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Coconut oil is being lauded for all the health benefits that it offers. If you are someone who seeks out healthier alternatives in cooking, health and beauty, you may be curious if all coconut oil is the same. You might even be thinking about making some homemade toothpaste, homemade deodorant, or fresh churned coconut ice cream. But how do you know which coconut oil you should use? Here’s a helpful explanation of the different kinds of coconut oil, and why all coconut oil is definitely not the same.

Refined Coconut Oil

Some excellent organic brands of coconut oil offer a variety that is called refined coconut oil. When you see a coconut label that says the oil is refined, here is what it means as far as processing. Refined oil has gone through an additional stage during the manufacturing process. When manufacturers refine the oil some of the natural flavor is removed, and the oil ends up with a higher smoke point than the unrefined version. There are several different methods that a manufacturer can use to refine coconut oil, including some that use chemicals. Other, chemical-free methods include friction and/or heat, called expeller-pressed coconut oil, and the use of centrifugal force, called centrifuge-extracted coconut oil.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil is also sometimes labeled as raw coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil comes entirely from the meat of the coconut itself. No chemicals are used in the processing, and the oil is not overly processed in an effort to raise the smoke point. Unrefined coconut oil retains its original coconut flavor, as well as many more of the original coconut nutrients.

Virgin and Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil

There is virtually no discernible difference between virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, which is why you can use both of them interchangeably.

Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil

Cold-pressed coconut oil is made from dried coconut flakes. It’s considered to be raw coconut oil, and tastes very strongly of coconut. It does have all the nutrients from the coconut meat, though it’s heavily processed.

What Coconut Oil Should You Use For Which Purpose?

There are differences in taste between refined and unrefined coconut oils. The refined oil tastes only mildly of coconut, while the unrefined version tastes heavily of coconut. If you’re cooking with coconut oil but you don’t want the flavor to be of coconut, choose the refined version.

If you don’t mind the hint of coconut taste in your dish, such as in curry or stir fry, then unrefined oil will give you that flavor you are looking for.

The same goes for if you’re making a DIY cosmetic product. If you want the product to smell and/or taste of coconut, choose unrefined. Otherwise, stick with the refined version.

Remember that refined coconut oil has been altered to have a higher smoke point, so when you’re sautéing, you may want to use refined coconut oil. Otherwise, be sure to keep the burners on low. If you’re grilling with coconut oil, refined oil is your optimal choice.

Finally, organic is always the best choice as far as your health goes. But if you only have access to standard coconut oil, you’ll still be far better off than if you used a different, less-healthy oil.