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Buying Virgin Coconut Oil
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What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
There is no industry standard definition for "virgin coconut oil" as there is in the olive oil industry for "virgin" and "extra virgin" olive oil. Today, there are many coconut oils on the market that are labeled as "virgin coconut oil." Tropical Traditions was the first company to publish standards for the use of "virgin coconut oil" in terms of edible oils, and here is what was published over ten years ago:
Virgin coconut oil can only be achieved by using fresh coconut meat or what is called non-copra. Chemicals and high heating are not used in further refining, since the natural, pure coconut oil is very stable with a shelf life of several years.
There are currently two main processes of manufacturing virgin coconut oil:
1. Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil. Using this method, the coconut meat is quick dried, and the oil is then pressed out via mechanical means. This is the most common type of "virgin" coconut oil sold in the market today that you will find in stores, although many brands will label it as "extra" virgin even though there is no industry standard for the term "extra virgin." This machine-made mass produced coconut oil is often referred to as "cold pressed." However, this does not mean that the coconut has never been heat treated, since heat must be used to dry the coconut prior to pressing it out of the coconut meat.
Tropical Traditions Green Label Virgin Coconut Oil is an example of this type of virgin coconut oil.
2. Wet-milling. With this method the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first. "Coconut milk" is expressed first by pressing. The oil is then further separated from the water. Methods which can be used to separate the oil from the water include boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzyme extraction, and mechanical centrifuge. The first two of these methods are traditional methods (boiling and fermentation) that indigenous cultures in tropical climates have used to make coconut oil for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The last two (enzyme extraction and mechanical centrifuge) are recent methods based on technology. Recent research conducted in the coconut oil producing countries of Sri Lanka and Malaysia show that the traditional methods of producing coconut oil produces the highest amounts of anti-oxidants, because heating is part of the process.
The Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is an example of a wet-milling fermentation method of producing traditional virgin coconut oil.
Buying Virgin Coconut Oil: The Gold Label® Standard
The method used by Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp. in the Philippines, whose oil is marketed exclusively by Tropical Traditions as their Gold Label standard, is the traditional wet-milling method called "fermentation." "Fermentation" here is defined as the natural separation of the coconut oil from water using gravity. No machine or other substances are used in the extraction.
First, coconut milk is expressed from the freshly harvested coconuts by using the pure water that is present inside the coconuts. The coconut milk is then allowed to sit for approximately half a day. During this time, the heavier water separates from the oil by sinking to the bottom, while the lighter coconut solids float to the top (curds). In between the coconut solids and the water is a crystal clear coconut oil that is completely unrefined. The oil is then slightly heated (less than boiling temperatures) for a short time (5 - 15 minutes depending on air temperatures) to remove any remaining moisture and increase antioxidant levels, and then filtered. The result is a clear coconut oil that retains the distinct scent and taste of coconuts. This is a traditional method of coconut oil extraction that has been used in the Philippines for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Marianita Jader Shilhavy's parents' generation made coconut oil this way, but the knowledge was in the process of passing away before the founders of Tropical Traditions revived it, due to the easily obtained refined coconut oils found in the stores in the Philippines. It is a much more labor-intensive method of producing coconut oil, and cannot be replicated by machine through mass-production. Family producers for Mt. Banahaw make the Gold Label standard in small batches.
Laboratory tests show that Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is a very high quality coconut oil, with very high antioxidant levels. A study done in Malaysia and published in the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition also reported that the wet-milling fermentation method produced the highest amounts of antioxidants, and another study completed in Sri Lanka in 2011 confirmed the result.
Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is not mass produced, but made by hand just as it has been done for hundreds of years. The coconuts are certified organic according to strict USDA standards. In addition, all of the coconuts are hand-picked within 24-48 hours of harvest. Only those nuts that produce the highest quality coconut oil are chosen, while the rest of the crop is sold to copra dealers. Because of the extremely selective procedure for choosing the coconuts, a higher price is paid to the farmer.
Almost all other virgin coconut oils on the market are mass-produced and do not take this kind of attention to detail that begins with choosing the right nuts. Also, the coconuts used to make Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil are grown in very rural areas, generally far away from metropolitan areas. Since coconut trees grow just about everywhere in the Philippines, most coconut oils on the market are harvested from trees in metropolitan areas, because there is less cost to transport them to the place of manufacture.
Many of the producers of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil are in areas so remote, that if they did not use their coconuts to produce Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil for Tropical Traditions, no one would buy their coconuts because it would cost too much to transport them to manufacturing plants. In these areas, the coconuts generally just fell to the ground unused until the Virgin Coconut Oil business was started by Brian and Marianita Shilhavy, and producers in the Philippines were trained to make Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil.
What is "Extra-Virgin" Coconut Oil?
Is it possible to buy "extra-virgin" coconut oil? Some retailers and manufacturers of Virgin Coconut Oils, referring to one of the processes mentioned above, call their coconut oil "Extra Virgin Coconut Oil." But there are no other processes used to make coconut oil other than the ones mentioned above, so this classification is simply arbitrary. There is no official classification or difference between "virgin" and "extra virgin" as there is in the olive oil industry, since the two oils are completely different in fatty acid composition, harvesting procedures, and terminology. You might even be buying coconut oil that has been refined and mass-produced and then labeled as "virgin" or "extra-virgin" coconut oil.
Buying Virgin Coconut Oil Cautions: Hype over Reality
There are many claims made on the Internet that there are virgin coconut oils in the market that are processed without heat, and that these coconut oils are somehow superior to coconut oils that use some heat in the processing. Do these claims have any merit? Mt. Banahaw Health Products and Tropical Traditions have thoroughly researched this topic, and following are the results.
Some are claiming that there are "raw" Virgin Coconut oils that never see heat at temperatures above a certain temperature (usually slightly over 100 degrees F.) and therefore contain beneficial enzymes. However, unless one is buying a virgin coconut oil that has been transported from the tropics in refrigerated containers, and is delivered to you in refrigerated delivery trucks, this is just simply not possible. To read a full explanation on why one does not want enzymes in their coconut oil anyway, see the full explanation here.
Mt. Banahaw Healthy Products Corp. was the first company to export "virgin coconut oil" from the Philippines to the U.S., using the traditional fermentation method as described above. Since those early days, many other producers have now entered into the local market in the Philippines with a variety of different "virgin coconut oils" produced in many different ways. So in 2005 Professor Vermont P. Dia of the University of the Philippines conducted a study with some of his graduate students to analyze various virgin coconut oils produced using different methods. Their results were published in December 2005, in The Philippine Agricultural Scientist, Vol. 88 No. 4, pages 462-475. The title of the article is "Comparative Physiochemical Characteristics of virgin coconut oil." The results of this study have become the standard for virgin coconut oil quality in the Philippines, and were published and implemented by both BFAD (Bureau of Food and Drugs) and PNS (Philippine National Standards).
They produced three batches of virgin coconut oil in their laboratory using three different methods, and also analyzed six different commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the Philippines. The three batches they produced in their laboratory were all produced with little or no heat, some using refrigeration and never going above 47 degrees Celsius (less than 117 degrees F.) The values that were tested in all these virgin coconuts oils were: melting point, gravity, saponification, iodine, free fatty acid (FFA), peroxide value, moisture content, fatty acid composition, tocopherols, and total phenolic content. Their results found that: "while the virgin coconut oils produced by the three methods and using different varieties had some differences in chemical and quality properties, these differences may not be large enough to significantly affect the overall quality of the virgin coconut oil. Further, their levels are still within the CODEX standards for coconut oil." In the 6 commercial brands they tested (where it was routinely assumed that "no heat" was better), they found some had values that exceeded the limits of standards in areas like moisture content and FFA. The study was concluded by stating: "The effect of higher temperature (>50 C) during processing on the quality of virgin coconut oil is likewise important to determine and is being investigated."
Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp.'s Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is not sold in the local Philippine market, as it is produced exclusively for Tropical Traditions. Therefore, Brian Shilhavy decided to have a sample sent to Professor Dia to analyze. Traditionally made Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil had consistently tested well within standards for moisture and FFA, but it had never tested for phenolic acid, an antioxidant usually associated with products like Green Tea and Olive Oil.
Some have theorized that it is the polyphenols in virgin coconut oil that differentiate its quality from regular refined coconut oil, where polyphenols are generally missing. The three samples Professor Dia and his students produced in the laboratory, and the six commercial samples they tested had a range of 6.29 to 8.38 mg gallic acid of phenolic content per gram of oil. When they tested the Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, the values were 13.21 to 13.43 mg gallic acid per gram of oil! (See Professor Dia's statement on Mt. Banahaw Health Products Virgin Coconut Oil here.)
This test was repeated several times on different batches of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to verify the high results. In some cases, the phenolic content was more than twice as high as other virgin coconut oils they had tested.
In 2008 a study done in Malaysia and published in the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition also reported that the wet-milling fermentation method produced the highest amounts of antioxidants. In 2011, studies conducted in Sri Lanka by Professor Kapila Seneviratne of the University of Kelaniya showed that traditionally made virgin coconut oils that use heat in the process, even high levels of heat such as boiling the coconut milk to completely separate the oil (a method that is not used to make Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil), not only does not harm the oil, but actually promotes the antioxidants to become dispersed in the oil:
More surprises awaited the research team. The general impression is that cooking at high temperatures would degrade the quality of the oil. However, it is not applicable since coconut oil is thermally stable, it is learnt. “Fortunately, most of the phenolic anti-oxidants present in coconut oil are also thermally highly stable,” he pointed out, explaining that the reason for a greater composition of anti-oxidants is that simmering for a long time at a high temperature dissolved more anti-oxidants into the oil. (Published in The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, October 16, 2011 - "Coconut Oil: It's good for you after all," by Kumudini Hettiarachchi and Shaveen Jeewandara)
So in terms of empirical evidence, there is no evidence anywhere that we can find that Virgin Coconut Oil produced with "no heat" is superior in any way to the traditional method of producing Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil that is used for the Tropical Traditions premium brand of Virgin Coconut Oil, and which has been sold to hundreds of thousands of people in the US market and around the world for over ten years now. On the contrary, Professor Dia has verified that at least with phenolic content, Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil using the traditional method tested higher than any other Virgin Coconut Oil they had tested in the Philippines. The study done in Malaysia in 2008 confirmed that the wet-milling fermentation method produced the highest levels of antioxidants in Virgin Coconut Oils. Then in 2011 studies done in Sri Lanka showed that coconut oil produced by traditional methods and employing heat actually produced results with higher antioxidants than other coconut oils, further verifying that the traditional method is superior.
Can You Afford to Buy Virgin Coconut Oil?
Handcrafted Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil produced using traditional methods by small-scale family producers is certainly the most labor intensive method of producing virgin coconut oil. Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is a premium quality virgin coconut oil that cannot be mass produced by machine.
Fortunately, by buying your virgin coconut oil online with Tropical Traditions, you can find multiple ways of saving money on your purchase of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, and in some cases even be able to get it FREE!
$50 OFF 5-Gallons!
Buy 2 Get 2 FREE (Pints)!
First, Tropical Traditions offers 1-gallon and 5-gallon pails that allow one to buy larger quantities at a price per ounce that is much more affordable than buying smaller quantities of virgin coconut oil. Because of shelf space in most retail stores, you will seldom find anything larger than a 16 oz. container of coconut oil in most supermarkets or grocery stores.
Secondly, Tropical Traditions offers frequent sales and discount coupons for purchasing their Gold Label Virgin Coconut oil, such as Buy 1 Get 1 FREE sales, FREE Shipping coupons, and other discounts. To be alerted to these discounts and coupons for buying virgin coconut oil, you can subscribe to their sales email here. If you prefer an RSS feed via a blog, you can subscribe to the Tropical Traditions Special Deals blogs here. You can also "like" the Tropical Traditions Facebook Page and learn of special deals as well, or follow them on Twitter.
Next, many bloggers do reviews and free giveaways of Tropical Traditions' products, including our Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. To find a list of bloggers currently giving away free Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, check the Tropical Traditions Special Deals blog.
Do you like using eBay to find good deals? Tropical Traditions also has an active eBay store, and if you like auctions you can often buy virgin coconut oil well below the retail price via Tropical Traditions auctions on eBay.
Also, Tropical Traditions has a large collection of coconut recipes and an active blog at FreeCoconutRecipes.com. These are kitchen-tested recipes, the majority of which have been submitted by Tropical Traditions' customers. If you submit a recipe and photo that is published on the FreeCoconutRecipes.com blog, you will earn $50.00 in gift certificates good towards the purchase of any product in the Tropical Traditions store, and you can use these gift certificates to purchase virgin coconut oil! Submit your recipe for a chance to earn gift certificates here.
Lastly, the Tropical Traditions referral program allows anyone who is a customer of Tropical Traditions to earn $25.00 gift certificates for referring new customers to Tropical Traditions! Some referrers have very active blogs and earn so many gift certificates each month, that they feed their entire family with high quality organic food and Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil for FREE, paying only for the shipping. Find more details on the Tropical Traditions referral program here.
Buying Virgin Coconut Oil Conclusions
In conclusion, if you are going to buy a high quality virgin coconut oil, look to buy a virgin coconut oil made the traditional way, as these virgin coconut oils should have the highest amounts of antioxidants. Carefully consider if machine-made mass produced "virgin" coconut oils are worth the expense to purchase. If you are on a tight budget and feel you cannot afford to buy a high quality virgin coconut oil like Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, consider buying a high quality refined coconut oil. As long as the refined coconut oil is not hydrogenated (which is rare to non-existent in the U.S. market), refined coconut oils are not harmful, and you will still benefit from many of the benefits of coconut oil.
Buying Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil Customer Reviews
Tropical Traditions has the best coconut oil in my opinion. I'm willing to pay for good stuff. The jars always come boxed very well. I have never had any breakage. glorybee - Bizrate Customer Review
I've been a customer for almost 10 years and I love the coconut oil and other products. They do not go rancid and the taste stays fresh. Ca - Pricegrabber Customer Review
My family tradition Christmas cookies called for butter and vegetable oil and another for butter and shortening. I replaced the oil and shortening with Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil -- the cookies turned out great! Good to know that I have no need to keep that other junk in the house again. Beth, Colorado (customer email)
Where is the best place to buy coconut oil? LOL Thats a no brainer! Right here at Tropical Traditions! They have the very best coconut oil on the market! I would not buy it anywhere else! Sharon, Tropical Traditions Facebook Page
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