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Ask Dr Flight
1. Could you please explain why the appearance of coconut oil can vary?
Sometimes I find your coconut oil looks creamy and smooth, while other times I have purchased pottles where the coconut oil looks almost 'grainy', with small hard chunks.
Your question is a very common one, and it is important to know that this variation in the appearance of coconut oil has nothing to do with the quality of the oil. It is to do with the melting point of the oil and the temperature of the environment it has been stored in.
In tropical countries coconut oil exists in the liquid state, however in cooler countries coconut oil is often a solid. The cooler the oil gets, the more solid and possibly 'grainy' it can appear. If the oil is cooled from a liquid state very slowly, it can appear quite irregular and 'grainy' in its texture.
The reason for the differences in appearance of the oil is related to the fatty acids that make up coconut oil. Like any other fat or oil, coconut oil has its own combination of fatty acids - its 'signature'. Each one of these fatty acids (10 in total) have a different melting point. The melting point of coconut oil is generally quoted as being 24 degrees celsius (76 degrees F), but this is a generalisation. If you melt or cool the oil very rapidly, you will see the change from solid to liquid (or vice-versa) occur at around 24 degrees C. If you melt or cool the oil very slowly, you may see the coconut oil have both liquid and solid parts for a time, as the different fatty acids melt or solidify at their particular melting point temperature.
The important point to understand is that coconut oil is just as good for you, whatever the consistency.
If you really want a smooth oil, just gently melt it then put it in the fridge to quickly solidify.
Thanks for your question!
2. I heard that saturated fats were not good for heart health. Can you please explain whether this includes coconut oil?
Thanks for your question - it is a good one.
According to Dr. Mary Enig, PhD, a world expert on fats, the research over the past 40 years has been quite clear: coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial for heart and health. Dr. Enig reports that the only exception to this has been when hydrogenated coconut oil has been used in studies. We now know that any oil that is hydrogenated oil is bad for us, due to the formation of trans-fats.
Unfortunately for the humble coconut, although its fat composition is unique among oils*, it is high in a unique type of saturated fat (medium chain triglycerides). The vast majority of research on saturated fats has been done on different types of saturated fat (long chain triglycerides), and usually animal saturated fats that contain cholesterol as well. In a way, coconut oil has been guilty by association, or nomenclature.
For over half a century the usual advice given about fats is to reduce them altogether and, in particular, to reduce saturated fat intake. It is no wonder that this is what most people still believe. About 10 years ago I went to a lecture where a very qualified doctor and scientist explained that saturated fats were not only good for us, but vital for our health, I thought they were mad!
In 2011 we have far more bits to the puzzle regarding saturated fats and health. This is largely due to the completion of some very large scientific studies that have debunked our longstanding beliefs. Tribute must also go to the many very brave scientists and nutritional experts who have publicly argued that saturated fat is beneficial, despite the consensus.
In the past 2 years, two huge reviews of the available research regarding diet and heart disease were published.
They both showed no evidence that saturated fat was associated with heart disease. Total fat intake was also not associated with heart disease risk.
What was shown:
- Trans fats are very very bad
- Omega 3 oils are very beneficial to heart health
- High glycaemic index foods are bad for heart health
- Vegetables, nuts and a Mediterranean diet are beneficial
- Monounsaturated fats are beneficial to heart health
- Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Am J Clin Nutr.2010 Mar;91(3):535-46. Epub 2010 Jan 13.
- A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting a Causal Link Between Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease. Andrew Mente, PhD; Lawrence de Koning, MSc; Harry S. Shannon, PhD; Sonia S. Anand, MD, PhD, FRCPC. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(7):659-669. (Over 5000 research papers reviewed)
With regard specifically to coconut oil:
A review of the published literature (c 1988 -Blackburn et al) regarding coconut oil’s effect on serum cholesterol and atherogenesis (=plaque formation in arteries) showed that when coconut oil is eaten as part of a balanced diet with adequate amounts of omega 3 oils, coconut oil is neutral in terms of atherogenicity (by the way, the fat in arterial plaques is around 74% unsaturated and only 26% saturated fatty acids). So, as part of a balanced diet, review of research shows coconut oil is does not contribute to clogged arteries.
I think it is a great advance that, through the internet, individuals are able to search information and make their own decisions. While it is tricky finding reliable information, if you want to know more on this subject, I will soon be posting the names of some of the scientists/doctors I believe are world leaders in the subject of fats and nutrition. Check out their work on the internet!
All the best,
Dr Victoria Flight
* Palm KERNAL oil is similar in composition, but the industry is responsible for ecological devastation and therefore I do not consider it an acceptable oil for human consumption.
3. Hi I brought some of your oil at the food show and have a few questions if you wouldn't mind answering. Can you tell me if your oil is hydrogenated at all?
I think it is RBD and wondered if you can explain the difference in benefits of this and virgin oil
You ask some very good questions. Hopefully this answers them!
Blue coconut oil is absolutely NOT hydrogenated. We are very much against people consuming hydrogenated, oxidised fats, or trans-fats.
Our oil comes from Vanuatu, where the coconuts are collected, air dried and processed into oil by the Islanders. This is a very simple and traditional process where the oil is mechanically 'squashed' out of the coconuts, without the use of any chemicals. This is performed by the Vanuatu people using traditional machinery.
This is a 'COLD-PRESS' extraction. This process does not get all the oil out of the coconut, but means chemicals or high heat do not have to be used to extract the last bit. (The unused oil and meal can be used to feed animals).
Our oil is 'RBD' oil. RBD stands for refined, bleached, deodorised. This can mean a lot of things and for many seed oils the RBD process involves a lot of chemicals. Because coconut oil is by nature a robust oil that is heat tolerant, processing of coconut oil can be kept to a minimum. At Blue Coconut we use a very simple 'physical refining' process rather than chemical refining. This means we use no chemicals at all.
Blue Coconut RBD process involves: Refining/bleaching: This is also caused absorptive cleaning and uses absorptive clays to remove impurities and colour in heated oil
Deodorising: This is also called steam distillation.
The oil is heated under a vacuum and the flavour oils are then removed by distillation.
The reason for refining our oil is two-fold:
- Non –refined coconut oil is traditionally quite 'dirty' in that the coconut is dried in the sun and subject to the air, insects etc. of the environment. It usually contains bits of coconut husk as well. This also means the oil is not necessary that safe to eat without heating. If you look at the label of some Virgin coconut oils, they advise you not to consume their oil!
- For some people the taste and smell of coconuts is delicious, but there are many people who dislike it, particularly if you are using it to cook a variety of foods in. (non-RBD oil might be OK for a curry but not so good for an omelette!)
Some virgin coconut oils on the market have used a process called direct micro-expelling, or DME to remove the oil from coconuts. This is a good pr ocess that provides good quality oil that has not had RBD treatment. Unfortunately it is expensive to do this process and I believe the oil is more suited for use on skin rather than using for cooking.
Unfortunately the coconut oil industry does not have any rules with regard to the use of the word 'virgin', unlike the olive oil industry. This means that there is quite a bit of misleading advertising out there.
You can use our oil without heating – I spread it on my children's toast! In fact, it meets European standards for a pharmaceutical grade coconut oil, so very sick/immune compromised could use it with great benefits.
Dr. Victoria Flight
Dr. Victoria Flight
MBChB, FRNZCGP, FACNEM Grad. Dip. Clin. Nutr. (Buist)
Dr. Flight is a medical doctor with a long-term interest in nutrition. She has been involved with the study and research of nutrition for 15 years and has taught at the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine for 10 years. Victoria has a special interest in fats, carbohydrates and human health and is currently completing a fellowship in nutritional medicine through the Australasian College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM).