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All About Coconut Oil

Coconut's scientific name is Cocos nucifera. The name comes from early Spanish explorers that called it coco, which means "monkey face" because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing." The coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. On many islands coconut is a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food eaten. Nearly one third of the world's population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures the coconut has a long and respected history.

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconut harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world Coconut oil has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. Coconut Oil also has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Coconut oil is very heat stable so is suited to methods of cooking at high temperatures like frying.

Because of its stability it is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years due to high saturated fat content.[1] Numerous governmental agencies and medical organizations recommend against the consumption of significant amounts of coconut oil due to the high saturated fat content.

For most people what they want is,"coconut oil" as virgin coconut oil, which is the oil that "has not" been refined, bleached, or deodorized. Although none of that processing is necessary, some manufacturers do it anyway, which produces the same problems as those associated with hydrogenated oils. (The 8% of unsaturated fats that coconut oil contains can be damaged by such high-heat processing.) So when you shop, look for virgin coconut oil -- oil that isn't bleached, refined, or deodorized.

Production of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be extracted through "dry" or "wet" processing. Dry processing requires the meat to be extracted from the shell and dried using fire, sunlight or kilns to create copra. The copra is pressed or dissolved with solvents, producing the coconut oil and a high protein, high fibber mash. The mash is of poor quality for human consumption and is instead fed to ruminants; there is no process to extract the protein from the mash. The preparation and storage of copra often occurs in unhygienic conditions which results in a poor quality oil that requires refining before consumption. A considerable portion of the oil extracted from copra is lost due to spoilage, consumption by insects and rodents, and during the extraction process. All "wet" process involves raw coconut rather than dried copra, using the protein in the coconut to create an emulsion of the oil and water. 

The more problematic step is breaking up the emulsion to recover the oil. Originally this was done through lengthy boiling, but this produces a discoloured oil and is not economical; modern techniques uses centrifuges and various pre-treatments including cold, heat, acids, salts, enzymes, electrolysis, shock waves, or some combination of them. Despite numerous variations and technologies, wet processing is less viable than dry processing due to a 10-15% lower yield, even compared to the losses due to spoilage and pests with dry processing. Wet processes also require an expensive investment of equipment and energy, incurring high capital and operating costs.

Proper harvesting of the coconut (the age of a coconut can be 2 to 20 months when picked) makes a significant difference in the efficacy of the oil making process and the use of a centrifuge process makes the best final extracted product. Copra made from immature nuts is more difficult to work with and produces an inferior product with lower yields. Conventional coconut oil uses hexane to extract up to 10% more oil than just using rotary mills and expellers. The oil is then refined to remove certain free fatty acids, in order to reduce susceptibility rancidification. 

Other processes to increase shelf life include using copra with a moisture content below 6%, keeping the moisture content of the oil below 0.2%, heating the oil to 130–150 °C (266–302 °F) and adding salt or citric acid.[5] Virgin coconut oil (VCO) can be produced from fresh coconut meat, milk or residue. Producing it from the fresh meat involves removing the shell and washing, then either wet-milling or drying the residue and using a screw press to extract the oil. VCO can also be extracted from fresh meat by grating and drying it to a moisture content of 10-12%, then using a manual press to extract the oil. Producing it from coconut milk involves grating the coconut and mixing it with water, then squeezing out the oil. The milk can also be fermented for 36-48 hours, the oil removed and the cream heated to remove any remaining oil. A third option involves using a centrifuge to separate the oil from the other liquids. Coconut oil can also be extracted from the dry residue left over from the production of coconut milk.

A thousand mature coconuts weighing approximately 8,640 kilograms (19,000 lb) yields around 170 kilograms (370 lb) of copra from which around 70 litres (15 imp gal) of coconut oil can be extracted.

Hydrogenation
RBD coconut oil can be processed further into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to increase its melting point. Since virgin and RBD coconut oils melt at 76 °F (24 °C), foods containing coconut oil tend to melt in warm climates. A higher melting point is desirable in these warm climates so the oil is hydrogenated. The melting point of hydrogenated coconut oil is 97–104 °F (36–40 °C).

In the process of hydrogenation, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) are combined with hydrogen in a catalytic process to make them more saturated. Coconut oil contains only 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this process some of these are transformed into trans fatty acids.

Uses in Cooking
Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking, especially for frying and is a common flavour in many South Asian curries. In recent years virgin coconut oil has increasingly become popular in natural food circles and with vegans. It was described in a New York Times article as having a "haunting, nutty, vanilla flavour" that also has a touch of sweetness that works well in baked goods, pastries, and saut├ęs.  Coconut oil is used by movie theatre chains to pop popcorn, adding a large amount of saturated fat in the process.  Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, which is converted to monolaurin in the body, a fat found otherwise only in human breast milk.  It is also often used in infant formula.[30] Other culinary uses include replacing solid fats produced through hydrogenation in baked and confectionery goods.

Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated coconut oil is often used in non-dairy creamers, and snack foods including popcorn. Hydrogenated coconut oil is also sold in Australia under the brand-name Copha and is the main ingredient in Australian snacks such as Chocolate crackles and White Christmas.

Introduction to Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a vegetable oil that is made from the coconut of the palm tree. Much has been reported about the potential health benefits of coconut oil, which range from weight loss, skin treatment and hair health to blood sugar control and heart health benefits. Interestingly, coconut oil does not contain many vitamins.

Vitamin K
Vitamin K is found in coconut oil. In 100 g of coconut oil, 0.5 mcg of vitamin K is found. Vitamin K helps make proteins for healthy bones and blood clotting. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, in a study reported in Nurses' Health Study, women who get at least 110 mcg of vitamin K are 30 percent less likely to break a hip than those who do not. Coconut oil is not a significant source of vitamin K.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E, also known as gamma-tocopherol, is found in coconut oil. The USDA reports 0.20 mg of gamma-tocopherol is in 100 g of coconut oil. Vitamin E is potentially effective in helping to treat Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, male infertility, sunburn and many other conditions. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends daily allowances of vitamin E of 15 mg per day for people over the age of 14 years. Coconut oil is not a significant source of vitamin E.

Choline
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University cites choline not as a vitamin but rather as an essential nutrient. Choline is found in coconut oil at levels of 0.3 mg per 100 g of oil. The daily recommended intake of choline is 550 mg/day for men and 425 mg/day for women. Coconut oil is not a significant source of choline.

Read more: 

Coconut oil and, to only a slightly lesser extent, palm kernel oil is far better for us than we have generally been led to believe. Coconut oil consists almost entirely of saturated fat -- about 92% -- which sounds pretty bad on the surface. But not all saturated fats are created equal. As the old saying goes, "some are more equal than others". Coconut oil actually helps you lose weight and stay healthy in ways that no other fat can match.

Coconut oil is good for cooking, because saturated fat is not harmed by heat -- unlike unsaturated oils, as explained in What's Wrong with Partially Hydrogenated Oils?

Coconut oil does not contain the trans fats that produce insulin-resistance, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases, as described in Trans Fats: Metabolic Poisons.

Coconut oil does not contain the oxidized cholesterol (produced by hydrogenation and high-heat processing) that is responsible for heart disease and stroke, as explained in The Cholesterol Scam.

Coconut oil consists primarily of medium-chain fatty acids, which are metabolized very differently, so they're burned as fuel rather than stored as fat. Perhaps even more importantly, medium-chain fatty acids are potent anti-microbial agents.

Coconut oil was used in food products for centuries. It was only replaced by partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (most often by hydrogenated soybean oil) in recent decades, during which time levels of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity have reached epidemic proportions. Coconut oil and fractionated palm kernel oil are very similar, and come from different parts of the same plant. They are stable at room temperature, so they don't need to be refrigerated.

Coconut Oil Should be White Solid
Coconut oil becomes a liquid at 25 Degrees Centigrade. So on a warm day, it's liquid in the jar. On cool days, however, it's a white solid. When it's solid, it looks like one of those hard-to-digest fats that might clog up your arteries and end up around your middle.

But the difference becomes apparent when you pick up a little and rub it between your fingers. The fat "solid" turns into an oily liquid almost immediately. That reaction hints at how quickly it metabolizes -- how quickly it breaks down to produce energy in your even warmer interior.

It turns out that coconut oil is so effective at providing energy and at protecting the body from disease-causing microbes that it's used in baby formulas, intravenous fluids, and sports endurance snacks. Those uses, along with centuries of use by healthy indigenous cultures, are major clues as to just how good it is for you.

Here is a great article on Coconut Oil - Miracle Medicine and Diet Pill by Eric Armstrong that details why Coconut Oil is so good for you.

Composition of Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil consists of more than ninety percent of saturated fats with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

  1. The Saturated Fatty Acids: Most of them are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are supposed to assimilate well. Lauric Acid is the chief contributor, with more than forty percent of the share, followed by Capric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Myristic Acid and Palmitic.
  2. The Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Linoleic Acid.
  3. The Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: Oleic Acid.
  4. The Poly-phenols: Gallic Acid, which is phenolic acid. These poly-phenols are supposed to be responsible for the fragrance and the taste of Coconut Oil and Virgin Coconut Oil is rich in these poly-phenols.
  5. Certain derivatives of fatty acid like Betaines, Ethanolamide, Ethoxylates, Fatty Esters, Fatty Polysorbates, Monoglycerides and Polyol Esters.
  6. Fatty Chlorides, Fatty Alcohol Sulphate and Fatty Alcohol Ether Sulphate, all of which are derivatives of Fatty Alcohols.
  7. Vitamin-E and Vitamin K and minerals such as Iron.
  8. Coconut Oil shows little evidence of Rancidity when kept at room temperature


For Chemistry, Production and Applications of Coconut Oil, check out this review.

Coconut Oil Recipes
Seafood Paella Recipe with home grade 'Saffron Olive Oil' by Eden Aromata

September 26, 2011 10:34

Recipe is adapted from Linda Tubby’s Spanish Country Kitchen, makes 8 servings and changed to ensure the olive oil is not damaged in the high initial heat in the pan and saffron is applied correctly to the dish so that the colour is presen...

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Coconut Oil & Pepper Sauce

May 29, 2011 13:31

While bean fritters cooked with coconut oil are thought to have their origin in Nigeria, one can find them throughout West Africa. Inspired by the Black-Eyed Pea Fritters served at the Gambian-Cameroonian restaurant Bennachin in New Orleans, this dis...

Coconut oil Basil Chicken Burgers with Thai Peanut Pesto

May 29, 2011 01:49

Coconut oil or milk is a staple of Thai cuisine and it is very nutritious and healthy - much more so than dairy, which is non-existent in Thai cooking. Pure, unprocessed coconut oil is also one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. See s...

Banana Bread with Coconut Oil

May 29, 2011 01:29

If you have banana that is too old to eat but too good to waste, then this is what you can do with it. Banana bread tastes amazing and when done with coconut oil it gets even better and it is good for you too.

Bread Machine Coconut Bread using Coconut Oil

May 29, 2011 01:04

You can as easily use Coconut Oil as against vegetable oil with a Bread Machine. It is simple and it is good for you. Recipe was originally featured in food.com

Super Moist Chicken Breast in Coconut oil

May 29, 2011 00:55

This is a great dish Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, moist every time with Coconut Oil that servers 4 and can be cooked in under 30 minutes.

25 cl. Saffron Olive Oil

Traditional Pure Saffron

Restaurant show 2011

Eden Aromata has formally launched 'Saffron Olive Oil' at the Restaurant Show 2011 in Earls Court 2 (10 -12th October 2011)

Read more
Restaurant show 2011

Eden Aromata presented the new and unique product 'Saffron Olive Oil' at the UK’s leading trade event for local, regional, national and international fine food and drink.

Restaurant show 2011
 
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