What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Virgin Coconut Oil can only be achieved by using fresh coconut meat or what is called non-copra (see below for a definition of copra). Chemicals and high heating are not used in further refining. There are currently two main processes of manufacturing Virgin Coconut Oil:
1. Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil. Using this method, minimal heat is used to quick dry the coconut meat, and the oil is then pressed out via mechanical means.
2. Wet-milling. With this method the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first. “Coconut milk” is expressed first by pressing. The oil is then further separated from the water. Methods which can be used to separate the oil from the water include boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzymes and mechanical centrifuge.
The method we use at Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp. in the Philippines is fermentation. The coconut milk expressed from the freshly harvested coconuts is fermented for 24-36 hours. During this time, the water separates from the oil. The oil is then slightly heated for a short time to remove moisture, and filtered. The result is a clear coconut oil that retains the distinct scent and taste of coconuts. This is a traditional method of coconut oil extraction that has been used in the Philippines for hundreds of years. Laboratory tests show that this is a very high quality coconut oil, with the lauric acid content being 50 to 53%. This oil is not mass produced, but made by hand just as it has been done for hundreds of years. Since we live in the community where the coconuts grow, we personally guarantee that the best organic coconuts available are used in producing this Virgin Coconut Oil, and that no chemicals whatsoever are used in the growing or processing of the coconuts.
Delivering Virgin Coconut Oil to the Mt. Banahaw warehouse in 5-gallon pails. Many of our producers live in rural areas in coconut-producing communities where no roads exist, and draft animals like the water buffalo are used.
How is Virgin Coconut Oil different from other coconut oils?
Most commercial grade coconut oils are made from copra. Copra is basically the dried kernel (meat) of the coconut. It can be made by: smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying , or derivatives or a combination of these three. If standard copra is used as a starting material, the unrefined coconut oil extracted from copra is not suitable for consumption and must be purified, that is refined. This is because the way most copra is dried is very unsanitary. Most of the copra is dried under the sun in the open air, where it is exposed to insects and molds. The standard end product made from copra is RBD coconut oil. RBD stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized. Both high heat and chemicals (e.g. solvent extractions) are used in this method.
RBD oil is also often hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oils have been shown to increase serum cholesterol levels which contribute to heart disease.
One of the main differences between Virgin Coconut oil and refined coconut oils is the scent and taste. All Virgin Coconut Oils retain the fresh scent and taste of coconuts, whereas the copra-based refined coconut oils have no taste at all due to the refining process.
Why do some say that coconut oil causes high cholesterol levels?
While this claim has been widely disproved in many scientific studies and journals, unfortunately this perception is still around. The tropical oils were very popular in the US food industry prior to World War II. With the war and the shortages of imported tropical oils, an effort was made to promote local oils, like soybean and corn oil. The US is the largest exporter of soybeans. Studies were done to show that coconut oil, and all saturated fats, were bad for one’s health because they raised serum cholesterol levels. However, these studies were done on hydrogenated coconut oil, and all hydrogenated oils produce higher serum cholesterol levels, whether they are saturated or not. Recent research shows that it is the presence of trans fatty acids that causes health problems, as they are fatty acid chains that have been altered from their original form in nature by the oil refining process.
In addition, numerous studies now show that the high lauric acid content of coconut oil is very beneficial in attacking viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, and that it builds the body’s immune system just as human mother’s milk does, which also contains lauric acid. Promising studies have been done on patients suffering from immune deficiency diseases, such as AIDS. See our research page. With polyunsaturated seed oils now largely replacing coconut oil in the American diet, there is a huge deficiency of lauric acid in the American diet that was present prior to World War II. The need for quality coconut oil, like Virgin Coconut Oil, is greater than ever!