There are mainly two kinds of coconut oils available in the market – virgin and RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized) sometimes also called ordinary coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is one of the sought after coconut oil in terms of health benefits while is one which is more available in markets. So what is the difference between these two kinds of oils? Let’s find out.
Difference in terms of source of the oil : The difference between the two oils start as early as the source used to produce them. Virgin coconut oil is made using meat of fresh coconuts (mature coconuts) while RBD or ordinary coconut oil is produced using dried coconut or copra.
Production / extraction process : This is the key differentiating factor between the two oils. As the name suggests, virgin coconut oil is exposed to least possible processing in terms of heat, pressure and chemicals. The same is not true with ordinary coconut oils and chemical solvents and heat are used to produce them.
There are three ways one can produce virgin coconut oil – 1) fermentation 2) cold press and 3) centrifugal process. All these three process do not use high temperatures nor chemical solvents to extract the oil. In case of centrifugal process, rotation is used to separate the oil while in case of fermentation mild heat / refrigeration is used for the same. The key thing is – low temperatures and no chemicals.
The same is not true in case of RBD oils. The extraction involves use of heavy pressure, heat and solvents to make the oil tasteless and odourless.
Difference in appearance : In terms of appearance there is not much difference between these oils. Both these oils looks almost the same when in liquid form. In a few cases one may find fine solid particles in virgin coconut oil (this is due to the processing method used, for example fermentation sometime leaves sold particles behind if the separation is not done correctly). RBD coconut oil is very clear primarily because it has been processed to achieve it.
Taste, Smell / aroma : This is one great way to distinguish virgin coconut oil and ordinary coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil tastes and smells like a fresh coconut. This smell is mild, not strong. On the other hand ordinary coconut oil / RBD has no odour at all. RBD coconut oil is like any other vegetable oil, it does not smell of the source it is extracted from. RBD coconut oil does not have any taste of its own.
This peculiar taste and smell of virgin coconut oil is the reason of not its uniqueness. But not all users like to have coconut smell and taste in their food. For them RBD coconut oil is more suitable.
Smoking point : Smoking point is the temperature where the oil starts degenerating and becoming bad for using. Higher the smoking point safer the oil for frying purposes (as frying involves higher temperatures than normal cooking and baking). Smoking point of virgin coconut oil is close to 170 C which is good enough for normal cooking but not very good for frying. The smoking point of RBD coconut oil is above 220 C which is very suitable for frying purposes. Thus, if you want to use coconut oil for extensive frying, it is better to use RBD coconut oil.
Medium chained triglycerides (MCTs) : MCTs are one of the key reason why coconut oil is so healthy. Fortunately MCTs are not destroyed even while coconut oil is subjected to processing to make RBD coconut oil. This is because MCTs are very stable and do not get destroyed easily by heating.
Other healthy nutrients : While MCTs are not destroyed during processing some other nutrients such as Vitamin E, poly-phenols etc. may get affected. These are some of the nutrients which are more sensitive to heat and chemicals used for refining and bleaching of coconut oil.
Price tag : Virgin coconut oil is expensive than ordinary coconut oil. This is because the way it is produced. Further the production is also less. RBD coconut oil is mass produced and benefits from economies of scale due to extensive use of technology in producing it.
Which coconut oil provides more heath benefits ?
Based on the above mentioned pints it is clear that virgin coconut oil of course provides more health benefits because it has more nutrients, vitamins and minerals present in it. It is closest one can get to coconut in liquid form. RBD coconut oil while still healthy is robbed off some of its nutrients due to processing, but it should be noted that it is not too far behind.
I personally keep both kinds of oil and we use them both based on the food we are cooking, In some cases we would like aroma of coconut then we use virgin coconut oil and in cases when we want original taste of the food to dominate we use RBD coconut oil. For deep frying and all we use RBD coconut oil.
If you are using coconut oil for cooking share your experience regarding how yu find it different from other oils you have used. Do you use virgin or RBD and why?