.

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