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Coconut the Tree of Life

Coconut is referred to as the Tree of Life due to the enormous medical benefits of Virgin Coconut oil. According to Dr. John Kabara (University of Michigan USA), Virgin Coconut oil has anti virus, anti bacteria, anti fungus and anti parasite properties, which help in the control of a variety of diseases. The Coconut Research Centre lists 51 health benefits including prevention of obesity and overweight problems, liver disease, and kidney disease to name just a few.

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconut harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Coconut oil is very heat stable so it makes an excellent cooking and frying oil. It has a smoke point of about 360°F (180°C). Because of its stability it is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years due to high saturated fat content.

Export markets for Coconut products exist and several Companies in the Coast Region are currently exporting to Europe and the Far East.

Production of Coconut Oil
In the wet process, coconut milk is made first and then the oil is extracted from the milk. Coconut kernel is shredded and mixed with water. Then it is pressed and the oil is extracted. The resulting oil/water mixture produces coconut cream or coconut milk depending on the percentage of oil. The coconut milk is then allowed to separate naturally. Since oil is lighter than water, the oil rises to the surface. This takes 12 to 24 hours. The oil can then be skimmed off. This is the traditional method of making coconut oil from coconut milk and is the way many people make the oil at home. Other methods incorporate heating, fermentation, refrigeration, or centrifugal force to separate the oil from the water. Some minor heating is generally done afterwards (often in a low temperature vacuum chamber) to drive off excess moisture and produce a more purified product and to extend shelf life.

In the dry process the oil is extracted directly from the kernel. The coconut kernel is first shredded and dried in an oven to about 10 to 12% moisture. The dried, shredded coconut is then placed into a press and the virgin oil is expelled.

The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), whose 18 members produce about 85% of the coconut sold commercially, has published its Standards for Virgin Coconut Oil.

Refined, bleached deodorized (RBD)
RBD stands for “refined, bleached, and deodorized.” RBD oil is usually made from copra (dried coconut kernel). Copra can be made by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying. The dried copra is then placed in a powerful hydraulic press with added heat and the oil is extracted. This yields up practically all the oil present, amounting to more than 60% of the dry weight of the coconut.

This “crude” coconut oil is not suitable for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with further heating and filtering. Another method for extraction of a “high quality” coconut oil involves the enzymatic action of alpha-amylase, polygalacturonases and proteases on diluted coconut paste.

Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil has no coconut taste or aroma. RBD oil is used for home cooking, commercial food processing, and cosmetic, industrial, and pharmaceutical purposes.

Hydrogenated
RBD coconut oil can be processed further into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to increase its melting point. Since virgin and RBD coconut oils melt at 76°F (24°C), foods containing coconut oil tend to melt in warm climates. A higher melting point is desirable in these warm climates so the oil is hydrogenated. The melting point of hydrogenated coconut oil is 97–104°F (36–40°C).

In the process of hydrogenation, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) are combined with hydrogen in a catalytic process to make them more saturated. Coconut oil contains only 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this process some of these are transformed into trans fatty acids.

Fractionated
Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of the whole oil, in which the long-chain fatty acids are removed so that only medium chain saturated fatty acids remain. Lauric acid, a 12 carbon chain fatty acid, is often removed as well because of its high value for industrial and medical purposes. Fractionated coconut oil may also be referred to as caprylic/capric triglyceride oil or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil because it is primarily the medium chain caprylic (8 carbons) and capric (10 carbons) acids that make up the bulk of the oil.

MCT oil is most frequently used for medical applications and special diets.

Food uses
Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking, especially when frying. In communities where coconut oil is widely used in cooking, the unrefined oil is the one most commonly used. Coconut oil is commonly used to flavor many South Asian curries. Relative to other cooking oils, it creates minimal harmful byproducts when heated.

Contrary to many information sources, the caloric content of coconut oil is very nearly the same as that of other dietary fats, being reduced only slightly by the presence of medium chain triglycerides which constitute less than half of the total fat content. A value of 8.3 kcal/g has been quoted for dietary medium-chain triglycerides.

Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated coconut oil is often used in non-dairy creamers, and snack foods including popcorn.

Industrial uses
1. As a feedstock for biodiesel
Coconut oil has been tested for use as a feedstock for biodiesel to be used as a diesel engine fuel. In this manner it can be applied to power generators and transport using diesel engines. Since straight coconut oil has a high gelling temperature (22–25°C), a high viscosity, and a minimum combustion chamber temperature of 500 °C (932 °F) (to avoid polymerization of the fuel), coconut oil is typically transesterified to make biodiesel. Use of B100 (100% biodiesel) is only possible in temperate climates as the gel point is approximately 10°C (50 degrees Fahrenheit). The oil needs to meet the Weihenstephan standard[12] for pure vegetable oil used as a fuel otherwise moderate to severe damage from carbonisation and clogging will occur in an unmodified engine.

2. As engine lubricant
Coconut oil has been tested for use as an engine lubricant; the producer claims the oil reduces fuel consumption and smoke emissions, and allows the engine to run at a cooler temperature.

3. As transformer oil
Transformer oil acts as an insulating and cooling medium in transformers. The insulating oil fills up pores in fibrous insulation and also the gaps between the coil conductors and the spacing between the siding and the tank, and thus increases the dielectric strength of the insulation. A transformer in operation generates heat in the winding, and that heat is transferred to the oil via conduction.

4. As herbicide
Acids derived from coconut oil can be used as herbicides, for a more environmentally friendly way of combatting weeds. It is also considered unproblematic for people who have sensitivity to synthethic herbicides.

Personal uses
1. As cosmetics and skin treatments
Coconut oil is excellent as a skin moisturizer and softener. A study shows that extra virgin coconut oil is effective and safe when used as a moisturizer, with absence of adverse reactions

2. As medicine
A single-blind randomized controlled trial on children with pneumonia at the Philippine Children's Medical Center found that coconut oil accelerated the normalization of respiratory rate and resolution of crackles

 
 
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