Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: 3 Reasons I Use Refined Coconut Oil

decanter with coconut oil and coconuts on green background

One of the biggest misconceptions I see in the health world is that unrefined automatically equals better. This isn’t always the case, especially with coconut oil. The refined vs. unrefined coconut oil debate has raged on for decades, with unrefined coconut oil usually winning the battle. However, I choose refined coconut oil every time and here are three reasons why:

3 Reasons I Use Refined Coconut Oil

1. It’s All in the Fat

Coconut oil’s benefits are due to one important factor: its fatty acid composition. Coconut oil contains a high concentration of medium-chain saturated fatty acids like lauric acid. These fight inflammation caused by unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids, are easily digested, and put up one powerful fight against pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungal infections.

So here’s the question: does unrefined coconut oil have a better fatty acid composition than refined coconut oil? The answer is no. They are essentially the same. So if you’re looking for the benefits of coconut oil’s fatty acids, you’ll still find them in the refined oil.

2. The Taste is More Practical

Don’t get me wrong: I really dig the occasional coconut macaroon or coconut cream pudding. But I don’t want coconut flavor invading my scrambled eggs, fresh popcorn or homemade chicken broth. And neither does the rest of my family. We tend to eat more coconut oil when it’s refined and flavorless, because it’s so much easier to blend into any kind of dish.

If you love coconut-flavored anything, then this probably isn’t a big deal. But if you’re like me, refined coconut oil simply fits into your life more seamlessly.

3. It’s Better for Sensitive Digestion and Allergies

Digestive issues and allergies are some of the most common health problems invading our society today. For this reason, unrefined coconut oil can be irritating to sensitive individuals, because it contains a lot of potentially allergenic compounds. In refined oil, these have been completely removed, which is why it is odorless and flavorless.

If someone tells me they have stomach pains after eating a very small amount of coconut oil, I always ask if it was refined or unrefined. Chances are, they answer unrefined. Usually switching to a quality refined oil eliminates this problem.

More Tips on Buying and Eating Coconut Oil:

Read More About Coconut Oil:

Refined VS Unrefined Coconut Oil and 3 Reasons I Use REFINED Coconut Oil - The Nourished Life


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43 Responses to Refined vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: 3 Reasons I Use Refined Coconut Oil

  1. Val says:

    What about the chemicals that have to be used to rid it of the coconut taste and smell. Aren’t we exposed to enough chemicals in things out of our control? Number three on the list is the only practical excuse for using the refined. If a person likes coconut the very minute taste that it adds to soups, popcorn, eggs or even coffee is better than the chemicals. Every person I know that hates the taste of coconut will not even try unrefined. Choosing ghee or bacon drippings or tallow would be better than unrefined.

    • I agree, chemicals used in the refining process can be a real concern. That’s why I recommend buying from a trusted source that uses refining without chemicals.

      • Andrea says:

        Tropical traditions refines their coconut oil naturally and gently with no chemicals. Check into their process if you are afraid of chemicals.

      • Jon says:

        And how would you go about doing that? It doesn’t sound easy to find out. So how is refined better if it has potentially dangerous chemical in it? Keep in mind how bad most food is because they want to make it more “shelf stable”. It sounds like refined is just this.

        • Quality companies refined their coconut oil with an expeller press that separates the coconut solids from the oil, which removes the coconut flavor and odor. No chemicals are required.

  2. Val says:

    Regarding my last post, I meant to put refined not unrefined at the end.

  3. Ronda Kisner says:

    How does one get access to read your list of sources. When I click on the link above it tells me that I do not have access with this account.

  4. shadyladypdx says:

    I agree with you on all points but one. I use refined for most things, but I make my popcorn using unrefined coconut oil and butter (with some sea salt) and it is amazing. People always rave about how delicious my popcorn is, not knowing my secret. You should give it a try. :)

    • Good point. I know a lot of folks love the combination of coconut and popcorn. It’s not quite my cup of tea, but I should probably give it another try! ;)

    • Josey says:

      i find that if i pop the popcorn myself using unrefined coconut oil it doesn’t taste like it :) then we just add butter if needed! if we use the air popper, we toss it in butter :) some things just aren’t meant to taste like coconut! hehe! (unless you like it, of course!)

      • We use an air popper, too, and I love it! Mixing butter with coconut oil does taste incredible (but I definitely only use the refined for that purpose–my husband does not appreciate even a hint of coconut in his popcorn!).

  5. I don’t agree that the benefits of coconut oil are solely due to the lauric acid. I think there are other beneficial compounds that are reduced in the refining process. In two studies by Nevin and Rajamohan (1,2) rats were fed different oils, including virgin and highly refined coconut oil, for 45 days. At the end of this period the virgin coconut oil resulted in lower cholesterol, more oxidant resistant LDL, lower triglycerides, higher antioxidant status, lower thrombotic risk factors, and less lipid peroxides in microsomes.

    I’ll admit rat studies comparing VCO with highly refined (copra) CO may not be the best evidence for the superiority of the virgin type, but since I lack both evidence and allergies/intolerances against it, I’m sticking with virgin coconut oil myself.

    1) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S17514991070004312) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814605006412

    • Great comment. I always agree it’s good to look research from both sides of an issue. I am curious if the type of processing in the refined oil made a difference. But in the end, it’s best to go with what you prefer and feel great using. For some people, that’s going to be virgin coconut oil, and I certainly don’t think that’s a problem.

  6. Jen Hunter says:

    Truly, I was wondering about the difference tonight as I was buying some coconut oil at Whole Foods…I was going to look it up, but now, after reading your post I don’t have to. Thanks so much for the information!!!

  7. With all due respect, you are wrong on this one. Th lauric acid is not all that is present in coconut oil. What about the enzymes? They are significant. I don’t care what anyone says. I use coconut oil for health reasons…I am hypothyroid and diabetic (both food controlled for 22 years). I have tried them all and centrifuge (the one I chose to sell) is without a doubt the king of kings of coconut oil (in my opinion). I have customers that have tried many as well. So far, it is a unanimous decision. But if you are taking coconut oil for a health reason (IBS, heartburn, Herpes, hypothyroid, diabetes, inflammation issues, weight loss, whatever) you are doing yourself a great disservice without the enzymes (killed over 104 degrees)…that leaves out expeller pressed and refined, sorry.

    • Thanks for your comments, Tiffany. I personally feel one of the best reasons to use coconut oil is its fatty acid composition. When you replace high-PUFA oils with coconut oil, you’re avoiding the damaging effects of PUFAs in addition to getting the benefits of coconut oil. If someone is avoiding coconut oil because they don’t like the taste, they’re missing out on those important benefits.

      Plus, I know that I (and probably many readers here) use coconut oil for cooking and baking, which would heat it above the raw point anyway.

      I definitely still recommend buying the highest quality coconut oil you can afford, whether refined or not.

    • Samantha says:

      Unless you’re getting your coconut oil packaged and shipped to you refrigerated, there are no “enzymes” to speak of by the time it gets to your door.

  8. John says:

    I think there is more to the story then many have written here. I agree mostly with Tiffany, but there is some misunderstanding with her view as well. She states that her coconut oil never is exposed to a temperature over 104 degrees. If expeller or centrifuge is used (mostly likely the later), it can be spinning at 6,000 to 12,000 rpms… and I can tell you that it that is generating significant heat. But no matter if there doesn’t cause doubt, have you ever been in the Tropics and opened up a container in the summer heat? (actually hot year around there). The inside of a container is about 20-30 C higher than the outside temperature, which can be near 40C. What does that mean? The product is being exposed to heat of 150 F for much of its trip from Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, or whatever the hot country is producing it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this link for a shipping company stating exactly that. http://www.hapag-lloyd.com/downloads/press_and_media/publications/Brochure_Container_Packing_en.pdf

    • Great points, John. My husband and I were just talking about a similar issue the other day. Someone had posted on Facebook not to drink bottled water that had been sitting in your car, because the heat could leach toxic chemicals from the plastic into your water. My husband asked, “Do they know how hot this stuff gets during shipping?” I totally had to agree. I’ve even heard some recommend not ordering raw honey and similar products during the summertime because they’re likely to get so hot during shipment they might not actually be “raw” anymore by the time they get to you. It’s definitely something to consider.

  9. [...] The Nourished Life has shared a great post about the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil. I use both in my cooking, baking, and skin-care needs. I don’t know how I ever lived without [...]

  10. Kenny says:

    Coming across your article here was a breath of fresh air/common sense. Who needs to spend a fortune to get into the 99th percentile when you can get into the 90th percentile with the cheap stuff?

    Sure i believe that owning a $1,700 espresso machine and a $600 grinder will make better coffee than i make with my drip machine, but guess what? NOT THAT MUCH BETTER! (BTW, if you roast your own with a popcorn popper you’ll get into the 90th percentile)

    Its like saying you refuse to drive anything less than a ferarri.

    How do you like my meme: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3vil93/

    Thanks Elizabeth

  11. Lauren McDaniel says:

    Can I reuse the coconut oil that I fried stuff in? Like homemade doughnuts or chicken nuggets? I would really like to be able to fry every now and then but its expensive using coconut oil and then throwing it out afterward. Could I just run it through a sieve and store it in the fridge? Thanks.

  12. […] I solved my coconut oil conundrums thanks to this post on refined vs. unrefined coconut oil. […]

  13. […] you new to coconut oil and wondering which one is best for you?  This author explains why she chooses Refined coconut oil over unrefined.  Which is your […]

  14. Bethani says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I have been avoiding coconut oil because of the taste. I truly have tried, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot stand the taste of coconut. I have tried many time to make homemade mayo, with coconut, olive and yes, even canola oils. I was disappointed with all of them. So yesterday I bought a jar of refined coconut oil. I just made mayo with ALL refined coconut oil and I (and more importantly my kids) love it. So I reluctantly searched if it was still as good for you as unrefined. In my opinion, it is WAY better than the canola kind I have been using. I am so relieved and excited! Now and I try and make some of the chocolate recipes I’ve so wanted to try but haven’t because of coconut. So very thankful for this!!

  15. […] I used expeller-pressed coconut oil for this recipe because I’m not a fan of coconut-flavored potato chips! You can use extra virgin coconut oil if you’d like. (You can read more about why I use refined coconut oil here.) […]

  16. Geraldine says:

    Hi Elizabeth
    am I throwing money down the drain if I cook with Extra Virgin raw cold pressed coconut oil? I honestly never gave it much thought, just buy the stuff and use..the coconut flavour doesn’t bother me, hardly taste it.
    But wondering now, am I damaging the fats using it in cooking, so should I use refined instead for cooking? When it says expeller pressed, does that mean its refined?
    thanks

    • The fats aren’t damaged when you cook with coconut oil, but it’s definitely not raw anymore. I do prefer using expeller-pressed for cooking because, like you said, it doesn’t make sense to spend extra money on “raw” just to cook with it.

      Expeller-pressed is “refined” through a mechanical process rather than a chemical one–I would stay away from refined coconut oils that don’t explain how they are refined, since it will often be refined and bleached with chemical solvents.

  17. Sarah says:

    What brand of refined coconut oil do you use please?
    I recently got my hands on the KTC Pure coconut oil (I am quite new to coconut oil), and my biggest concern if I can use it for eating purposes (not frying but literally EATING since I recently heard about its great properties)? Have you ever experienced KTC coconut oil? I read a blog which claims that it is not hydrogenated which is good :)!

    Many Thanks!

    Sarah

    • I’m not familiar with that brand unfortunately, so I can’t give you more info. I’ve used everything from Radiant Life to Wilderness Family Naturals to Spectrum–most are decent, but I prefer resources that speak openly about the processes they use, so I can have a better idea of what I’m buying.

  18. dawnita says:

    I’m new trying to use coconut oil. I’m torn between refined & unrefined coconut oil. I do not like coconut taste or smell. I mostly want to use it topically for my skin and hair and hopefully I will learn to use it while cooking. However, I still want the most benefits from it. Which kind would you suggest? Also which brands do you suggest as well? Thank you for your help!

    • I really feel that if it’s a quality coconut oil, refined coconut oil will still retain most of the benefits from the fats. The resources I link to from my post are some of my favorites, but there are a few quality brands out there that do not refine their oils with chemicals–those are the ones I would use.

  19. Nick says:

    Refined coconut oil has transfat. Enough said.

  20. Raejean Hathaway says:

    Just started using it have type 2 diabetes and find myself confused on which is better refined or unrefined . What to do I got unrefined is this as good.

  21. […] When I saw the title of this article I thought to myself……..huh!?? WHY would anyone prefer refined over UNrefined coconut oil (well, except for the whole taste factor). Elizabeth over at The Nourished Life brings up some intriguing points to ponder re: why she mostly chooses refined coconut oil. What about you…would you choose unrefined? What are your thoughts re: refined versus unrefined coconut oil? […]

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