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Coconut oil (coconut oil, coconut fat, organic?, raw?)

Coconut oil (coconut oil, coconut fat) has too many saturated fatty acids (82%) and is solid up to about 25°C. It is organic and, depending on the process, avai

Many people believe that this product is a raw food because it appears to be in its natural state. However, in the majority of cases it isn’t raw! This is usually because the production process requires heat, and other alternative processes would involve much more time and money, as is the case here - or it has to be pasteurized. At least one of these reasons applies here.

If a product is labeled as raw, before it is sold it still may be mixed with other products that have undergone cheaper processes. Depending on the product, you may not be able to distinguish any differences when it comes to appearance or taste.

By the way, raw foodists should also understand that there are foods that are raw but that as such contain toxins — or that can only be eaten raw in small quantities. These are indicated with a different symbol.

Macronutrient carbohydrates 0%
Macronutrient proteins 0%
Macronutrient fats 100%

The three ratios show the percentage by weight of macronutrients (carbohydrates / proteins / fats) of the dry matter (excl. water).

Ω-6 (LA, 1.7g)
Omega-6 fatty acid such as linoleic acid (LA)
 : Ω-3 (ALA, <0.1g)
Omega-3 fatty acid such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
 = 0:0

Omega-6 ratio to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed a total of 5:1. Link to explanation.

Values are too small to be relevant.

Coconut oil ( Cocos nucifera ) is available in raw form as virgin oil and in refined form as a frying fat that can be heated to high temperatures. It is also known as coconut fat and is available in organic quality. Please note that it is 82% consists of saturated fatty acids , which is why it seems extremely unhealthy, but seems to be highly touted by the industry.

Use in the kitchen

Are coconut fat and coconut oil the same thing? If you want to be precise, you talk about coconut fat or coconut oil (or coconut oil ) depending on the temperature. Coconut fat is solid up to about 25 °C, above that it changes to the liquid phase because it has a low melting point (21-25 °C). In nutritional science, the terms 'fat' are generally used for triglycerides that are solid at room temperature and 'oil' for liquid triglycerides. 28

Refined coconut oil can be heated to high temperatures due to its high proportion of saturated fatty acids. This is referred to as a high smoke point. It is suitable for cooking, frying (e.g. for preparing fried vegetables), baking and deep-frying. Note: Unrefined coconut oil remains stable up to approx. 177 °C. This means that natural coconut oil is below the recommended smoke point of 200 °C for frying oil. 29

The smoke point is very important when using oils in the kitchen. If you want to heat oils, they must be thermally stable. Thermal decomposition of oils leads to a series of chemical reactions and prolonged heating reduces their nutritional value. In general, it is recommended to use saturated fatty acids for cooking at higher temperatures due to their stability. Saturated fats are more resistant to heat-related damage than unsaturated fats; however, if the fat also contains unsaturated fatty acids, it should be heated little or not at all to avoid oxidation and the breakdown of the fat into unhealthy substances. 26,30 In addition, oil should not be heated more than once. 29

The stability of saturated fats is due to their molecular structure, which has no double bonds in the carbon chain. The absence of double bonds means that saturated fats do not have weak points in their chain that could easily react with oxygen or decompose at high heat. Therefore, they are less prone to the formation of harmful compounds.

Coconut oil creates a cooling effect in the mouth because it absorbs heat when it melts. Coconut oil is therefore particularly suitable for desserts such as ice cream or cake cream (e.g. apricot cream cake , pralines ). In vegan desserts (often also in raw food), coconut fat replaces animal products such as gelatine or butter. It gives the dessert firmness and creaminess, for example in carrot cake with walnut base . Coconut oil is also used in many different ways in vegan salad sauces , dressings and smoothies.

These properties make coconut oil so tempting. It is easy to process and, depending on the degree of processing, has a pleasant or practically no taste.

However, moderation is key! A diet high in saturated fats can contribute to health problems such as heart disease. It is important to maintain a balanced diet and consume the right fats. The focus should be on unprocessed and polyunsaturated fats with a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in walnuts , macadamia nuts , flax seeds , chia seeds , hemp seeds , etc.

Can you eat raw coconut oil? There are different regulations depending on which oils can be advertised as raw or virgin. In general, you can eat the oil raw, but the term 'raw' is not standardized. However, you can make your own raw coconut oil at home:

Homemade coconut oil

ingredients (for approx. 250 ml of oil): 5 ripe organic coconuts (or the equivalent amount of raw coconut meat ), water .

Preparation: Crack the coconuts, collect the coconut water and use it for something else. Remove the flesh and cut into small pieces. The thin brown skin can be used or removed with a vegetable peeler. Puree the coconut pieces with enough water in a high-performance blender. Pause every now and then to avoid the build-up of heat. Then use a strainer or a fine sieve to separate the solid parts. The result is coconut milk. If you put the coconut milk in the fridge for an hour, the fat separates from the water and settles on the surface. Now you can skim off the solid, fatty coconut milk. The water that remains underneath, with its light coconut flavor, is perfect for cooking rice.

To obtain purer fat, ferment the coconut milk overnight. To do this, simply place the coconut milk in a clean container with a lid in a warm place. The next day, put it back in the fridge to separate the fat from the water again. Then you can skim off the coconut fat. To remove the remaining solid components, heat the fat to room temperature and strain the liquid oil mixture through a fine sieve or a coarse cloth. The finished, clear virgin coconut oil should be stored in the fridge.

Vegan recipes with coconut oil

There are plenty of recipes with coconut oil, and you can find some suggestions here (from vegan recipe books ). Under the heading "Alternative preparation" we also show healthier variants with concrete suggestions for improvement.

Vegan recipes with coconut oil (raw) can be found under the note: " Recipes that have the most of this ingredient ".

Not only vegans or vegetarians should read this:
Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional deficiencies

Purchasing - Storage

When purchasing, natural (untreated, native) and organically produced coconut oil is preferable. Cold-pressed, it can also be found in raw food quality and has the typical coconut taste; refined coconut oil has less of a taste of its own. Supermarkets and wholesalers such as Coop , Migros , Denner , Volg , Spar , Aldi , Lidl , Rewe , Edeka , Hofer , Billa etc. usually have different types of coconut oil on the shelves. In organic supermarkets such as Denn's Biomarkt and Alnatura , coconut oil is also available in different qualities: from highly processed sheet fat to natural, native coconut oil. The trade distinguishes between native and refined coconut oil or coconut fat, with the latter also being sold as partially or fully hydrogenated fat. Hydrogenated coconut fat has a slightly higher melting point (approx. 34 °C). 12 In the "Ingredients" chapter, we discuss some differences in terms of composition.

What does virgin mean in the case of coconut oil? All virgin cooking oils are natural and pressed under controlled thermal conditions (see Click For). Nevertheless, the pressed material heats up during cold pressing. However, post-treatment such as refining, steaming or roasting of the seeds is omitted. This results in a distinct fruit or seed flavor and a more intense color.

The availability of coconut oil varies depending on the size of the store, catchment area, etc. Our recorded food prices for the DA-CH countries can be found above under the ingredient image - and by clicking you can see their development at different suppliers.

Cold-pressed oils (laws)

In Switzerland, oil is referred to as cold-pressed oil if the oilseed was not heated, the pressing temperature did not exceed 50 °C and no problematic post-treatment took place.

According to the Federal Department of Home Affairs ( FDHA ), an edible oil is considered to be cold-pressed (or may be described with synonyms such as (extra) virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed or natural) if it is obtained by pressing or centrifuging from previously unheated raw materials, the temperature during pressing did not exceed 50 °C and there was no refining, i.e. no neutralisation, no treatment with adsorbents, bleaching earth and no steaming .

An oil can be called gently steamed if the refining process was limited to steaming and did not exceed 130 °C . 42

In the EU and the USA, there does not appear to be a generally applicable temperature limit set by law for cold-pressed oils. For example, the guidelines for edible fats and oils of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (D) are similar to the EDI regulation, but they do not specify a permissible maximum temperature for general cold pressing - since they only apply to products whose labelling and composition are not conclusively set by law (i.e. not for olive oil, cocoa butter, milk fats, spreadable fats). 43

On the other hand, both the EU directives and the EDI regulation on foods of plant origin, mushrooms and table salt (and their amendments) provide for a special rule for the labelling of olive oils . 42,44

These are selective marketing rules in which the term raw food is not defined. 'Raw food' and 'raw' are therefore not state-protected terms (as is the case with the term 'organic'), which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Although it is agreed that with purely mechanical cold pressing, the pressing temperatures generally do not exceed 40 °C, one should not naively assume that edible oils are of raw food quality. There is a suspicion that the measuring method used does not indicate the temperature in the press cylinder (where the heat is highest), but rather the outlet temperature in the oil hose. With water-cooled olive oil presses (so-called "water-cooled 37°" oil presses), one probably cannot even say with certainty what the temperature is inside the press cylinder because the entire press cylinder is surrounded by cooling sleeves.

In addition, both the pressing pressure and speed as well as the moisture content of the oilseed affect the pressing temperature. If, for example, the moisture content is too low, the temperature rises during pressing and it is difficult to stay even below the maximum limit of 50 °C. 45

Storage tips

Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and generally oxidizes slowly; it is considered to have a long shelf life. 12,47 In addition to saturated fatty acids, it also contains small amounts of unsaturated fats (oleic acid and linoleic acid). Rancid, inedible coconut oil is created by poor storage through lipid oxidation and is then no longer suitable for consumption. It should therefore be stored in a cool, dark place and tightly closed or in the refrigerator - this way it will last for one to two years. 28

Virgin coconut oil is more susceptible to microbial spoilage than processed oil. The more water it contains, the faster it spoils. 1

Ingredients - Nutritional values - Calories

Coconut oil consists mainly of triglycerides, i.e. fat, and provides 892 kcal/100g. 11 There are different types of fat. The most common classification is 'unsaturated' ( monounsaturated and polyunsaturated ) and ' saturated ' fatty acids. Coconut oil contains 82% saturated fatty acids! The dominant saturated fatty acid is lauric acid. 26 Palm oil has even less saturated fats in comparison, at 49%.

Coconut oil contains 1.7 g/100g of the unsaturated linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) ; this is comparable to avocado . Pine nuts ,pumpkin seeds and various vegetable oils contain much more. For example,sunflower seed oil contains 66 g/100g and pumpkin seed oil 49 g/100g.

The anti-inflammatory alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) is only contained at 0.02 g/100g. High-quality hemp oil (20 g/100g) or linseed oil (53 g/100g) provide more omega-3. Coconut oil therefore has an unfavorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 8.5:1, but this is not particularly significant in such small quantities. 11

Coconut oil contains negligible amounts of vitamins. Vitamin K is present at 0.60 µg/100g. Herbs and vegetables contain much more of this vitamin. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil , on the other hand, performs relatively well in comparison to other oils (71 µg/100g). The same applies to vitamin E in coconut oil, which only contains 0.11 mg/100g. Good sources of vitamin E among oils are hemp oil andsunflower oil (41 mg/100g). 11 Vitamin E is lost in refined oil. 28

The proportion of fatty acids is 99%: coconut oil is mostly made up of medium-chain lauric acid, which has some health benefits (although it is saturated). The industry likes to emphasize such "small" positive properties (too much). In the book " Salt Sugar Fat " Michael Moss reports on this problem - you can find more information about it in our book review .

Refined and virgin coconut oil both have a similar fatty acid composition and similar triglyceride profiles. However, virgin oil contains more bioactive substances, such as vitamin E, sterols and polyphenols (secondary plant substances). 31 Different types of virgin coconut oil have different compositions depending on how they are prepared. Virgin oil can be cold-pressed or produced using fermentation. Caution: Oil extracted using heat (heating the coconut milk at up to 100 °C) that has not been further treated can also be called 'virgin coconut oil'. 34,47

When hardened, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) contained in coconut oil are transformed and trans fatty acids are formed (see vegetable fat, hardened ); however, to a small extent, as coconut oil is low in PUFA. 12 According to sources, fully hardened coconut oil is trans fat-free, but has a hard consistency. In order to avoid trans fatty acids, but still obtain a pleasant consistency, fully hardened fat is mixed with unhardened fat. 12,46

In one study, organic coconut oil (compared to conventionally produced oil) showed a higher overall proportion of saturated fatty acids because it contained more lauric acid. 35

Effects on health

Is coconut oil healthy? Coconut oil is said to have sensational functional properties: cholesterol-lowering, effective against obesity, fatty liver and inflammation, antioxidant, antimicrobial, cardiovascular protective, antidiabetic and potentially anti-cancer. Its use on skin and hair also appears to have positive effects. Despite the many studies that show health benefits, coconut oil is controversial. In particular due to its very high content of saturated fatty acids and their connection to cholesterol and cardiovascular problems. 2,10,33

Coconut oil consists mainly of unhealthy saturated fatty acids, but these are mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCT). Our digestive system can convert MCT into energy very well. This fat is also found in breast milk (1.49-3.14%). 38 MCT fats have received more attention in recent years. 13 These fatty acids are also said to have positive effects on health; coconut oil consists of up to 64% of them. 33 Compared to long-chain fatty acids, MCTs result in faster digestion and absorption, among other things. It has also been observed that MTCs cause less fat to be stored, improve insulin resistance, regulate energy metabolism and inhibit the growth of microorganisms. 13 Because MTCs, unlike most other lipid molecules, do not undergo a complex digestive process due to their chain length and are more easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream, they are mainly used in patients with digestive and absorption disorders who suffer from energy deficiency and impaired fat absorption. Examples include classic celiac disease, short bowel syndrome or the condition after an intestinal transplant, Crohn's disease or the nutrition of premature babies with an immature digestive tract and high energy requirements. 21,22,23,24 But: In the cases mentioned, extra enriched MCT fats are often used and not pure coconut oil! Experts also recommend the use of MCT only for strictly specified medical indications. 25

The nutritional doctor Marie-Pierre St-Onge has shown in studies that MCTs can help adults lose weight. 4,5,6 But a special coconut oil was also produced for this purpose, which is made up of 100% of these fatty acids. Commercial coconut oil contains 13-64% of these medium-chain triglycerides. 7,33 How can I lose weight with coconut oil? Misinformed consumers even drink coconut oil and thereby damage their bodies in the long term, but the industry and retailers see it as a business in losing weight. There is a completely different way to lose weight healthily , not by consuming pure calories. Read our article: " Lose weight healthily and permanently ".

In a study, researchers attempted to rate various oils using a 'Nutritional Quality Score' (point system). Coconut oil received zero points because of its low content of unsaturated fats and its negligible content of bioactive substances. Coconut oil thus shared the lowest (unhealthiest) places with butter and similar animal fats. Fish oil fared better. In addition, coconut oil increases blood fats more than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this respect, this fat is comparable to animal fat. 37,33 In this study, the researchers did not address the issue of MCT in coconut oil.

The industry has been hyping up coconut oil as a superfood for years. However, the American Heart Association ( AHA ) thoroughly refuted this in a 2017 study. Coconut oil contains much more saturated fatty acids than palm oil (49%) or palm kernel oil (55%). Coconut oil even beats some animal fats in terms of its disadvantages. Nevertheless, a trained, so-called "medically certified" nutritionist writes on her website (August 2018): The only oil in my kitchen comes from a coconut . Will our attempt to educate her be of any use?

The embedded video "Eat healthy" by Prof. Dr. Dr. Karin Michels , Director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and Professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health , lasts 55 minutes and deliberately uses the statement: Coconut oil is pure poison! .

Even if we think the verdict is exaggerated and do not agree, she probably felt that this provocation was necessary in order to counteract the overwhelming power of those interested in sales. Coconut oil is regularly sold as a superfood: the superfood label is practically only created out of greed. Coconut oil is the complete opposite of a superfood, it causes enormous damage to the coronary arteries and ultimately leads to heart attacks or other common serious illnesses.

When you consume coconut fat or coconut oil, the undesirable LDL cholesterol in your blood increases, which promotes cardiovascular disease. However, the healthy HDL increases a little more, which then improves the total/HDL serum cholesterol ratio. Only by measuring this ratio and ignoring the numerous disadvantages can you claim that the atherosclerotic risk is lower (hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, atherosclerotic plaques). Cunning, but legal.

A 2016 study analyzed 21 research papers, including 8 clinical trials and 13 observational studies, and concluded: Overall, the weight of evidence from intervention studies to date suggests that replacing coconut oil with cis-unsaturated fats would alter blood lipid profiles in a manner consistent with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors. In other words, replacing coconut oil with a healthier oil should be considered. 10

Which oil is healthy? A good substitute is cold-pressed rapeseed oil , which has a high proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids. 2 Refined rapeseed oil is also suitable for frying, but not cold-pressed rapeseed oil , norcold-pressed sunflower oil , safflower oil , grape seed oil , soybean oil, pumpkin seed oil , walnut oil or even linseed oil . These oils contain many polyunsaturated fatty acids, which tend to convert into trans fats when heated. Disadvantages: Some of these oils have a poor ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In the article " Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional errors " you will find a long table with the properties of all common oils.

Which is the healthiest oil? We would immediately say linseed oil , but it is only suitable for salads and you have to use it up quickly after opening. Unless you divide it into dark 10 ml bottles (fully filled) after buying it and store it in the (dark) fridge. This way there is no contact with oxygen for a long time or in large quantities. Quality always requires more effort.

A study in 2014 showed that replacing saturated fats is of no use. However, in this study, the replacement consisted of junk food, mainly artificially sweetened drinks and doughnuts. Dr. Franklin Sacks , a professor of cardiovascular diseases, denounced this trick. 2 This exploits consumers' faith in science, says Sacks at on July 17, 2018.

Professor Dr. Rachel Johnson , nutritionist (RD) at the University of Vermont , summarizes the totality of the studies as follows: Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

Some authors reject oil in principle and cite nuts and seeds as the fat requirement. Doctors Dean Ornish , T. Colin Campbell , John A. McDougall , Michael Klaper , Caldwell Esselstyn , Michael Greger , Joel Fuhrman and Neal D. Barnard emphasize that diets with a high animal fat and protein content, such as the standard American diet, are harmful to health. Details can be found in the article: " Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional errors. "

What makes coconut oil so healthy? or Is coconut oil really that healthy? are questions that are often asked, because it is easy to make a claim about any food by only describing the healthy substances in it - even if it is only the smallest amount - without mentioning the major disadvantages. The above statement from a qualified, certified nutritionist shows how much uncertainty there is. Although coconut oil mainly consists of saturated fats, which pose health risks, quality is nevertheless particularly important. Bioactive ingredients ( secondary plant substances ), even if only contained in small amounts, are lost during refining. Virgin coconut oil still contains small amounts of phenols, sterols and antioxidants. 8,28,31

Even though there is still a certain need for education about coconut oil, a survey by the New York Times shows that many nutritionists are aware of it, unlike consumers: the general public (over 70%) viewed coconut oil as healthy, while only 37% of experts classified the oil as healthy. 2.39

Secondary plant substances

Coconut oil contains relatively small amounts of bioactive secondary plant substances, mainly steroids and polyphenols. The presence of these substances is nevertheless crucial for modulating the chemical and physical properties of coconut oil. The different techniques used to extract coconut oil affect the quantity and quality of the oil obtained. The content of secondary plant substances in coconut oils varies depending on the processing method. For example, bioactive substances are largely lost in industrially produced coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil (cold-pressed) extracted from fresh coconut meat contains higher levels of secondary plant substances than coconut oil made from dried coconut meat. 31,33,47,48,49

Our article on secondary plant substances provides an overview of the classification of substance groups, their occurrence in foods and possible effects on humans.

Coconut oil contains the following secondary plant substances: 33.48

  • Isoprenoids: Steroids (campesterol, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol), ketones, saponins
  • Alkaloids
  • Polyphenols: phenolic acids (protocatechuic acid, gallic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, salicylic acid, syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid); flavonoids (catechin, apigenin, kaempferol, hesperetin)

It should be noted that the composition of the secondary plant substances in coconut oil can vary depending on the origin, variety, time of harvest, cultivation and storage conditions and production process. Therefore, quantities are only of limited use and should only be understood roughly.

The ketones found in coconut oil act primarily as flavorings. Various studies confirm the presence of steroids such asbeta-sitosterol and stigmasterol in coconut oil, which have a positive effect on the growth of cancer cells in esophageal, ovarian, breast, colon and prostate cancer. In scientific studies, steroids also show positive effects on the absorption of cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. Coconut oil contains relatively low levels of steroids (0.8 mg/g) compared to corn oil (23 mg/g) or soybean oil (9 mg/g). Due to the low presence of steroids, the health effects are negligible. In addition, the scientific situation regarding the positive effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular diseases is currently vague and controversial. 33,36

Phenolic components are important bioactive substances in coconut oils, which have been shown in scientific studies to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects, as well as liver-protective effects in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The anti-carcinogenic and protective effects of the polyphenols in coconut oil in chemotherapeutic cancer treatments are the subject of current scientific research. Studies show that cold-pressed coconut oil has a stronger antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect than conventional coconut oil due to its higher content of polyphenolic compounds. Coconut oils from the brown seed shell (testa) and virgin coconut oils also contain alkaloids and saponins compared to conventional coconut oils, but their health effects in coconut oils have not yet been researched much. 33,48,50

The scientific literature is partly contradictory regarding the health effects of coconut oil. Therefore, further detailed studies are required to obtain reliable information. The absorption and metabolism of coconut oil in the human body are not yet fully understood, so we recommend that you adhere to the specified limits when consuming it and use unrefined, high-quality virgin coconut oil, ideally organic. 31

Dangers - Intolerances - Side effects

Since coconut oil is practically nothing more than fat and these fatty acids are largely saturated, neither healing effects nor direct dangers can be derived from a holistic perspective - apart from the long-term (and sometimes life-threatening) negative consequences of intensive or long-term consumption in large quantities described above. We suspect that if you otherwise eat healthily, small amounts of high-quality coconut oil every now and then as a special treat are not a problem.

Allergies to coconut products do occur, but are rare. However, coconut allergy is not, as the name suggests, related to a general nut allergy. 28, 40

Reheating coconut oil several times (e.g. reusing it for frying) poses risks and is harmful to cardiovascular health. It increases the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis. It also has a negative effect on the kidneys and liver. 27

Folk medicine - natural healing

In Indonesia, coconut oil is used to treat wounds and to store/preserve the medicinal plants needed for this purpose. 20 Coconut oil has been used in the tropics for centuries as a natural moisturizer and is said to be beneficial for a variety of different skin conditions. 33

Ecological footprint - animal welfare

Coconut oil leaves a negative aftertaste in terms of its ecological footprint for many reasons. Rainforests often have to make way for plantations to produce coconut oil. For the same yield, growing coconut oil requires more space than growing palm oil . The yield per hectare is ultimately significantly lower (0.7 t/ha) than for palm oil plantations (3.3 t/ha). There are also suspicions of human rights violations and illegal deforestation. 3

The CO 2 footprint of coconut oil is on average 2.3 kg CO 2 eq/kg. That of palm fat is 2.9 kg and that of butter is 11.5 kg CO 2 eq/kg. 19

The global average water footprint of refined coconut oil is 4490 l/kg. 18 These figures vary greatly depending on specific growing conditions, the geographical location of the plantations and the production methods.

In a large analysis (life cycle analysis), researchers examined the hypothesis that vegetable fat is more climate-friendly than butter. They included the very different recipes of vegetable fats, geography or origin and also the influence of land use changes. To do this, they examined a total of 212 vegetable fats, 16 types of plant-based cream and 40 dairy products that were available for purchase in 21 countries. The result of the study was that vegetable fats had a lower impact on climate, water and land use than butter. On average, plant-based products damaged the climate much less than butter - with and without land use changes (e.g. deforestation, etc.). However, individual products can vary greatly from one another: the figures ranged from 0.98 to 6.93 (average: 3.3) kg CO 2 eq/kg for 212 plant-based products and from 8.08 to 16.93 (average: 12.1) kg CO 2 eq/kg for 21 dairy butter variants. The main drivers of greenhouse gases from plant-based products were agricultural practices and land-use change emissions (e.g. deforestation). These drivers can vary greatly from country to country and from oil crop type to oil crop. In the worst case, land-use change is so severe that it trumps the other benefits of plant-based products. 16

Many coconut farmers live below the poverty line. At the same time, rainforests are being cleared for cultivation, which leads to a loss of biodiversity. Certain certificates (e.g. organic certificates, Rainforest Alliance , fair trade , etc.) ensure social and ecological standards to prevent abuse. 41

For detailed explanations of various sustainability indicators (such as ecological footprint, CO2 footprint, water footprint), see our article: What does the ecological footprint mean? .

Animal welfare - species protection

In 1977, Prof. Dr. Heinz Brücher reported in the book Tropical Crops that trained monkeys (long-tailed monkeys, macaques) are also used for harvesting. He saw this as a playful aspect and not as animal cruelty. The animals have to be caught and brutally trained for years (about 5 years) for this hard work so that they spin coconuts on their own axis until they fall to the ground. And they have to get used to commands so that they don't get caught in the leash that they are constantly held by. 9 They are then about ten times faster than a human at this work. In recent years, efforts have been made to protect the rights of monkeys. However, promises not to force monkeys to harvest have been broken, as PETA showed in a 2021-2022 study. The monkeys are just better hidden. 17

Due to the complicated harvesting of coconuts, short-trunk coconut palms are also found, especially in the Caribbean; they bear their first fruits after 3-4 years. 9

Worldwide occurrence - cultivation

Coconut palms grow mainly in the equatorial zone, i.e. in tropical areas. The optimal locations are coastal areas, near river banks or the tropical lowlands. These are similar conditions to those required by oil palms for palm oil. Coconut palms occasionally also thrive at 1600 m above sea level (in the African interior on Lake Kivu or in eastern Peru). 9

The coconut palm is grown in 93 countries on an area of 11.95 million hectares, producing 57,510 million coconuts annually. 8 It is one of the most important plants in the tropics and provides food and shelter for millions of people. The coconut gained commercial importance in the 19th century. The first plantation was established by a Dutchman in Sri Lanka. Coconut palms also grow on roadsides and in gardens; these coconuts are consumed locally and never appear in trade statistics. This is why statistics are difficult. Commercial coconut cultivation has doubled since 1980. 28

Today, cultivation takes place mainly in Indonesia, the Philippines and India; Brazil, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Mexico also produce considerable quantities. 28

Industrial production

There are various methods for producing coconut oil. Cold pressing often works with temperatures below 38 °C; expeller presses work with high pressure and high heat, which negatively affects the quality of the ingredients. 47

In the dry method, the flesh (copra) of the coconut is dried and chopped. Through industrial drying (usually at around 60 °C) the water content is reduced to 5% and bacteria or fungi can no longer find a breeding ground. 9 The oil is then pressed in oil mills.

With the wet method, processing must be done quickly because fresh coconuts are used. If you wait too long, enzymatic processes can take place and break down the fat, resulting in a rancid taste. The coconut milk contained in the pulp must be pressed out and then separated from the oil.

There is, for example, the cooking technique, where the milk is boiled until the oil separates from the other substances. The traditional fermentation technique, on the other hand, is a gentle method that requires little or no heat. Here, the coconut milk is left to ferment until the milk and oil separate (see recipe). To save time, the industry also uses bacteria-induced fermentation. 47 The enzymatic process (extraction) is similar, in which enzymes are added to speed up the separation. In the centrifuge technique, the coconut milk is put into a mechanical centrifuge, which uses centrifugal force to separate the milk from the coconut oil. 1,12,26,34,36,47

For pure cooking fat or oil or for cosmetic and industrial products, further processes such as refining and deodorization are required. This type of oil is also called RBD coconut oil (Refined-Bleached-Deodorized). Older, dried coconuts are used here, which have a higher oil content but hardly any more flavor. Mechanical oil presses with high heat produce oil to which chemical agents are added at the end. Natural flavors or nutrients are no longer present or only present in trace amounts. 12,47

Industrially processed liquid coconut oil is ideal (also in terms of price) for the production of margarine and sweets. Coconut oil from industrial production mostly goes through a hardening process that slightly increases the melting point (to around 34 °C). Depending on the intended use, the hardening is partial or complete (partially hydrogenated / fully hydrogenated). Studies have shown that a certain creaminess is best achieved by complete hardening and then mixing with unhardened oil. This also avoids the presence of trans fatty acids, as fully hardened coconut oil does not contain any trans fats. 12,46

Further information

The coconut ( Cocos nucifera ) is a single-seeded drupe (not a nut) that belongs to the palm family (Arecaceae). The term is derived from the Portuguese and Spanish word 'coco' (skull). 40 The fruit consists of three carpels that grow together, which also leads to its often slightly triangular shape. The three eyes that you see on one side are the three germ holes, whereby only one germ begins to grow at a time.

If you search online for the terms coconut oil and structural formula, you will find a picture of the simplified representation of the quantitatively most important fat molecule in coconut oil: lauric acid. The chemical formula is C 12 H 24 O 2 . 26 The metabolic and physiological characteristics of lauric acid are responsible for many of the properties of coconut oil. 32

EE: Certain peoples, for example in Polynesia, have been eating coconuts for thousands of years - and especially fish. Coconuts grow near the sea and rivers. But these peoples knew that coconut water from young nuts is healthy, in contrast to the old meat from which coconut oil is pressed. Fish is basically the opposite, with its many unsaturated fatty acids, which complement each other. The most important thing: these people worked hard - and probably rarely lived to our age.

Possibility of confusion

What is the difference between coconut oil and palm oil? Palm fat (palm oil) is obtained from the flesh of the palm fruit of the oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis ), coconut fat (coconut oil) comes from the stone fruit of the coconut ( Cocos nucifera ). Both fats contain a lot of saturated fatty acids, although palm fat has significantly less at 49% than coconut fat (82%). Both palm fat and coconut fat are solid at room temperature. Although palm fat yields higher and requires less land to cultivate, it can only be cultivated in tropical areas (often rainforest areas). They are therefore not the same product, but they are similar in terms of use, consistency and production. The brand name 'Palmin ® ' can also be confusing, as it is a coconut fat (only the variant with the addition "soft" contains palm oil as well as coconut fat).

Alternative names

In German-speaking countries, the term coconut oil is mostly used. Coconut oil or coconut fat are also common names, but the spelling 'cocosfett' is incorrect.

In English, coconut oil is called 'coconut oil'. Refined coconut oil is called '(commercial) refined coconut oil'; natural, virgin organic oil is called 'organic virgin coconut oil'. The term 'coconut fat' is less common.

Other uses

Coconut oil can be used externally to moisturize hair and skin. 33

The pulp residue is also used as animal feed due to its high protein content (20%). In addition to the food sector, coconut oil is also used in cosmetics, where it acts as a base for shampoos, soaps, creams or bath or massage oils, mainly due to the lauric acid it contains. 8

In the pharmaceutical sector, coconut oil is used to make medicines and insecticides. Coconut oil keeps ticks away because the lauric acid it contains repels the animals. If coconut oil is applied to the skin of humans or animals, it acts - as a natural variant - like a tick spray. This has also aroused the interest of scientists. 14,15

Coconut oil is also an important ingredient in synthetic resins and candles. In the Philippines, coconut oil, transesterified with methanol, is used as biodiesel or as an additive to diesel fuel.

The fibrous shell of the coconut, the mesocarp, is used to produce ropes, mats, wickerwork, carpets or wall coverings. The fibres of ripe fruits are used as fillings for mattresses, upholstery or as thermal insulation.