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 coconut oil is gaining immense popularity are its rich attributes such as high levels of saturated fat, which promotes good cholesterol and anti-bacterial nature.
Also, it helps in boosting cardiovascular health and provides 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 primary varieties of coconut oil, viz. refined coconut oil, known as the processed version and unrefined coconut oil, which is called ‘pure’ oil.
- Refined coconut oil undergoes a deodorization and bleaching process, removing its coconut taste and smell, while unrefined coconut oil retains its natural flavor and aroma.
- Unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin or extra-virgin, is made from fresh coconut meat and contains more nutrients and antioxidants than refined coconut oil.
- Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking, while unrefined coconut oil is best for low to medium-heat cooking.
Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil
The 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.
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However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on specific parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:
|Parameter of Comparison||Refined Coconut Oil||Unrefined Coconut Oil|
|How made||Dried coconut meat is mechanically pressed to release oil||Fresh coconut meat is a dry or wet process|
|The type of coconut meat used||Dried coconut meat (known as ‘copra’ is used)||Fresh coconut meat|
|The 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 the oil|
|Odour||Odourless or neutral||The 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 the coconut smell||Those who like purity and a 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 extended periods.
Refined coconut oil is odourless and transparent because the oil is subjected to high temperatures while refining.
This process removes the coconut scent and impurities such as bacteria, microbes, dust particles, insects, etc. Basically, the process ensures that the extracted oil is clean and odourless.
Refined coconut oil has no exceptional coconut taste or aroma. This stems from the reason that the meat is dried, smoked or stored for a more extended period and later filtered and pressed to remove the coconut scent.
Drying the meat and subjecting it to high heat (at 400-degree temperature) eventually removes any coconut scent during filtration.
Refined coconut oil is ideal for use in baking and quick frying, and since it is less expensive, one may find it more utilized in restaurants.
If someone wants to eat healthy snacks and fried foods but doesn’t like to have coconut scent, come their way, then refined coconut oil is a preferred option.
What is Unrefined Coconut Oil?
Unrefined coconut oil is also known and labelled as “virgin”, “pure”, “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 a solid and natural coconut flavour and aroma.
Unrefined coconut oil is made by a ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ method. The latter yields milk and oil, which are separated through fermentation and other methods.
Unrefined coconut oil has a 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. Health experts also recommend it due to its high and natural nourishment value.
Unrefined coconut oil is expensive on the pocket since it possesses a high nutrient value containing anti-oxidant properties and a strong aroma and is obtained from fresh coconut meat.
It would be apt to state that unrefined coconut oil is a less processed variation of 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 a shorter shelf life (maybe a year). Unrefined coconut oil possesses longer shelf life (more than two years).
- Refined coconut oil is less expensive than unrefined one.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.