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What Is the Difference Between Virgin & Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?

author image Carolyn Robbins
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.
What Is the Difference Between Virgin & Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?
A jar of coconut oil in front of a cracked coconut. Photo Credit: olgakr/iStock/Getty Images

Although more than 90 percent of coconut oil is from bad-for-the-heart saturated fat, the oil has a strange effect of boosting levels of "good" HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and can be enjoyed in moderation, according to Harvard Health Publications. Picking the best oil on the shelf can be a bit challenging, however.

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The label "extra virgin" applied to coconut oil is virtually meaningless. Unlike olive oil, where virgin and extra virgin oils contain different amounts of free fatty acids, there are no regulations governing the purity of coconut oil. There are essentially two types of coconut oil -- virgin and refined. Virgin coconut oil, or VCO, is made by cold-pressing the liquid from the coconut meat, then separating the oil from the milk and water. Refined, bleached and deodorized, or RBD, oil is made from the coconut copra or dried kernel and may be chemically treated.

Telling the Difference

VCO and RBD oils have the same milky white appearance, so you can't distinguish between the two on looks alone. However, VCO tastes and smells like coconut, while RBD oil is essentially free of odor and flavor.

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