Fractionated Coconut Oil vs. Virgin Coconut Oil: What’s the Real Difference?January 4th, 2021
We love our coconut oil—with its numerous benefits and uses, it is safe to say that it’s the most versatile superfoods on Earth. This ultimate staple has many variations depending on the extraction process, and each type addresses a specific need.
In this primer, we will unravel the difference between two types of coconut oil that may seem similar but are actually on the opposite sides of the spectrum. We’re talking about fractionated coconut oil and virgin coconut oil.
Fractionated and virgin coconut oils are poles apart in processing method, uses, benefits, and texture. Interested to learn more about these wonder oils? Let’s start by defining each type.
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Virgin coconut oil is known for its pleasant fragrance and taste. It contains fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins beneficial for hair, skin, and digestion.
The oil can be produced from coconut meat, milk, or residue. When virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconut meat, the process involves either wet-milling or drying the residue, in which a screw press is used to extract the oil.
When the oil is produced from fresh coconut meat, on the other hand, the process entails grating and drying it to a moisture content of about 10 to 12 percent; then, a manual press is used to extract the oil.
Meanwhile, producing virgin coconut oil from coconut milk requires grating the fresh coconut and mixing it with water, then the oil is squeezed out.
Virgin coconut oil is purely natural and unbleached, making it a potent essential. If the oil is obtained by fermentation, it may spoil faster as it has a high moisture content; that’s why oil obtained by cold compression is often considered the better method.
Since there is no heat involved in the processing of virgin coconut oil, it retains most of its nutritional components—the oil is packed with unsaturated fatty acids and has no cholesterol. These properties make the oil a lifeline of health, protecting one’s vital organs such as the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys.
What is the Official Standard for Virgin Coconut Oil?
The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) has a published guide showing virgin coconut oil standards.
The organization defined virgin coconut oil as acquired from fresh, mature coconut kernels through processes that do not alter the oil.
“Virgin coconut oil is obtained from the fresh and mature kernel of coconut by mechanical or natural means with or without the application of heat, which does not lead to alteration of the oil,” APCC stated.
“Virgin coconut oil is suitable for human consumption in its natural state,” the organization also noted.
The Truth About Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Extra virgin coconut oil may seem like another variation, but this label is essentially meaningless because extra virgin and virgin are the same.
Companies used the label to assure consumers that the oil is of the best grade. One notable trait of virgin or extra virgin coconut oil is that it becomes solid at normal room temperature.
The bottle must be stored in a warm area or near a friendly air source to liquefy the oil. The solidifying and melting of the oil do not affect its quality in any way.
Coconut oil with the label “extra virgin” indicates that the oil is from high-quality coconut.
Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil
This oil is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and medium-chain fatty acids. Since the processing method does not require heat, virgin coconut oil retains its fragrant smell, its delicious nutty taste, and overall, its natural goodness. It has a high concentration of vitamin E and minerals that are good for the body, inside and outside.
Here are the benefits of virgin coconut oil backed by science:
Health Supplement – Studies show that virgin coconut oil has pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, analgesics, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antioxidant, and anti-stress. Other research also investigated virgin coconut oil’s efficiency in preventing bone loss, liver disease, reducing asthma symptoms, and even improving oral health. Coconut oil pulling has been proven to be effective against cavities and gingivitis.
Weight Loss Aid – Virgin coconut oil may be an effective weight-loss aid as it does not contain saturated fats, which increases the cholesterol level. The oil keeps the sugar level stable, helping trim excessive body fat. It is also rich in Vitamin E and polyphenols that help balance hormones, preventing weight gain related to hormonal imbalance.
Uses of Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is edible and can be used topically at the same time. Although it turns solid at room temperature, it quickly turns liquid again when placed near a heat source.
This exceptionally versatile oil can be used in numerous ways that you may not be aware of, but here are some of the most common ways to take advantage of its benefits:
For Cooking – It’s safe to say that virgin coconut oil is popular in the cooking field. It is usually used by health enthusiasts who aim to lose weight– they simply substitute regular cooking oil with virgin coconut oil. Some foodies also prefer oil-based meals to cream-based ones because it also surprisingly enhances the food’s flavor aside from its health benefits.
For Skin – Virgin coconut oil is an excellent skin moisturizer and treatment. Not only it keeps the skin hydrated, but it also helps repair several skin concerns such as wrinkles, cellulite, dark spots, and stretch marks.
For Hair – Its unique fat composition makes it particularly useful for nourishing the hair. It can be used as a hair mask, hair conditioner, hot oil treatment, and growing your tresses.
What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?
Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of coconut oil that has been distilled, removing almost all the long-chain triglycerides and leaving mainly the medium-chain triglycerides. One of the fatty acids that are mostly taken away from the oil is lauric acid.
What remains in the oil are medium-chain fatty acids like capric and caprylic acids. Capric acid has antimicrobial properties and may help balance insulin levels.
Caprylic acid, on the other hand, is also a healthy fat, which contains antibacterial properties. It is antifungal and can prevent the growth of fungus inside the intestines, cleansing the digestive tract.
Although the lauric acid is removed, fractionated coconut oil still has moisturizing abilities and natural antioxidants that protect you from aging. Vitamins A, C, and E can be found in fractionated coconut oil, which helps collagen production.
The process of obtaining fractionated coconut oil involves heating the oil beyond its melting point, leaving parts of the oil that solidifies as it cools down. This method produces oil that stays in liquid form, regardless of temperature.
It has a great shelf life– usually, it lasts for three years, but practically, fractionated coconut oil does not spoil when stored properly.
Its processing method has an extremely light texture and is virtually odorless, colorless, and almost tasteless.
Benefits of Fractionated Coconut Oil
Due to its light and sheer consistency, fractionated coconut oil is very beneficial for aromatherapy, skincare, and hair care. Its odorless composition also makes it an excellent cooking oil.
Here are some of the benefits of using fractionated coconut oil:
Better massage experience – The sheer consistency of fractionated coconut oil allows the massage therapist to have better strokes, providing a more relaxing sensation.
Increases essential oil distribution – Fractionated coconut oil is nearly odorless and colorless, making it an excellent carrier oil. It increases essential oil distribution, saving you more money.
Healthier food – Food-grade fractionated oil can also be used for culinary purposes, mainly for food enthusiasts who want a more nutritious dish without the nutty taste of coconut. Because of the way it is processed, fractionated oil is virtually tasteless and odorless.
Uses of Fractionated Coconut Oil
Many people take advantage of fractionated coconut oil’s unique trait, and that is its ability to remain liquid regardless of temperature.
Let’s check out some of its most common uses:
Aromatherapy – Fractionated coconut oil is considered one of the best carrier oils due to its fragrance-free quality. It is an ideal carrier oil for any type of essential oil as it also absorbs quickly, blends well, and goes a very long way.
Massage therapy – An oil that provides a relaxing treat while deeply moisturizing the skin? This is your best bet. Massage therapists also vouch for fractionated coconut oil for its soothing properties.
Personal care – Its perpetual liquid state makes it an excellent ingredient for personal care staples such as cosmetics, homemade lotions, balms, salves, body butter, bath melts, roll-on remedies, among many others.
Unraveling the Difference
You can enjoy the benefits each oil offers—virgin coconut oil is mostly used for food and body care. In contrast, fractionated coconut oil is the better choice for aromatherapy and massage.
Although fractionated and virgin coconut oil are incredibly different in terms of texture, taste, smell, and processing method, both types are potent and highly efficient in addressing whatever your needs are.