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Different types of coconut oil

coconut oil types
Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of coconuts, from palm trees, which is also known as the kernel. 

Coconut oil has become very popular over the last few years due to its many uses. It can be used in a multitude of recipes during cooking and baking but it can also be used on your hair, skin and even on your teeth! It is indeed hugely versatile! 

Coconut oil also has as many descriptors and labels as it has uses and so it can be confusing when it comes to choosing which type of coconut oil you need. So we are here to clear this up for you. 

The type of coconut oil you choose will depend on what you would like to use it for, since different types of coconut oil are more suitable for different uses.

Refined coconut oil 

Coconut oil that is refined has been mechanically expressed. The oil undergoes processing, at a high heat, in order to filter out impurities and make it stable. 

Refined oil has less flavour and fragrance to it. Refined coconut oil is great for use during deep fat frying as it can withstand very hot temperatures before it starts to smoke.1 For this reason, refined coconut oil is the best choice when it comes to cooking.

Unrefined coconut oil 

Unrefined coconut oil is coconut oil in its purest form. With unrefined coconut oil, the coconut meat is scooped out from the shell and cold pressed by hand. This leaves just the oil.2 


Unrefined coconut oil has undergone very little processing and does not contain any additives. As liquid coconut oil, it appears clear. And white when in its solid state.3 Unrefined coconut oil is also known as extra virgin, virgin or pure coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil is the best coconut oil for the skin and the hair. The nutritional value of these two different types of coconut oil is very close. Coconut oil is high in healthy fatty acids. These medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which your body can use as a source of energy.4

How coconut oil is processed 

There are also some differences between how coconut oil is processed. There are a few different ways in which the oil can be processed including cold pressing, centrifuge extracting and expeller pressed.5 

Cold pressed 

In this process, flesh is removed from mature coconuts before being ground into flakes. The flesh is then extracted using a press. This is one of the most effective ways of processing as it retains all the nutritional properties which the coconut has.6 

Centrifuge extracted

During this process, the coconuts’ shells are removed before they are ground down. The milk is extracted from the flesh and then the flesh is placed into a high speed centrifuge which quickly spins, separating the oil from the flesh.7 

Expeller pressed 

Expeller pressing involves squeezing the coconut meat to separate the oil inside a machine. There are high temperatures involved here and in this process, some nutrients are lost.8

What is the difference between hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated coconut oil? 

The process of hydrogenation is where hydrogen atoms are added to the coconut oil in high heat to turn unsaturated fat components into saturated fats.

Hydrogenation results in a more solid form of coconut oil and a longer shelf-life, as well as an increase in melting point.9 

Coconut oil can be either partly or fully hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated oil contains trans-fats which are linked to weight gain and obesity and so this type of coconut oil is not usually used. Fully hydrogenated coconut oil contains saturated fats but is free from trans fats.10 

What is the difference between organic and non-organic coconut oil? 

In order to be certified organic, food must be produced without the use of man-made fertilisers or pesticides.11 Organic coconut oil is therefore grown and processed without these. It is also not genetically modified.12

Coconut oil products 

As well as being able to buy coconut oil on its own, many products also contain coconut oil as one of the main ingredients. 

You can buy shampoos and conditioners which contain organic coconut oil for hair as well as coconut oil deodorant and coconut oil soap.

Last updated: 20 November 2020

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