Virgin Coconut Oil: Benefits, Extraction & Composition
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is certainly not an unfamiliar name with most of us, but virgin coconut oil might be. Unlike what many of you might 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.
There is really a substance called virgin coconut oil and, if not entirely, it has some important differences from ordinary coconut oil. These differences mainly lie with the source (more specifically, the physical form of the source), the method of extraction, and its subsequent benefits. Virgin coconut oil is rapidly gaining in popularity throughout the world in comparison to ordinary coconut oil, and it is not without good reason.
Differences Between Virgin Coconut Oil and Ordinary 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.
The main difference between ordinary coconut oil and virgin coconut oil lies in their processes of 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 the 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, throughout the whole process, the 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. 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 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 and almost nothing else. 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, like that of fresh coconuts, since it is derived from fresh coconuts and is subjected to very low, if not totally nil, heat and sunlight. It is also not refined. This preserves all the natural goodness of this oil, including a high content of vitamin-E and minerals, which are otherwise almost completely robbed from ordinary coconut oil during processes like heating, filtration, refining, and bleaching, which are 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 a few good things, such as some polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to the taste, fragrance, and goodness of coconut oil are found more in virgin coconut oil than the its ordinary counterpart. Furthermore, it is richer is medium chain fatty acids, good cholesterol, and has almost no trans fatty acids.
What is so special about Virgin Coconut Oil?
Since it is not subjected to heat (even if it is, it is subjected to very low heat), sunlight, and being 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 is 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.
How Does My Pocket Feel?
To be perfectly honest, 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 ordinary coconut oil (since production is more complicated and costlier). The prices may vary depending upon the manufacturer, quality, and quantity (retail and bulk). Regardless of those small differences, it almost inevitably costs more than its ordinary counterpart.
Tracking it Down
The Philippines, Indonesia, Java, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, and a few tropical countries are the major producers of virgin coconut oil, so obviously, it is more available in this region. Still, in India, it may not be found in your local grocery shop or even in the one down the street. Big malls and department stores may keep it, more so in the big cities.
You can order it over the internet as well, but that would be even more expensive. You can also ask to order it from the manager of your local shopping mall, who can probably get it for you. One thing you must keep in mind, however: when you are out to buy it, go for the reputed and trusted brands. There are many players in the market who just add some artificial flavor to the ordinary coconut oil and sell it as virgin coconut oil.
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), please do not put it directly on the heat. Instead, put it in a small cup and put the cup in warm water.
What is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?
We often get to hear about extra virgin coconut oil. What is this extra virgin coconut oil? How is the extra virgin coconut oil 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 extra virgin coconut oil, 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.
Conclusion: Virgin coconut oil is an absolutely safe and healthy oil. It deserves a try. Believe me!