Coconut oil is incredibly versatile and widely available. Let’s take a look at coconut oil unrefined vs refined, what the difference is, and why it matters.

Coconut oil has become quite trendy over the past couple of years. It can be easily found in your local grocery store. Some even carry it in bulk! But what are the differences in it all? And what can it be used for? Let’s start by looking at coconut oil unrefined vs refined.

Unrefined Coconut Oil Debate

Unrefined Coconut Oil is less processed and has more benefits than its refined friend. This type of coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts and fresh coconut meat. It has a low smoke point which means it’s good for cooking at high temperatures and also has a strong coconut flavor. You may also see “virgin” or “extra virgin” labels on coconut oil which also means it is unrefined. (In general, extra virgin is more natural and less processed, though there aren’t clear rules for this in coconut oil like there is in olive oil.)

The smoke point of an oil is when the oil begins to stop shimmering and start smoking (or burning). A lower smoke point, like that of extra virgin coconut oil, means the unrefined coconut oil will start smoking at a lower temperature than refined coconut oil. The smoke point for unrefined coconut oil is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The smoke point of refined coconut oil is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil has a different extraction process than unrefined. This means the coconut meat has been dried and machine pressed to release the oil. The coconut oil is then heated to deodorize it and filtered through clay to remove impurities and bacteria. A chemical solvent, such as hexane may be added to help extract the oil according to Live Strong.

Because of the refining process, refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point than unrefined coconut oil and tends to be flavorless and odorless, though it can still mildly taste like coconut. Refined coconut oil is better for high heat cooking.

Coconut Oil Unrefined vs Refined: Why it Matters

Anytime a product, especially one we take in our bodies, is more processed it loses important nutrients that we need. This is an important factor that means we have to get those nutrients from another place. In addition, processed products tend to add extra chemicals that we don’t need. Chemicals can have many disadvantages, including interrupting our hormone cycles. The final product of refined coconut oil unfortunately can have added chemicals and definitely gets stripped of some nutrients. This is also the case with vegetable oils. For these reasons, unrefined oil is a better choice because it’s a more natural product, and it’s my personal preference. Both unrefined and refined coconut oil share a similar nutritional profile and overall similar nutritional values.

Keep in mind, even though coconut oil is a healthier oil, it is still high in fat and should be used sparingly in your diet. Small amounts are the best choice.

Use of Coconut Oil: Benefits of Coconut Oil

I will never forget the day I decided to read the ingredients on my face and body lotions. I couldn’t pronounce half of them, and I couldn’t have told you what the other half was. As a nurse who also leans towards natural methods for taking care of my health and body, I was really bothered by this. In recent years, I’ve become quite aware of the way chemicals affect our brains and bodies and disrupt our hormone cycles. There is now loads of research and a lot of information that’s hard to ignore when choosing beauty and food products. This is one of the reasons I have replaced many beauty products with coconut oil. Coconut oil, for me, has completely taken the place of lotions and face creams.

I use coconut oil for so many other things as well. This is one of my go-to products for beauty, skincare, and diet. Coconut oil can also be used in place of lanolin for the breastfeeding mama! It helps with sore or dry nipples. And it’s also great to use on wounds or fresh tattoos.

Uses of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is also great for body care. I use it as a beauty product by applying it to my face before I put on makeup. It works as my moisturizer and primer. Pure coconut oil makes for a great hair mask. It is a natural conditioner and should be used before shampooing unless you have very dry hair. Using it after shampooing, especially on the roots, can leave your hair extremely oily. I use it after shaving my legs. Sometimes I use it to shave with. (It’s important to note that at room temperature, coconut oil is liquid so make sure the temperature is over 74 degrees outside, otherwise, the stuff can solidify in your drains and cause a clog). I use it as a “clean” cooking oil and for good reason: coconut oil is basically the duct tape of the food world!

Why cook with coconut oil?

Coconut oil is free of trans fats. This is a man-made type of fat that can cause heart disease and is used in vegetable shortening and margarine. Being free of trans fat makes coconut oil a better choice than some other oils in cooking. Let me go ahead and note that coconut oil and coconut milk are completely different products, but are both made from coconut fruit. They are not interchangeable in cooking.

Let’s recap: The main difference between the unrefined and refined version of coconut oil is the way it is processed. In my opinion, less processed is your best bet and for this reason, the best coconut oil is raw/unrefined.

Try adding a drop or two of essential oils to your coconut oil depending on what you have and need. Lavender is a nice one for relaxation and massage. Adding peppermint oil can make you feel more awake and alert. Orange, lime, and other citrus oils can help you feel more energetic and curb nausea. Adding eucalyptus to coconut oil makes a great homemade cough and cold chest rub, much like Vicks Vapor Rub. Make sure to keep your coconut oil for cooking and your coconut oil for moisturizer (or other uses) separate. No one wants skin cells in their food (yuck!). Storing in mason jars is a great option.

I’ve had my huge jar of coconut oil for over a year and it is still as good as the day I bought it. Coconut oil can go rancid, just like other oils, but it is overall very stable. It lasts at least 24 months. Do you have other ways you use coconut oil? Let me know! A big bonus for me is the smell of coconut reminds me of the beach, which I love!

If you happen to drip coconut oil on your clothes, no big deal. I have a really simple solution that removes the oil in the wash. Here’s the best way to remove oil stains.

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Rachel is a Postpartum Nurse of 15+ years. She is also a Spinning Babies® CPE, Childbirth Educator, Published Author, and Recipe Creator. Rachel's passion is to encourage and empower women in all things related to motherhood.

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