Storing coconut oil depends on the type of processing used and personal preference. Improper storage could cause it to spoil quicker than it would normally. Pay attention to the kind of coconut oil you have and avoid using it past the shelf life.
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According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, you can refrigerate coconut oil, but you don't have to. If you’re not keeping coconut oil in the fridge, store it in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. Shelf life varies depending on the process and storage method.
Coconut Oil Basics
According to the USDA, coconut oil is considered a solid fat. This means the fat is solid at room temperature. Even though coconut oil comes from a plant source, it is considered a solid fat because it contains a high volume of saturated fatty acids.
Harvard's T.H Chan School of Public Health notes that virgin coconut oil uses fresh coconut meat, while refined coconut oil generally uses the dried coconut meat. There is no difference between products labeled "virgin" and "extra virgin" because these terms are not regulated with coconut oil the way they are with olive oil.
You may also see refined coconut oil, which refers to machine-pressed dried coconut meat that has been heated to remove the odor and bleached to create a flavorless and odorless product that has a higher smoke point of 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (204 to 232 degrees Celsius).
It's also possible you'll see partially hydrogenated coconut oil which hydrogenates or partially hydrogenates the small amount of unsaturated fat in coconut oil. While this extends shelf life and helps it maintain a solid texture in warm temperatures, the process creates trans fats, which you want to avoid.
Storing Coconut Oil
If you don't want to refrigerate coconut oil, keep it in an airtight container and store it in a cool dark place. If oxygen gets in, it will break down the coconut oil, which will cause it to go rancid faster than if the coconut oil storage container was airtight.
Keeping coconut oil in the fridge is also an option for storing coconut oil. By keeping it a consistent temperature, you can ensure it stays usable for its entire shelf life. This method however, does make the oil harder, and as such can make it more difficult to use.
If you opt not to refrigerate coconut oil, you don't need a special coconut oil storage container. If you notice it turns to liquid, don't worry. Its low melting point of 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) means that it will be liquid most of the time. When properly stored, you can expect it to last anywhere from 12 to 24 months.
Common Coconut Oil Uses
Because of the many health benefits of coconut oil, it has a variety of uses. According to MedlinePlus, it is used by mouth for a number of conditions such as chronic fatigue, heart disease, Crohn's disease and diabetes.
It is often applied directly to the skin as a moisturizer to treat eczema and psoriasis. It is also used in hair products to protect the hair from damage and may be used to treat head lice.
While Medline Plus reports that the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates coconut oil as possibly effective for eczema, other coconut oil uses such as treating obesity through weight loss, stopping diarrhea, improving heart disease and easing chronic fatigue have insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, coconut oil contains about 90 percent saturated fat, which is higher than butter or lard. Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because of the increased risk of raising LDL, or bad cholesterol. While it may also raise the good levels of cholesterol or HDL, it's something you should use occasionally.