Coconut oil has become widely more popular over the last few years. Some may even call it a superfood! Coconuts have been widely used and cultivated for thousands of years, primarily in more tropical areas where they grow plentiful on palm trees. Coconut oil is very versatile and used in native cultures for cooking, cosmetics, and medicinal care.
Being on the Ketogenic diet, you may be looking to reap all the benefits of coconut oil to support fat burning, weight loss, and other health goals. But which type of coconut oil is best to use?
This post will cover refined vs unrefined coconut oil, the health benefits of coconut oils, the different types of coconut oil, the benefits for your gut health, and what coconut oil you should be using on a Keto diet.
Key Differences Between Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil for Keto
Refined coconut oil goes through additional processing, which results in less of a coconut taste and a loss of nutrients.
Unrefined coconut oil is minimally processed, making it a cleaner option. It contains more nutrients, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant qualities than refined coconut oil.
Unrefined is the best coconut oil for a Ketogenic diet.
Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil has been processed, which results in a loss of the nutty coconut taste. Refined coconut oil has gone through a “refining” process that gives it a long shelf life, makes it more suitable for cooking, and gives it a higher smoke point. The smoke point for refined coconut oil is 400 degrees.
Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut and goes through a refining process that may involve any of the following:
- Degumming: The coconut oil is mixed with an agent to remove gums. This can change the quality of the oil and the texture.
- Neutralizing: Sodium hydroxide is added. This is a process that creates a soap-type mixture to help reduce the rancidity of the oil.
- Bleaching: The oil goes through a process that does not involve the chemical bleach but is called “bleaching.” The oil is filtered through an activated clay filter.
- Deodorizing: The oil is heat-deodorized; this helps remove any remaining coconut taste or aroma.
Refined coconut oil is great for frying and cooking at 400 degrees or higher. It is also an excellent option for a recipe where you don’t want to taste the coconut. Refined coconut oil is also an excellent option for skin and hair care.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat. Unrefined oil is minimally processed, retaining its coconut taste and aroma. Unrefined coconut oil contains more nutrients, antioxidants than refined oil, making it a more nutrient-dense option. Unrefined coconut oil has a smoke point of 350 degrees, making it an inferior product to refined oil when cooking at higher temperatures.
Unrefined coconut oil may also be labeled as “pure,” “virgin,” “extra virgin,” or “raw.” When it comes to coconut oil, there is no set standard as to what “virgin coconut oil” and “extra virgin coconut oil” are, as there is with olive oil. “Raw coconut oil” means the oil was not exposed to any heat during the extraction process.
Differences Between Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil for Keto Diet
The main differences between refined coconut oil and unrefined coconut oil are the taste, smoke point, nutritional qualities, and Keto diet-specific considerations.
Taste: Unrefined coconut oil has a nutty coconut taste and smell. Unrefined coconut oil does not, or it is a very minimal taste. Refined coconut oil is best for cooking when you don’t want a coconut taste. Unrefined oil is the best option if a coconut flavor would be a great addition to the recipe.
Smoke Point: Refined coconut oil has a high smoke point of 400 degrees. Unrefined coconut oil has a low smoke point of 350 degrees.
Nutritional Qualities: Unrefined coconut oil is a “cleaner” food option. It is minimally processed and retains the nutritional qualities of the coconut. Refined coconut oil goes through processing in which nutritional qualities are often reduced or lost during the process.
Types of Coconut Oil
Refined and unrefined coconut oil are the two main types of coconut oil. However, you will also find liquid coconut oil, organic coconut oil, Non-hydrogenated and hydrogenated coconut oil, along with oils more focused on skin and beauty, such as fractioned coconut oil or massage oil. Let’s break down what these different types of coconut oil are:
Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon is the serving size for coconut oil. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains:
121 Calories, 0 grams of protein, 13.5 grams of fat, 11.2 grams of saturated fat, and 0 grams of carbohydrates, fiber, and sugar.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
One of the main benefits of coconut oil is its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Coconut oil contains monolaurin, lauric acid, and caprylic acid, making it jam-packed with antiviral properties, anti-inflammatory properties, antifungal properties, antibacterial properties, and antioxidants.
Along with its fatty acids, coconut oil is beneficial for skin and hair health. The fatty acids make it great for lubricating and moisturizing skin, acting as a sealant, helping skin seal in and retain its natural moisture. The antibacterial properties also make coconut oil beneficial to oral health, using oil pulling.
Is Coconut Oil a Healthy Fat?
Whether coconut oil is a healthy fat or not depends on who you are asking. While many holistic experts consider coconut oil a healthy fat, not all nutritionists agree.
Healthy fats are a source of essential fatty acids. Healthy fats must be consumed with foods as the body cannot make them. Fat helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E, which the body can not absorb without fat.
The controversy seems to revolve around coconut oil being high in saturated fat and affecting LDL levels (bad cholesterol). Coconut oil is the only plant-based food that contains saturated food. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products such as beef, pork, and chicken. Saturated fat is known to raise LDL levels (bad cholesterol).
Some argue that since coconut oil is a plant with a different structure than animal fats, it reacts differently in the body than saturated animal fats. Others say that all saturated fats raise cholesterol levels.
As with any food, consuming in moderation is always best. Those with high cholesterol or cholesterol concerns should use caution when consuming coconut oil and consult their doctor for guidance.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Gut Health?
Yes! Coconut oil is beneficial to maintaining a healthy gut. A healthy gut microbiome is responsible for keeping your mind, body, and emotions working at their best.
Coconut oil is high in lauric acid. Lauric acid, along with monolaurin, a byproduct of lauric acid digestion, helps ward off harmful bacteria. Coconut oil helps support the increase of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Coconut oil may also help soothe an irritated digestive tract by providing a smooth protective barrier, much like it does when used on your skin or hair.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are metabolized more efficiently than long-chain triglycerides. MCTs, go straight from your gut to your liver, where they are used as an instant energy source. This rapid release of energy can stop sugar cravings, while the high-quality fat of coconut oil can satiate hunger cravings.
Keto Diet: The Best Ways to Consume Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the best cooking oils for a keto lifestyle, including sesame oil and avocado oil. Coconut oil is an excellent keto-friendly cooking oil option. It is high in saturated fat and has a similar consistency to butter, making it a great butter substitute. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which help speed up metabolism to induce ketosis in moderate doses.
Fat bombs are quick energy bites loaded with fats that help satiate sweet cravings and provide a burst of energy. Fat bombs use healthy fat as a base, such as a coconut oil, and a few other ingredients such as cacao powder, chia seeds, and peanut butter.
Add to Your Drinks
Many people will add coconut oil to a hot beverage such as their morning coffee or blend it into their favorite smoothie for added fat and other health benefits.
Organic, unrefined coconut oil is the best option on a Keto diet. The exception is when cooking at a higher smoke point, refined coconut oil is a better choice.
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.