Unrefined vs. Refined Coconut Oil

Unrefined vs. Refined Coconut Oil: What's the difference?

Coconut oil is an amazing addition to both a cooking and natural beauty routine. It offers benefits when consumed or when topically applied. Some of the benefits are a result of the composition of coconut oil, because it contains medium-chain triglycerides commonly known as MCTs which can provide a quick energy source because it is a fat that can be rapidly metabolized by the liver. It offers benefits including heart health, ketone production in the brain, and works as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body helping to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. To say the least, this oil is a great addition to daily meals!

However, there is often confusion around the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil. Why do they taste different and which one is right for me? We know it can get confusing, so we broke it down for you all so you can make the best choice for you.

Unrefined Coconut Oil: 

The Highlights

  • Less processed; more health benefits 
  • Smoke point*: 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Taste: Stronger coconut flavor

 Unrefined coconut oil goes through a process called wet milling which doesn’t involved baking the coconuts, but rather the oil is extracted from the natural state of the coconut. The oil is then passed through a centrifuge. It does not undergo the bleaching process and therefore unrefined coconut oil is the least processed option of coconut oil available. It is also known as “virgin” or “pure” coconut oil. Because this oil undergoes less refinement, it has more nutrients like polyphenols and medium chain fatty acids which are the aspects that give it the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. If you’re using coconut oil for health benefits it may be better to use unrefined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil still contains some health benefits, but just less because it goes through the refinement process where it loses some of the nutrients. Unrefined coconut oil will also have a stronger coconut taste when used in cooking settings. 

Refined Coconut Oil:  

The Highlights

  • More processed; less health benefits 
  • Smoke point*: 400 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Taste: Milder coconut flavor

 Refined coconut oil is dry milled, meaning that the coconuts have been baked before the oil is extracted from the coconut. Then the oil is bleached (a process where the oil is passed through a clay filtration system) to rid the oil of any contaminants. This process reduces that “coco-nutty” taste. This could be a good option based off of your taste preferences and what you’re using it for. Refined coconut oil is useful for topical beauty applications such as a hair mask, skin treatment, or to use to make your own natural deodorant. In some cases, refined oil can be less expensive, but it is important to note that refined oil is more processed and therefore farther away from the natural state of coconut oil. If you choose this option, be sure to read the label to make sure there are no additives.

*A note about the smoke point, when an oil is heated up over its smoke point the proteins in the oil begin to denature and the oil can lose some of its beneficial health properties. Therefore, if you want use coconut oil to fry something it may be better to use refined coconut oil. (note: when you’re sautéing vegetables on the stove, your pan can be anywhere from 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Overall, we are big fans of coconut oil because of all the health promoting effects of consuming it like:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the symptoms of arthritis and the risk for developing chronic diseases
  • Supports ketone production in the brain
  • Supports bone volume, which could fight against developing osteoporosis
  • Eliminates the bacteria in saliva, so great for oral hygiene
  • Boosts the immune system for optimal health

Give coconut oil a try the next time you cook! Here are some recipes that incorporate this health-boosting, yummy oil.


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