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Refine or Unrefined: That Is the Question

October 28, 2016

I grew up eating fried foods cooked in lard. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how dangerous this product was to my body. Due to my new found knowledge at the time, I transitioned to vegetable oil – not realizing that it really wasn’t that much better. My health conscious journeys then lead me to omitting fried foods in general, at least on a regular basis. Then about four years ago, I was introduced to coconut oil. This brings me to the question – refined verses unrefined? Why choose one over the other?

According to, refined coconut oil is coconut oil that has been bleached, and deodorized. The oil is derived from dried coconut meat known as copra. Traditional Tropics notes that oil obtained from copra has to be purified with bleaching clays because contaminants arise during the drying process. High heat is then used to deodorize the coconut oil to remove its natural odor and flavor. Some brands may even add sodium hydroxide to prolong the shelf life.

Now let’s review unrefined coconut oil. This oil is also referred to as “virgin” or “pure” coconut oil. It is coconut oil extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried. This meat is then either wet milled or quick dried. The most common method, quick drying will dry the coconut meat and the oil is mechanically expressed. Wet milling expresses the coconut milk from the fresh meat and then it is boiled and separated from the milk using enzymes or centrifuge. This process does not require bleaching, additives or exposure to high heat levels.

Ok, before you get ahead of yourself and make a quick decision based on the facts that I just provided, I want to give you a little more information. reported that the advantage of refined verses unrefined coconut oils are actually due to one important factor – its fatty acid composition. These fatty acids fight inflammation caused by unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids, and are a great substitute for processed vegetable oils. So, does that mean unrefined coconut oil is better than refined? The answer is no, according to, refined and unrefined, as it pertains to fatty acids, are essentially the same. Another detail to take into consideration is the taste. Truly the natural scent of coconut can be lovely, but you have to ask yourself if you want the aroma and the taste of coconut in your scrambled eggs, fresh popcorn or homemade chicken broth. I will personally admit that I prefer the smell and taste of virgin coconut oil, but on the other hand, it’s probably not the best choice for a lot of my meals. Also, refined coconut oil has a smoking point of at least 400 degrees F, making this an easier temperature to work with. Unrefined falls in the range of 350 degrees F. (That is about the same as butter or lard.)

It was my goal to provide you with some food for thought regarding how you will make your coconut oil selection if you decide to transition from lard, vegetable oil and the like, to coconut oil. Before I leave you there is another point that I did not mention, but it can be important – the price. It is true that refined coconut oil is more cost effective than unrefined coconut oil, and various brands offer both options to choose. I am not going to promote any brands, but what I will tell you is that both refined and unrefined have specific benefits, which motivates me to provide a place in my kitchen cabinet for each. Also, as I originally stated, I am partial to pure coconut oil for many reasons, but refined coconut oil can definitely hold its own, especially when fried chicken is on the menu.

Zelda Corona is a business and life coach under her company Victory Vision Business Ventures, LLC. She co-authored the books No Artificial Ingredients – Reflections Unplugged and Mommy Divas on the Move: 16 Successful Secrets for Mompreneurs. She is a member of Sister Speak, a trilogy of writers who formed in 2010 with a vision of self-expression and a goal of healing. The trio states they are inspired by grace, allowing them to take a genuine position on the struggles and successes of everyday living.

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