The last few years have seen an enormous surge in the popularity of coconut products. Milks, creams, extracts and waters are all touted as miracle foods and compounds that can fix any ailments. Snake oil pitches aside, coconut products do provide some clear health benefits over the alternatives. Speaking of oils, coconut oil may be the most popular coconut product, as it has many and varied uses on your body, in your body and in your home.
But the more popular a product gets; the more companies will rush to sell it. The more companies and manufacturers that get involved, the more likely there are to be unscrupulous or budget conscious merchants selling sub-par products to help their bottom line. Listed here are some of the best coconut oils that we have found, ranked by quality for your convenience.
First, however, let’s take a look at the benefits of coconut oil, so it is easier to see which oils are effective, and which ones are not. Then we will examine the criteria by which these oils were judged.
Alpha DME Coconut Oil
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Nutiva “Coconut Manna” Virgin Coconut Oil
Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil
Artisana Virgin Coconut Oil
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Carrington Farms Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
There are dozens if not hundreds of claims by wellness bloggers and self-proclaimed nutrition experts of coconut oils benefits. Boosted mental acuity, prevention of Alzheimer's, weight loss, increased energy, cancer prevention and many other too good to be true perks have been slapped haphazardly onto coconut oil. While it can be good for you, it is important to temper expectation.
Coconut oil is still an oil, and as such is high in fat. Eating it in significant amounts for every meal is sure to have adverse effects on your health. It has been proven to have as much saturated fat as beef drippings or lard. But quantity isn't everything.
What's important for coconut oil is the type of fats that it contains, and the other compounds present. A significant portion of coconut oils fats is Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are "good" saturated fats as opposed to Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) which are generally considered bad for you.
These MCTs increase your metabolism and give you more energy than other fats. Additionally, they have been shown in clinical studies to increase good cholesterol when taken in small amounts. The fatty acids present in coconut oil are also linked to decreased hunger and boosted immune function. So, while coconut oil may not cure everything that ails you, it is a healthier alternative to other oils like canola and vegetable oil.
How We Chose Our Ratings
There are a few different criteria that can vastly alter the nutritional makeup and safety of a coconut oil. Virtually all of them are the methods in which the oil is grown, manufactured and packaged. There do not appear to be any benefits or drawbacks to coconut strains or country of origin or anything like that.
Organic Vs. Nonorganic
All coconuts are of course organic, being the products of a plant, but not all coconuts are certified organic by the USDA and other regulating bodies. The organic certification does not appear to have drastic benefits over its conventional counterpart, but organic products are usually better for you. Decreased pesticides and preservatives can lower the risk of potential dangers to you, and responsible land use helps everyone.
Refined Vs. Unrefined
There are two main types of coconut oil, refined and unrefined (also known as “virgin” coconut oil). Refined, as you might have guessed, is not as nutritious as virgin oil. The reason for this being that the many processes by which the oil is refined, including bleaching and deodorization, alter or remove vital nutrients. The one upside to refined oil is that it is tasteless and odorless, for those who do not enjoy the taste or aroma of coconuts.
Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts and is not processed in nearly as many ways. It retains most of its nutritional value. It is superior in just about every way to refined coconut oil, save for the price. Virgin oils are harder and costlier to produce and preserve and are thus more expensive.
Cold Pressed Vs. Expeller Pressed
The pressing process is an exceptionally important phase of the coconut oil manufacturing process. The vast majority of coconut oil is pressed by machines that extract the oil from the flesh of the coconut using high pressure and more importantly, heat. Expeller pressing uses a high amount of heat in its pressing process, which cooks out some of the nutritional benefits of the oil.
Cold press machines, predictably, use less heat in the process; under 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This preserves more of the nutritional content and is considered by most consumers to superior to expeller pressed oils. It is also more expensive, as the machinery required is more complex.
Some other terms to watch out for are Direct Micro Expelling (DME), hydrogenated and fractionated. DME is an extraction process that involves locals, often the farmers themselves, expelling the oil without the use of heavy machinery. This eliminates the need for an expelling facility and allows the farmer to keep more of the profits by eliminating the middleman. Low volume, however, increases the prices. Hydrogenated and fractionated mean that the oil has gone through heavy refining and should be avoided.
Glass Vs. Plastic
Not the most important of distinctions, but small and easy enough to be taken into consideration is the method by which the oil is stored. Glass jars are superior in most ways to plastic containers due to their antimicrobial properties and lack of potentially harmful compounds. Every year another compound in plastics gets linked to horrible health problems so if you can avoid it, glass works better.
There is no guarantee that the plastic will be harmful, but food and plastic do not often go well together. They are inexorably linked due to convenience, but the less plastic in our lives, the better. The environment would agree if it could, as glass is much less harmful than plastic to ecosystems.
Top 5 Best Coconut Oils
Using the information above, we have collected our top five picks for the best coconut oil out there. While our top pick may be what we believe is the best oil, don’t discount the other coconut oils on the list. You may find the others to be more in your price range, more convenient to purchase or more suited to your preferences and needs.
1. Alpha DME Coconut Oil
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This coconut oil ticks all the boxes. It is virgin and unrefined, and it's certified organic, it's non-deodorized and comes in a glass jar. Even better, it is pressed using DME. The coconuts come from the Solomon Islands, and the locals grow the coconuts and hand press them to extract the oil ensuring the freshest possible coconut oil. The coconut taste is also not too overpowering for those who prefer more subtle flavors.
On top of all that, it is certified fair trade coconut oil. This certification doesn’t make it taste better or grant you more health benefits, but it does ensure that the producers of this coconut oil are treated fairly. They are paid a fair amount, and the company does not exploit them solely because they live in a developing nation.
The only downsides to this coconut oil involve getting your hands on it. It is sold by a small company in Canada, and it is difficult to get in person if you don't live in the northwest. You can get it online, but the price will be noticeably higher than its competition. We felt that these drawbacks could not detract much from the benefits, though, so it still claims the top spot.
2. Nutiva “Coconut Manna” Virgin Coconut Oil
- NATURALLY EXTRACTED and NUTRIENT DENSE: Nutiva’s all-natural Organic Coconut Manna is naturally extracted from the...
- PREMIUM DIET COMPATIBILITY: Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna is an ideal addition to vegetarian, vegan, whole food, paleo,...
- ZERO TRANS FATS: Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna is an excellent, non-hydrogenated substitute for butter and spreads when...
Our second pick is significantly less expensive than our first and has nearly all of the qualities we wanted in a coconut oil. Nutiva Coconut Manna is both certified organic and cold pressed to ensure top nutritional quality. Additionally, most jars that Nutiva sells are glass, save for the larger sizes, and their lids are BPA free.
Nutiva gets their coconuts from several different sources, but most of them are free trade certified. The American company also has significant distribution deals, so it is pretty easy to come by, especially in online marketplaces. Also, their oil has a much more distinct coconut flavor and aroma, so if you enjoy the taste and smell, then you'll like this oil.
We would have preferred DME pressed oil, but cold pressed is a close second. It’s also hard to contend with the availability and affordability. This is a great coconut oil for regular users who love the taste of coconuts.
3. Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil
- Coconut oil is a traditional oil that people in tropical places have used for hundreds of years to condition and...
- Coconut oil has been popularly used for natural hair treatment with African hair types.
- Coconut oil is an excellent choice for a pre-treatment before the hair is shampooed.
This is another higher-end product, and it is one of the best coconut oils out there. It comes in a glass jar with a metal lid for most sizes, completely doing away with plastic. It also ticks our major boxes like virgin unrefined, certified organic and non-deodorized. It is also small batch extracted using older more ‘traditional" methods.
This process is called wet-milling and involves some light fermentation. It is claimed that this lower-tech method produces better oil, but we are just happy that the extraction process is happening locally and not in a factory.
Unfortunately, the oil is then treated with heat during this process. Now, this does not destroy much of the nutritional content of the oil, but the consensus among the health food community is that heat is the enemy. These claims are disputed, so the amount of heat is not a huge turn off for us, but it still counts.
Another strike against Tropical Traditions coconut oil is its price, which is higher than average by a significant amount. This is understandable, as their trade practices are favorable for the growers of the coconuts in the Philippines. We like that they are grown sustainably, but this raises operations costs that get passed to the customer, who may not be able to afford that luxury. Still, it’s a great coconut oil if you have the money.
4. Artisana Virgin Coconut Oil
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We really liked this midrange coconut oil, as it has a lot of the features we want without a very high price tag. It is certified virgin unrefined and organic and comes in completely plastic-free packaging. It is non-deodorized and has a mild yet clear coconut taste and aroma. Furthermore, it is cold pressed from raw coconut meat and is minimally processed.
This is one of the better coconut oils for its price, which is only slightly above average, but it has a couple of things going against it. First of all, it lacks fair trade certification. Not a deal breaker, but not helpful either. It's not particularly difficult to find, but not easy either. The price is a bit above par, but we think it makes up for it in quality.
5. Carrington Farms Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
- GIVE BACK - Your purchase will help feed 250 kids three days a week through our Carrington Cares program. These children...
- AMAZING QUALITY - Carrington Farms 54 oz. (ounce) organic, unrefined, cold pressed, gluten free, virgin coconut oil...
- INCREDIBLY VERSATILE - Our coconuts are from the perfect growing climate and produce an oil with a light, clean taste...
Not everyone can afford top of the line small batch artisanal coconut oil, and for those of us who can't, there are good lower cost alternatives. Carrington Farms is an affordable and widely available brand. It is certified organic and unrefined, as well as cold pressed.
Also, the company’s Carrington Cares program, a small charity program that benefits the children living in the area where the coconuts are sourced, is funded by their profits. This is a nice bonus, as the product itself is unfortunately not fair trade certified. Another downside is the packaging, which is completely plastic. It is BPA free, but glass is still preferable.
If you can't find these brands at your local store, here are some things to keep look out for so that you can get the best coconut oil available. Your oil need not have all of these qualities, but the more, the better.
- Certified organic
- Virgin or unrefined
- DME or cold pressed
- Glass container and metal lid
- Not hydrogenated or fractionated
- Fairtrade certified