Includes the nutritional benefits of coconut products
4 May 2006
Refined coconut oil and Virgin coconut oil are two distinctly different products.
Refined, Bleached and Deodorized (RBD) Coconut Oil : Production of RBD coconut oil begins with copra (pronounced KOP-ruh) made by kiln drying or sun drying the coconut meat to a moisture level of 3.5 percent from its original 50 percent. After crushing and grinding the coconut meat, the producers make coconut milk by pouring boiling water over the coconut meat. The grated coconut meat is then kneaded to extract from it as much liquid as possible. Next the milk is strained off and boiled gently for a long time to evaporate the liquid, leaving only the oil behind. Copra has an oil content that ranges from 50 to 70 percent. Always with their eye on the bottom line, producers develop ways to get the most from the raw material. Some boil the copra first to extract more oil, and some use solvents. Even the copra left behind, called coco meal or coco cake, becomes useful as high-protein animal food. Filtering is the next step to remove impurities and particles, followed by several hours of boiling to eliminate an unsavory odor. A second filtering process, and sometimes an added bleaching agent, creates a coconut oil that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. However, fearing the colorless oil will not appeal to customers, many processors add food coloring.
Virgin Coconut Oil: COLD PROCESSED with Absolutely No Heat (ANH). Extracting virgin coconut oil is a NO HEAT, labor-intensive operation where most of the work is done by hand. The process of doing Virgin Coconut oil begins in the selection of the right coconut to be used. The grating of fresh, mature and selected coconut begins by holding the nut over a rotating grater that somewhat resembles an orange juice reamer. The mechanized grater, operating at very high speed, requires skill to hold the coconut in place during the grating process. The wet gratings are then put into a special net and are placed into a manual press to extract the coconut milk, using a manual presser. The machine is not motorized. The coconut gratings are passed through the press twice to squeeze out all possible milk.
The raw milk is then mixed with the coconut water and allowed to settle through a slow process called culturing, for a period of time not to exceed 20 hours. Protein content rises above and water fall to the bottom and the oil floats in the middle. The oil is harvested, filtered and decanted, filtered again and made to rest for a few weeks. This process is called “curing,” wherein the oil rests before it is decanted and filtered again. The last decanting and filtering take place after three weeks. Finally the pure oil is bottled for the consumer. The end product has a distinctive pleasant, mild coconut aroma and flavor. Another advantage of the virgin coconut oil is its amazing shelf life. Stored for a year unrefrigerated, the oil shows no signs of rancidity. Longer shelf life is only possible for cold processed virgin coconut oil, without heat, because the tocopherol content of the oil remains intact, and this serves as its natural preservative. When refrigerated, or in temperature 25 degrees, the oil becomes completely solid. It may seem different in taste and texture than other coconut oils you've tried in the past.
Virgin coconut oil used in a study conducted in the Yucatan showed that those who used the virgin coconut oil on a daily basis had a higher metabolic rate. Though they regularly consumed considerable quantities of the saturated fat, the participants retained a lean body mass. Another facet of the Yucatan study noted that the women participants did not suffer the typical symptoms of menopause. Cold processed virgin coconut oil is said to be very effective in lowering HIV viral count. Latest testimonials on cold processed virgin coconut are from autistic children, cancer and psoriasis patients.
Other Virgin Coconut Oil Processes. The different kinds of virgin coconut oil in the market are processed following two other accepted methods for now. The fermentation with heat or what we call the traditional method or “latik” way. This process begins the same way as the cold process, but differs in their way of eliminating or lowering the moisture content of the oil. Some boil or pasteurize the milk gently for a long time to evaporate the liquid, leaving only the oil behind. Others subject the oil to heat in the final stage. In some instances, a filtering process is undertaken and sometimes an added bleaching agent is used to create a coconut oil that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
The other process is the centrifuge process. This process uses force with the use of a centrifuge machine operating at very high speed in separating the oil, water and protein. Extracted oil is then placed in a vacuum evaporator with a heat of up to 80 degrees to eliminate the moisture content.
Another process is called the expelling process-desiccated coconut way. The coconut oil extracted from this process is now the by-product of other main coconut products such as the desiccated coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream and even coconut flour. The product through this process might just as well be called simply as “coconut oil’.
Nutritional Benefits of Coconut Products
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has 120 calories for 1 tablespoon and 14 grams of total fat. These figures are the same for almost any kind of oil from extra virgin olive oil to soybean oil. The difference is that coconut oil contains 11 to 12 grams saturated fat. Coconut oil when subjected to heat or complex processing, like other oils, looses its significant natural vitamins and minerals.
Young coconuts are considered highly nutritious. One whole coconut has only 140 calories and provides 17% of the RDA for calcium. The total fat content is 3 grams, all saturated. With a zero content of cholesterol, the young coconut has 50 mg sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber,15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.
Mature Coconut: The raw grated meat of a mature coconut has 283 calories and 2.7 grams of protein for 1 cup. For the carb counters, that 1 cup contains 12.2 grams of carbohydrates. The sodium content is low at 16 mg. Coconut is a high fiber food that delivers 7.2 grams for 1 cup of freshly grated meat. The sticky point of coconut consumption is the fat. That 1 cup of grated coconut packs 26.8 grams of total fat with 23.8 grams saturated which means that it is 80% fat. Our 1 cup of grated fresh coconut contains a good range of B vitamins except B12, with 21.1 mcg of folic acid and 2.6 mg of vitamin C. Coconut is a good source of minerals with 11.2 mg of calcium, 1.9 mg. of iron, 15.6 mg of magnesium, 285 mg. of potassium, and 0.9 mg. of zinc.
Coconut Milk: For the same measure, canned coconut milk contains 445 calories, 5 grams protein, and 6 grams of carbohydrate. Total fat is 48.2 grams, with 42.7 grams saturated.
Canned coconut milk lacks vitamin B2 and B12 but has a good range of other B vitamins including 30 mcg of folic acid. Vitamin C content is 2.3 mg. For the minerals our coconut milk contains 40.7 mg of calcium, 7.5 mg. of iron, 104.0 mg. of magnesium, 497 mg. of potassium, and 1.3 mg. of zinc.
Fresh coconut milk is slightly higher in the B vitamins, zinc, and potassium but slightly lower in calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Coconut Water: On the average 1 cup contains about 46 calories and 2 grams of protein. The sodium content is surprisingly high with 252 mg. and so is the fiber at 3 grams. The total fat is exceptionally low at 0.5 grams with 0.4 grams saturated. Coconut water contains a full range of B vitamins with the exception of vitamin B6 and B12. There are 6.00 mcg of folic acid and 5.8 mg of vitamin C. Rating the minerals that 1 cup contains 57.6 mg of calcium, 0.7 mg. of iron, 60 mg of magnesium, 600 mg of potassium, and 0.2 mg of zinc.
VIRGIN COCONUT OIL : Purchase only virgin coconut oil that you are sure of the process as indicated on the labels. Not all those available in health food markets and drug stores may be true and real VCO after all. Though it may be more expensive than other VCO’s available in the market, the health benefits of ANH-VCO far outweigh the extra expense. Virgin coconut oil contains no trans-fatty acids. Because of its high content of healthful saturated fat, virgin coconut oil is a very stable oil which can withstand the heat, b ut cold processed VCO is not highly recommended for cooking.