Coconut oil is a widely popular edible oil extracted from the coconut flesh when is reaches its maturity stage, after being harvested from the palm tree. Coconut Oil is considered to be the most versatile oil available due to the numerous applications in which it can be found, namely; food items, industrial applications and medicines due to it’s medicinal value.
Coconut has long been a staple food amongst the populations that reside along the tropics. Its various industrial and cosmetic usages have made it a very economically viable commodity. Coconut oil is heat stable, making it suitable for cooking at high temperatures. It is slow to oxidize, resists rancidity and has a shelf life of approximately two years or more; virgin coco crème created through a wet-milling process has an indefinite shelf life.
Coconut Oil Extraction process
There are three ways to extract coconut oil from it’s raw, natural form. Any of these three methods detailed below can come in handy especially in the extraction of coconut virgin oil:
- Dry processing; this method involves the extraction of the coconut flesh from thee shell and then subjecting it to high temperatures for example via kiln, fire, sunlight and so forth, for the purpose of obtaining an end product known as copra. This copra is then dissolved or pressed using solvents to produce a highly nutritious end product (quite rich in protein and fiber) known as mash, in addition to the coconut oil. The mash is hardly in edible state, at least as far as humans are concerned and it is mostly used to feed livestock. This process has its drawbacks in that a portion of oil is lost through the extraction process.
- Wet processing; this particular extraction method employs the usage of raw coconut, as opposed to the use of dry copra. The protein material in the coconut brings out an emulsion of oil and water, which now poses a challenge of separating the oil from the emulsion. Several methods were put to use for example prolonged boiling, resulting into poor quality oil thus the traditional techniques gave way to modern ones. One of the most common methods known as centrifuges in addition to pre-treatments such as shock waves, heat, cold, acids, salts and so on. A combination of some of the pretreatments is sometimes employed.
- Wet milling (Direct micro expelling); in this process, fresh coconut kernel is shredded and dried to about 10% to 12% moisture. The moist shredded coconut is then pressed to expel virgin coconut oil.
It is also important to note that, all oils marketed as virgin coconut oils are derived from fresh coconuts.
Extraction cost factors
Though the wet processing can boast of being technology driven, (compared to the dry one), the cost factor of the process does make it fall out of favor due to low yield output which is normally 10% -15% less than the dry processing.
Another factor that makes the wet processing less viable is the fact that the use immature copra is an uphill task when it comes to oil extraction and leads to lower quality coconut oil with an equally lower yield.
To increase the coconut oil shelf life, there are several processes that come in handy and they include;
- The extracted oil is refined to eliminate free fatty acids in order to reduce the chances of its ranciditity
- Using the copra that has a moisture content of 6%, maintain the moisture content at 0.2% then subject it to a heating process with temperatures of between 130-150ºC (266-302ºF) then add salt and citric acid.
- Storing it in solid form, with temperatures below 24.5ºC (76ºF); results into an enhanced shelf life.
Composition of Coconut Oil
The primary composition of coconut oil is fats. The fats component is saturated with a percentage of 90%. The oil also contains medium triglycerides; 92% saturated fatty acids, 6% monosaturated fatty acids and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids in coconut oil is composed of; 44.6% Lauric acid, 16.8% myristic acid, 8.2% palmitic acid and 8% caprylic acid.
Coconut oil contains a total of seven different saturated fatty acids compounds; its only monosaturated fatty acid is oleic acid, while its only polyunsaturated fatty acid is linoleic acid.
Crude coconut oil does have a melting point when subjected to temperatures of 24-25ºC (76ºF) and smokes at 177ºC (350ºF). Refined coconut oil on the other hand smokes at 232ºC (450ºF).
Coconut oil is considered to be among the most stable of all oils owing to its slow oxidation ability which makes it less susceptible to rancidity. This also enables it to maintain the same state for a period of two years.
Health benefits of Coconut Oil
There are a number of health benefits which are attributable to the coconut oil. A highlight of them is as follows:
- The ultimate hair care commodity; coconut oil contains unique fatty acids as well as small molecular structure which easily sinks into the hair’s cell membrane. This factor enables the oil to penetrate in such a way that the conditioning process works from within as opposed to most conditioners that work from outside inwards. You only have to massage the oil on your scalp regularly, in order to bid goodbye to the annoying dandruff menace. For that ultra nice shine for your hair, apply a teaspoon or two on the hair when it is dumpy then let it stay overnight. The unbelievable results afterwards will more than shock you.
- The model skin care product; coconut oil contains powerful agents that do a great job in conditioning your skin. They include the medium chain triglycerides which are naturally occurring fatty acids with deep penetrative ability. These go a long way in moisturizing as well as safeguarding your skin against harsh environmental conditions. The harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun are also kept at bay, by screening a good 20% of it. Coconut oil is also a powerful anti-aging moisturizer, thanks to its skin smoothening properties that also go hand in hand with its antioxidants infusion into the skin. The beauty of it all is that it also contains vitamin E, a compound responsible for correcting conditions such as skin abrasion, burns and so forth.
- Aids in weight loss; top researches have held the view that in order for effective weight loss the long chain fatty acids should be replaced with medium chain fatty acids, which offer quick metabolism. Medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil bring about a speedy metabolism process because they are easily digested so as to produce energy.
- A natural treatment for pneumonia; according to a study presented before the American College of Chest Physicians on October 29 2008, coconut oil was found to offer pneumonia patients a speedy and more complete relief from symptoms. This was heralded as a great relief to many patients; due to the fact that it could be used as a cheap addition to traditional antibiotics with no known side effects, this also will result to less risk of patient exposure to a hospital environment and the overall lower medical expenses.
- Lowers risk of diabetes, heart disease and improves cholesterol levels- a regular intake of 30ml coconut oil supplement in addition to a moderate exercise routine, was found to result to a decreased waist circumference faster. This is according to study made on a group of women whose ages were ranging from 20-40 years, within a period of 12 weeks. This automatically translates into reduced chances of getting type II diabetes and heart disease. Their cholesterol profile also improved tremendously in addition to a higher HDL levels as well as a higher HDL:LDL ratio.
- Eliminates chronic fatigue and improves bone health – coconut oil helps in magnesium and calcium absorption, the minerals that are responsible for fighting osteoporosis. This makes coconut oil a natural remedy for bone related complications. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil produce energy rather than body fats. This development ensures that your body has improved metabolism at the same time experiencing less fatigue. This oil also destroys organism in the body that are responsible for sapping its strength.
- Alzheimer’s disease – this is from a personal experience of Dr. Mary Newport, who had earlier on engaged in a fruitless search for the cure of her husband’s dementia. She discovered that a substance known as medium chain triglyceride (MCT), which happened to be present in the drug trial that her husband failed to qualify for, was naturally present in the coconut oil. She subjected her husband to a coconut oil prescription of a single teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day for a month and half. This led to her husband’s almost complete recovery.
Proper use of coconut oil will also lead to the following health benefits:
- Kills bacteria such as tapeworm and liver flukes
- Lowers incidences of hemorrhoids
- Soothes earaches
- Eliminates acid reflux and promotes proper bowel functioning
- Corrects prostate enlargement complications
- Strengthens the liver and fights degeneration
- Reduces incidences of epileptic seizures and so forth.
Coconut Oil Uses
Aside from the aforementioned health benefits, coconut oil also has numerous uses. It can also come in handy in a variety of situations and they are listed as hereunder:
- It is a great cooking oil due to its high smoking point characteristic. It is ideal for baking, stir frys and even a dairy free replacement to butter.
- It can also be used as a coffee creamer if emulsified into coffee
- Applicable on the skin as a basic lotion
- Used as an eye makeup remover
- It is a safe diaper cream when rubbed on baby’s bottom
- Used to lighten aging spots when rubbed directly on the skin
- It is a natural SPF for sunscreen
- It works to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy
- Supports healthy thyroid function
- Can come in handy to eliminate yeast or yeast infection
- Helps in bringing about healing after birth if applied directly on the perineum
- It is also a great and intensive nighttime facial moisturizer
- It is a delicious tropical massage oil
- Applicable on feet to fight athlete’s foot or fungus
- Rubbing of coconut oil inside the nose eliminates or alleviates allergy symptoms
- For speedy recovery from colds and flu, blend a tablespoon of coconut oil into hot tea
- Aids in reducing appearance of varicose veins
- It is also a natural shaving cream and shave lotion
- With regular and consistent use, it helps get rid of cellulite
- Its anti-inflammatory properties aids in fighting an arthritis condition
- It is a natural anti-bacterial skin cream
- Reduces the itch of mosquito bites
- When used regularly, it helps resolve acne conditions
- Can help in resolving insomnia cases if taken daily
- It is a natural deodorant
- Can be used externally for pests with skin diseases
- A tablespoon emulsified into a cup of warm tea can go a long way into eliminating sore throat
- Some research shows that coconut oil can come in handy to solve some anxiety and depression cases
- Can be applied on mom’s nipple and baby’s mouth to help treat thrush
- It is a naturally whitening toothpaste if used on its own or with baking soda
- Can boost hormone production when taken regularly
- Can be used on cuticles to enhance nail growth
- Naturally clears up cold sores
Pros and Cons of Coconut Oil Usage
Research has shown that an adult can consume up to 3 and half table spoonfuls of coconut oil in a given day. This amount is equivalent to the Medium-chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) a nursing infant would receive in one day. In other words to best compare the nutritional value of intake of MCFA consumed in a diet, the percentage applicable is the same one to be found in a human breast milk.
Coconut oil has no known side effects in fact in most medicinal applications it is widely regarded as a natural compound (which has no side effects). The only problem occurs when you are used to a diet whose content is low fat intake. If taken without care in this situation, it may result into acute diarrhea. It is advisable to begin with small amounts then gradually increasing the intake.
For pregnant and lactating mothers, the coconut oil is quite beneficial nutritionally, but for mothers who have adopted a low fat diet, it is important not to experiment with it, especially if not used to it.
On the other hand, if you have been consuming coconut oil for sometime, then do not fear to use it even while pregnant or lactating for that matter.