I include coconut oil in many of the recipes for healthier sweets in Sweetness without Sugar. Though not a source of omega 3 or omega 6 essential fatty acids, coconut oil is increasingly prized by vegans and omnivores alike who want to avoid hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats; modern, industrial oils as corn, soybean and canola; and oil products like margarine.
Some of the benefits of coconut oil include: the nutrient value of medium-chain fatty acids (found in human breast milk); its anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal properties; high amounts of lauric acid; and stability with high heat. Although a saturated fat, coconut oil is not hydrogenated.
Other plant-based, non-hydrogenated saturated fats include palm oil and cocoa butter*. The amount of lauric acid in coconut oil differs between brands and production quality standards. Coconut oil contains no protein, carbohydrates, sugar or cholesterol and it helps to break up and metabolize accumulated fats.
There are differences between coconut oils.
Some are labeled as virgin, others, refined. Virgin coconut oils are made from fresh coconuts and have a much stronger and distinct taste, smell and texture. Most use some heat in the processing, whereas raw oils do not and their shelf life may be shorter.
Refined coconut oils are produced from the “meat” of the coconut. This meat, or copra, is often smoke-, sun- or kiln-dried, which can result in impurities and mycotoxins (unhealthy toxins produced by fungi). These impurities may be removed by bleaching, deodorizing and chemical processing. To purchase the highest quality coconut oil, look for companies that make products from virgin coconuts.
To purchase coconut oil or any other oils of the highest quality, choose oils with these features**:
- Bottled in opaque glass or earthen containers
- Mechanically-pressed (vs.chemically-pressed with the use of solvents)
- Processed below 118 F
- Processed excluding light and air
- Processed without toxic solvents
- Unrefined and unheated
- Made from pesticide-free seeds
* Avoid products when the food label states hydrogenated palm oil or cocoa butter. Though naturally unhydrogenated, processing and manufacturing may change their structure.
** Purchasing fewer processed foods and using the savings toward the purchase of high-quality oils will be of great benefit to you.