Virgin coconut oil is known for its nice fragrance, taste, antioxidants, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), and vitamins, among other things. Coconut oil is certainly not an unfamiliar name, but virgin coconut oil might be. Unlike many may assume, it is not simply another name given to the ordinary coconut oil by some company just to increase sales numbers by claiming that it is the purest available form.
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Virgin coconut oil is the oil extracted from coconuts without the application of heat. It is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the world in comparison to ordinary coconut oil and for a good reason. There is, in fact, a substance called virgin coconut oil and it differs from regular coconut oil in significant ways. These differences mainly lie with the source (more specifically, the physical form of the source), the method of extraction, and its subsequent benefits.
Extraction of Virgin Coconut Oil
The main difference between regular and virgin coconut oil lies in the processes of their extraction. While the former is extracted by cold compression or cold milling of Copra (another name for dried Coconut kernels) with a moisture content of around six percent, the latter is extracted from coconut milk obtained from fresh coconuts. Thereafter, using processes such as fermentation, churning (centrifugal separation), refrigeration, and the action of enzymes, the oil is separated from the water or moisture. In some cases, this fresh coconut oil is boiled to obtain the oil by evaporating the water or moisture.
However, in the case of virgin coconut oil, the raw materials and the process of extraction should not allow any involvement of heat. Therefore, in good and reputable firms that manufacture virgin coconut oil, utmost care is taken to ensure that the kernels and the raw material, i.e. the coconut milk, are not subjected to heat or sunlight, throughout the whole process. In some cases, virgin coconut oil is also extracted directly by cold compression of fresh dried coconut meat. This is also called Micro-expelling.
Virgin coconut oil extracted by the cold compression method is considered better than that extracted by the fermentation method since the oil extracted by fermentation has higher moisture content and goes rancid quicker. If you ever need to melt it (during winter), do not put it directly in the heat. Instead, put it in a small cup and place the cup in warm water.
Difference Between Virgin & Regular Coconut Oil
Apart from the extraction process, which is the most important difference between regular and virgin coconut oil, let us explore a bit more about what made these two sisters, born of the same mother, so different from each other, yet in other ways remain so similar.
Virgin coconut oil looks slightly different from ordinary coconut oil and this differentiation cannot be made with the naked eye. This difference is mainly due to the presence of certain colloidal and other particles and moisture within it. On the other hand, ordinary oil is refined and is mainly left with the fatty acids in it. Ideally, virgin coconut oil should be as clear as water. However, its color may vary slightly depending upon its processing.
Virgin coconut oil has a very good taste and smell since it is derived from fresh coconuts and is subjected to very low heat and sunlight. It is also not refined. This preserves all the natural goodness of this oil, including its high content of vitamin E and minerals, which are otherwise robbed from the ordinary coconut oil during processes like heating, filtration, refining, and bleaching, done to make it colorless and odorless. Furthermore, virgin coconut oil is very effective as a moisturizing agent. Its antioxidant properties are far better than those of normal coconut oil.
The two varieties do not differ much in composition, except for the fact that some polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to the taste, fragrance, and goodness of coconut oil are found more in virgin coconut oil than its ordinary counterpart. Furthermore, it is richer in medium chain fatty acids, good cholesterol, and has almost no trans fatty acids.
Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil
Since it is not subjected to heat (even if it is, it is subjected to very low heat), sunlight, and is extracted from fresh (non-dried) coconuts with a different process of extraction, virgin coconut oil is certainly richer in benefits than ordinary coconut oil. It is higher in vitamin content, antioxidants (which are nil or negligible in ordinary coconut oil), minerals, medium chain fatty acids, taste, fragrance, and even the amount of protein. The shelf life of virgin coconut oil is very long, much longer than any other edible oil and its own variant, the RBD (Refined Bleached Deodorized) coconut oil. Also, it does not go rancid easily. Due to the presence of high amounts of lauric and capric acid, the prospect of using VCO in aiding the treatment of AIDS is also being explored.
Virgin Coconut Oil Price
As we all know, good things were never, are not, and will never be cheap. Virgin coconut oil is no exception to that rule. It is dearer than regular coconut oil (since the production is more complicated and costlier). The prices may vary depending on the manufacturer, quality, and quantity (retail and bulk). Regardless of those small differences, it almost inevitably costs more than its ordinary counterpart.
The Philippines, Indonesia, Java, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, and other tropical countries are the major producers of virgin coconut oil. The oil is cheaper in these countries as compared to the US, Canada, and Europe. Irrespective of the price, when you are out to buy virgin coconut oil, you must go for the reputed and trusted brands. There are many players in the market who just add artificial flavor to regular coconut oil and sell it as virgin coconut oil.
What is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?
We often get to hear about extra virgin coconut oil, but what is it? And how is it different from virgin coconut oil?
According to the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community, which has provided APCC Standards for Virgin Coconut Oil, “virgin coconut oil is obtained from the fresh and mature kernel of coconuts by mechanical or natural means with or without the application of heat, which does not lead to an alteration of the oil”. When one refers to coconut oil as being extra virgin, the word ‘extra’ is indeed extra. The APCC does not mention anything about extra virgin coconut oil. Hence, for practical purposes, extra virgin coconut oil, in my opinion, should be considered as virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is an absolutely safe and healthy oil.