The Weston A. Price Way

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Refined Coconut Oil is Made...and 10 More Ways Coconut is Great!

Before moving ahead with more fun facts about coconut and sharing some 'recipes', I want to finish what I started in my last post regarding the promise to speak more about unrefined vs. refined coconut oil.

Sally Fallon (Morrell) and Mary Enig, co-writers of both "Nourishing Traditions" and "Eat Fat, Lose Fat", strongly persuade us to avoid buying into the idea that all coconut oil is good. Not so. The oil we want is going to be:
  • virgin
  • produced locally (not meaning purchased locally, but manufactured near it's source)
  • 'manufactured' using traditional processes.
The reason for this is the results we get from coconut oil obtained via 'other' methods. When coconut oil is 'refined', it is supposedly made 'finer' than what it is in the first place. Red flag number one. Remember, we can't out-create the Creator. In the process of making coconut oil 'acceptable' through 'refinement', this is what happens:
  • The nuts themselves are transported far distances to refining factories, the product ages.
  • They are opened and laid out to dry.
  • The coconut meat becomes rancid/rots.
  • The coconut meat may also become moldy.
  • The oil is then extracted from this rotting flesh by a heat process of over 200 degrees. (There goes your nutrients!) They then label this as 'cold-pressed'...go figure.
  • Some manufacturers use solvents at this stage, as well as even higher temperatures for order to get out every last drop of oil.
  • THEN, the oil is 'refined'...using caustic soda or lye. (Pick your poison.)
  • Then, of course, it has to made to look acceptable, so it's bleached. 
  • The prior two procedures remove vitamin E and other nutrients that may have survived this far.
  • At last, the oil is deodorized, because by now, it stinks and taste like metal. (Is this sounding familiar to any of you who read my article on how margarines and shortenings are made?)
  • To deodorize, the oil is heated, (AGAIN!), and gas is bubbled through it. A vacuum sucks off the resultant steam.
  • And now it's nice and white, having no odor, and they hope, no taste. However, some of the larger industries still can't seem to rid their final product of a burnt, metallic taste. It also can have solvent or lye leftovers. 
This is the reason why I said in my former article that if you don't like the taste of coconut, this oil's not for you. If there is no coconut taste, you are consuming a product made as illustrated above. It would be better for you to find another good oil that you like.

What do I mean when I say "manufactured using traditional processes"? Tropical Traditions revived the traditional method of extracting the oil by letting the coconut milk sit in covered bucket 24-36 hours...the amount of time it takes for natural separation. Nutrient-saving extraction methods used to give us virgin coconut oil may incorporate the use of enzymes, fermentation, mild heat, or centrifuge, none of which elevate the temperature above 170 degrees.

I realize I have talked rather exclusively about coconut oil since I embarked on this 'coconut lesson', but do know that other forms of coconut are beneficial to health as well. We particularly love coconut milk and use it in a variety of recipes...usually as an 'add-in' rather than the main item. For example, if I have coconut milk on hand when I make a kefir or yogurt smoothie, I'll add a tablespoon or so to give it that tropical flavor. (I want to try it in my ice cream once I get the hang of making ice cream.) I add it to soups and sauces, too, allowing anything heated to cool a little and then adding it just before serving. It's great drizzled over bananas or other fruits, too...and adding a tad to the morning oatmeal takes oatmeal to a whole new level! Try using it in place of milk in any recipe. The cream that rises to the top can be whipped just like milk cream.

There are also other coconut products to consider: Creamed coconut, (watch out for preservative, sodium metabisulfate), Dessicated coconut, (again, beware of preservatives) and Freeze-Dried coconut-either course or fine, Coconut 'water' (juice) and Coconut rum. I don't know how the last two items taste, but I've had all the others, and they are delicious to the coconut lover. Other coconut products that don't have the taste of coconut are Coconut Vinegar and Coconut Sugar. We have both. I don't see much of a difference myself in the coconut vinegar than in apple cider vinegar, but the company claims it has better health benefits. My jury's out on that because I haven't taken the time to research the claim.

BUT the sugar! We love it as a trade-off sweetener...a better substitute for white sugar than anything else we've come across as yet. It is made from the sap of coconut flowers, not the meat, so has no coconut taste. "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" says it comes in a paste, but I've never seen it in this form. Ours is granulated and looks a lot like light brown sugar. It is a tad heavier than white sugar in taste, but not as heavy as light brown sugar. It is also called 'palm sugar' and according to Enig, it won't turn desserts meant to look white, brown when used as the sweetener.

Okay! Ready for some fun facts?

Coconut Oil may be used for:

  • Bath Oil...Just add to the bath water.
  • Moisturizer...Apply directly to skin, preferably while still warm after bathing.
  • Acne..."Eat Fat, Lose Fat" authors tell us to combine 1 Cup coconut oil with 1/4 Cup aloe vera and use several times a day. (They also take the time here to encourage acne sufferers to get off processed foods and on to a good cod liver oil to get their full quota of NON-SYNTHETIC vitamin A.)
  • Stretch Marks...Same combo as above.
  • Wrinkles...I use it just about every day because I love how it melts into my skin and within moments, there are no greasy leftovers. It's not a face-lift, but I have to say, I do think it's effective.
  • Hair Conditioning: Try this treat: (They say some Philippine women do this regularly.) Soak hair in coconut oil 30 mins. prior to shampooing.
  • Hair Protection: Coat hair with coconut oil before swimming in chlorinated pools. (And I would think if this works for chlorine, it will probably work for salt water, too?)
  • Psoriasis and Eczema: Mix together 1 Cup of coconut oil with 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Use as needed...According to "Eat Fat, Lose Fat", you may see improvement in the skin condition within just a few applications.
  • Arthritis, Joint Pains, Sprains: Mix together 1 Cup melted coconut oil and 1 TBS cayenne powder. Allow to cool and do not use before half an the cayenne can thoroughly infuse the oil. Apply to sore areas. (Wash hands after application!)
  • Fungal Infections: Mix together 1 Cup coconut oil with 1 tsp. tea tree oil and apply to affected area.
  • Warts: It is said that several applications/day of coconut oil to warts can cause them to disappear.
  • Deodorant: Non-staining to clothes, coconut applied straight to the underarm prevents odor. I tried this and it works! (It is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant.)
  • Insect Repellent: Mix together and apply as needed: 1 Cup. coconut oil, 1 tsp. catnip oil, and 1 tsp. of either citronella, lemon grass, peppermint or tans oil. 
  • In each of these applications, it is assumed the coconut oil is virgin, processed by traditional methods.
Okay, so there were a little more than 10 more ways that coconut is great...But if I'd have told you that in the beginning, you may not have believed me. ;)


Be sure to catch my next post by guest writer, Nicole Aponte. Nicole is a Christian Vocalist, home-school mom extraordinaire, and a true friend. She will share with you how a change in diet, coupled with prayer, have made autism move from front row to back in the life of her son, and consequently, her family.

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