Thank you to David Lewis, the founder of Kitchen Ambition for the following comprehensive study of Coconut Oil.
Coconut oil makes up 2.5% of global vegetable oil production, with 90% being produced by the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community.
It is traditionally used for sauteing and frying, though western kitchens have come to love it for the nut-like quality and sweetness for baking, pastries and popcorn. Coconut oil is especially popular among kitchens following a ketogenic or paleo diet.
Virgin coconut oil is fresh pressed from the meat of a coconut, and like any fresh food it will deteriorate with age.
Yes, coconut oil can go bad.
Experts say that the incredible amount of saturated fat found in coconut oil gives it an exceptional shelf life when compared with other unrefined cooking oils. Even so, it will still become rancid with time.
Why Does Coconut Oil Go Bad?
Coconut oil is almost entirely made of fat, including more than 80% in saturated fats. Half of this saturated fat is in the form of a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid. Surprisingly there are only trace amounts of fiber, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals or plant sterols present.
Although the lion’s share of coconut oil is saturated fat, it’s actually unsaturated fats that will cause it to spoil.
All fats are organic compounds, meaning that they’re composed of chains of bonded carbon atoms. Unsaturated fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil, are distinct from saturated fats because they contain double bonds between some of the carbon atoms.
Double-bonded carbon in unsaturated fats is somewhat unstable, and likely to break down in the presence of oxygen through a process called “oxidation.” As these bonds break, the fat transforms into peroxides which give off characteristically unpleasant “rancid” smells and flavors.
Oxidative rancidity is a gradual degradation that begins when an oil is first pressed, and continues over time. Exposure to light, heat and oxygen accelerate this process.
The oxygen found in water molecules may also be damaging to coconut oil through a similar process. This is called hydrolytic rancidity. If your oil becomes contaminated by bacteria or mold, the enzymes they produce can similarly catalyze microbial rancidity.
Of these three common types of rancidity, oxidative is by far the most common cause. Practically speaking, you can’t stop it, but with proper care you can slow it down.
How To Keep Coconut Oil From Going Bad
When stored and handled with care, virgin coconut oil has a long shelf-life.
None of our tips are complicated. In fact, most will probably seem like common sense once you understand that exposure to oxygen, water and contaminants creates oxidation. And that light or heat can speed up the process.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to get the most from your jar,
Size your purchase to what you intend to use.
Oxidation is an ongoing process that occurs over time. Time is one variable you can’t change, but you can benefit by planning for it.
For example, don’t buy a mega-container if you only intend to use the oil sparingly. Most virgin coconut oil sold in the United States will be marked with a 24 month expiration window. Regular heat or light exposure may shorten the shelf-life once the jar is open.
Size your purchases so that you can use up the coconut oil in fewer than 12 months. This simple step will save storage space, and help you use all of the oil before it turns.
Seal and store in a cool dark place.
Minimize exposure oxygen and moisture in the air by keeping your jar sealed. When possible, keep it stored in a cool dark place like a closed cabinet away from cooking surfaces. Coconut oil doesn’t require refrigeration, but you can keep it chilled if you prefer.
Light and heat speed up the process of oxidation. Most coconut oil melts around 75 Fahrenheit. If your oil is typically in liquid form, consider if you can store it in a cooler darker place.
Liquefaction does not indicate the oil is presently damaged, but in many temperate climates it may signal the jar has received direct exposure to light or heat. These factors can damage the oil over a long period of time.
Use clean utensils to remove oil from the jar.
Because coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, it is actually quite stable. Unfortunately, food contamination from a dirty utensil may not be. Crumbs and food waste may quickly catalyze mold or fermentation.
Avoid using your fingers or hands to scoop oil from the jar. The human body contains trillions of microorganisms - they actually outnumber human cells 10 to 1. It’s easier than you might think to pass contaminants from your fingers into the jar.
How To Tell If Your Coconut Oil Is Bad
Virgin coconut oil should be incredibly nutty, sweet and aromatic. If something smells “off,” it probably is. Here are a few common characteristics to look for with rancid coconut oil,
Is the coconut oil yellow?
Coconut oil melts from a solid into liquid form around 75 F.
The solid form of virgin coconut oil should appear as a creamy white. If your coconut oil seems yellow, brown or otherwise off-white it may be bad.
In liquid form, virgin coconut oil should appear clear. If your liquid oil looks dingy or cloudy it may be contaminated. However, near its melting point coconut oil can exist in a part-solid, part-liquid state which can look very cloudy. For that reason, it’s easiest to distinguish yellow or brown contaminants when the oil is a solid.
Does the surface look marbled?
If the surface of your solid coconut oil seems grainy or spotted, it may be bad. Clumpy discolorations that appear similar to curdled milk may indicate rancidity. The surface texture should have a continuous color and consistency.
Does it appear dirty or speckled?
If you can identify brown or green specks, it’s a good indicator that mold or bacteria is present. In some cases the oil may come across as “dirty” rather than “speckled.” This type of contamination may also be more visible on the surface of your jar rather than in the oil itself.
Do not keep dirty or speckled coconut oil in your kitchen.
Does it smell bad?
If the scent makes you gag, it’s a clear sign your oil is bad. Rancid oil is often described as bitter, stale or pungent. If it doesn’t smell fresh then it probably isn’t.
Is "Rancid" Coconut Oil Bad For You?
Do not use rancid oil for culinary or cosmetic purposes. Not only will it ruin the flavor of your dish, the scent of your hair or skin. Rancid oil is incredibly unhealthy.
As the unsaturated fats in coconut oil break down through oxidation they transform into trans-, cyclized-, and cross-linked fats. These types of damaged fats are incredibly unhealthy and can do harm to human cells. The Mayo Clinic calls trans fat among “the worst type of fat you can eat,” and notes that it is a specific contributor toward heart disease.
According to Dr. Delia McCabe, “Damaged fat molecules, such as the fatty acids found in rancid oil, can be harmful because of their presence across trillions of cell membranes in the human body. These fats disrupt cellular communication, duplication, and regeneration in our tissues and organs. This domino effect is far reaching. It impacts both our physical and mental well-being.”
Rancid oil that has been contaminated by bacteria or fungus can also be dangerous for topical use on hair or skin, causing a body to break out or develop an infection.
How Long Does Coconut Oil Last?
The shelf-life of virgin coconut oil is actually quite long when compared with other popular cooking oils, like extra virgin olive oil. Because it contains relatively few unsaturated fats, the process of oxidation takes a long time.
Shelf-life depends on the type and production method of the coconut oil you are purchasing.
Virgin coconut oil is pressed from the fresh meat of mature coconuts. The International Coconut Community quality standards dictate that virgin oils have not undergone chemical refining, bleaching or deodorizing.
Although some producers of virgin coconut oil provide an expiration date of more than 5 years, most US brands suggest their product is best used within 18-24 months of production.
For example, Dr. Bronner claims their oil is best within 18-months of processing, and labels these products with both "Expiration" and "Best By" dates. The Dr. Bronner team explained that their products without active ingredients will provide an "Expiration Date" as a rule of thumb. They support these decisions with internal testing data, though the method of testing was unclear. Their "Best By Date" refers to their recommendation of the latest time an owner should use the product in order to experience the best sensory qualities.
Throughout my correspondence with 10 other coconut oil producers, associations and distributors like Dr Bronner, it was clear there isn't a universal industry standard for how long virgin coconut oil should last. In response to an inquiry with the Coconut Coalition of The Americas, I learned that it is generally up to the brand to make the determination on shelf life of their coconut oil products.
There is no such thing as an “extra virgin” grade for coconut oil, though sometimes brands label products with this designation.
If a coconut oil is not specifically labeled as “virgin,” then it is likely RBD coconut oil.
RBD is an acronym for refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. These products are made from dried copra rather than fresh coconut meat. Unlike virgin oil, refined coconut oil does not provide a nutty coconut taste or aroma and tends to be brownish yellow in color.
Most RBD coconut oil should be used within 3 months of opening.
How To Dispose Of Old Oil.
Almost every kitchen has to deal with expired oil at some point in their cooking journey. Planning your purchase quantities will go a long way toward limiting the amount of old or bad oil that you need to dispose of.
Allow used oil to cool before handling it.
Especially if you are trying to dispose of recently used oil, allow it to cool before handling. First and foremost, this is a safety issue. Burns injuries from cooking oil in home kitchens are quite common, and can be severe. Cooled oil is much safer to work with. Given that coconut oil is solid below 75 F, it can also be much easier to handle at lower temperatures.
Do Not Pour Old Oil Down The Drain.
Cooking fats and oils are some of the most common causes of clogged pipes. They can build up a fatty residue on your pipe walls over time, eventually causing a severe blockage.
Not only can cooking oil clog your drain at home, but also there may be repercussions to your municipal water treatment system. In one recent example, Portland experienced a 600-gallon wastewater overflow into a nearby creek when home cooking grease blocked a sewer line.
Putting Coconut Oil In The Trash.
Sending old oil to the landfill may be the simplest solution, though not the most sustainable. Place your oil in a sealed non-breakable container before adding to the trash can. An old plastic bottle, peanut butter jar or milk carton works well for this purpose.
Do not pour old oil directly into a trash bag or can. This can attract undesired rodents and will make a big mess if the bag is ripped.
Composting Cooking Oil Is Complicated.
Many experts recommend against composting your cooking oil because it can be difficult for an inexperienced composter to get it right.
According to the Worm Monger composting site, oil is more complex to break down than raw fruits and vegetables. It requires extra heat, and can lead to problems like rot and rodents if done improperly.
Ultimately, adding too much oil to a compost pile that isn’t prepared for it can kill the compost.
It Is Possible To Recycle Cooking Oil In Some Areas.
Not all areas have a program that will accept oil, but it’s easy to locate if there is a facility in your area through the Earth911 search tool.
Things to remember.
Expired coconut oil may smell or taste bad, but more importantly it can be damaging to your long-term health.
Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil has an exceptional shelf life. But like any fresh food, coconut oil will go bad over time.
Understanding why coconut oil goes bad and knowing what signs to look for can be incredibly helpful. Even so, the single most effective way to keep rancid oil out of your kitchen may be to buy in a quantity you can enjoy well before the expiration date on the jar.
David Lewis is the founder of Kitchen Ambition, a resource site for home chefs and those in pursuit of the perfect kitchen. www.kitchenambition.com
May you and your loved ones be healthy and safe,
This article by David Frawley was published November 13th in The Daily Guardian to commemorate International Ayurveda Day on the birthday of Lord Dhavantari (pictured above) who is the deity of Ayurveda, which also coincided with Diwali, one of the most celebrated Hindu holidays which is a celebration of light presiding over darkness. I hope you enjoy...
Today Ayurveda has spread globally, with Ayurvedic centres and clinics throughout the world. It has been adopted by those in every continent, popular in such diverse areas as the United States, Brazil, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa and UAE.
On this special day, Ayurvedic practitioners, students, associations and schools from throughout the world will come together to celebrate the profound system of Ayurvedic healing. There will be gatherings, programmes and conferences honouring Ayurveda not just as an ancient Indian system of medicine, but as one of the most transformative systems of natural and yogic healing in the world, helpful to every person, creature and the entire planet.
“Ayu” refers to life, longevity and harmony between body, prana, senses, mind and atman. It is not just about physical health but about optimal wellbeing on all levels. It teaches us the way of right living in harmony with our mind-body constitution and with our inner self. It directs us to the immortality of our inner being, as well as helping us remain free from physical pain and disease. Ayurveda is a system of self-healing, connecting us to the wellsprings of prana and consciousness within us, not simply external healing factors, which are its outer applications.
Ayurveda does not view the human being merely as chemistry or structure as does modern medicine, but as ruled by overall unifying forces of prana, mind and atman, which integrate the diverse organic systems of the body and the various functions of the mind into a coherent unity. It recognises a deeper self of which the body is an instrument. If we can introduce change and bring harmony into these primary factors of energy and awareness within us, we can also improve our diverse physical functions in a fundamental manner.
Ayurveda includes what is ordinarily called medicine as an enduring system of medical treatment with its special doctors and vaidyas. It has its in-depth study of the body and its organic systems, its examination of the disease process and stages, many forms of diagnosis, and therapies for all manner of diseases, including powerful herbs and clinical methods like Pancha Karma. In India, Ayurveda is taught in a six-year BAMS programmes that integrating Ayurveda along with modern medicine.
Yet countering diseases is only a later phase of Ayurvedic treatment, which begins with our own right living on a daily basis. Ayurveda teaches us the right diet, herbs, exercise, work, rest, and lifestyle for the body. Each one of us at a physical level has a unique mind-body constitution defined according to the three doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which it addresses (corresponding generally to the air, fire and water elements within us).
Ayurveda delineates in detail the healing or disease-causing properties of foods, herbs and physical activities of all types, with its understanding of nature’s qualities and energies. It tells us that everything we encounter in life can either promote wellbeing or cause disease, depending upon how we related to it.
Ayurveda aims to reduce the disease causing doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha but also to increase their positive health potentials as Prana, Tejas and Ojas, the essences of vitality within us. It teaches us that we have internal energies of prana and mind that are more important for our wellbeing than simply bodily functions and activities.
Ayurveda similarly teaches the way of right living for the mind. It follows the same principles as the Yamas and Niyamas of yoga for purifying the mind and emotions. Such behavioural modifications aid in our right action and expression overall. Dharmic or sattvic living helps us remove all psychological and emotional disorders. Ayurveda also explains in detail the health consequences of our sensory impressions, emotions and thoughts that we ordinarily fail to examine. In this regard, Ayurveda is for everyone and we should each learn how to apply it relative to our own needs and capacities.
AYURVEDA, PANDEMIC & ECOLOGY
Today the world is caught in the throes of a powerful and dangerous pandemic. Many plagues have afflicted humanity over the centuries, such as Ayurveda has experienced and noted. Yet this pandemic is the first of the twenty-first century and reflects our information technology, both in regard to its spread and its treatment. This makes it unique in many ways and difficult to counter.
Ayurveda warns of collective diseases that can arise from the wrong relationship of the human being with our natural environment, elements and ecosystems. Our individual prana is connected to the prana of the Earth, starting with other human beings, extending to the animals, plants and the forests, from the soil to the atmosphere. We cannot as individual human beings have strong immune systems to resist disease if the integrity of the biosphere, the Earth’s immune system, is disrupted or depleted.
Clearly today the organic basis of life on the planet is being compromised, our natural environments are being endangered and, in some cases, destroyed. Along with this, we as human beings are now in doubt as to who we really are, or what the ultimate purpose of our lives truly is, including our connection with nature itself.
Ayurveda is yet more relevant in this technological era because it teaches us how to be in harmony with the universal prana and mind, through which we can master all technologies and also our own thoughts and emotions. It helps us restore both our physical and psychological immunity, so that we are not the mere victims of external forces and influences.
THE GREATER FIELD OF AYURVEDA
As the natural healing tradition that arises from yoga and Vedanta, Ayurveda embraces pranayama, mantra and meditation, and brings in their healing applications. Ayurveda is the medicine of yoga, through which we can integrate ourselves with the whole of life. Ayurvedic study begins with the philosophy and principles of yoga and samkhya as the basis for its approach to body and mind.
Ayurveda has long been used with other medical systems, including in India—the AYUSH systems of Yoga, Naturopathy, Siddha, Unnani and Tibetan medicine. At a global level, Ayurveda is being used along with modern medicine, chiropractic, psychology, massage, nutrition, herbal medicine and many other approaches.
Yet Ayurveda maintains its own identity and ability to integrate diverse forms of healing, with its broad view of life. It looks beyond the mere treatment of disease to right living for body and mind for both the individual and society. It connects us with the universal life and energy, not just to medical treatment centres.
It is important that we honour Ayurveda on this Ayurveda Day, and that those in India recognise the global influence of Ayurveda, just as they have noted the global influence of yoga. Our health and psychological challenges today require Ayurveda, and we will certainly benefit from the wisdom of the great rishis and yogis who have brought us Ayurveda and sustained in over the millennia.
May you and your loved ones be healthy and safe,
I debated whether to discuss the US election at all, and then two things occurred which illuminated the message I’d like to share with you today.
First, as a bit of background, I traveled to London to visit my daughter’s family after not seeing them for a year, and to celebrate my grandson's fourth birthday.
I am required to quarantine for two weeks in self isolation and will not see my family until after 14 days. Luckily, I have a lovely airbnb to stay in and am grateful to be here.
Being 6 hours ahead in this time zone and having plenty of free time, it has been interesting to follow the US election comments through social media and various news sources. On the morning following the election, I read the late night comments from election night in the US. While not much had been decided, the comments from some rather longtime yogis and teachers of yoga that I know were surprising to me. Name calling and judgment about the intellect of the millions of people who had voted for President Trump and other very disparaging remarks about the newest Supreme Court justice - these comments were not following any yogic principles I know. It took all the will I had to not make retorts in the chains of comments, but I refrained and am glad I did. It would have been better still if I had not judged them in my mind as I read the comments, but I too am still practicing each day and working on the lessons of life.
An hour later, I came across a recommended video link from a friend, and I decided to watch it. This second occurrence was quite positive and gave me a lighter perspective on the previous behaviors of other yogis.
Sadhguru is a teacher, philanthropist, spiritual leader, author and was speaking to a room full of students at Columbia University Business School in New York. He is a rather no nonsense, straight talker. He began his talk reminding us all of the fact that we are tiny specks in the whole of the cosmos and even in relation to the planet earth, which is spinning in space without any help from us. He added that while we believe that life is human-centric, in fact humans are merely another creature which appeared on the planet relatively recently according to evolutionary science.
He shared that if all the worms on this planet disappeared, life on Earth would cease to exist in 12-18 months. If all the insects on this planet disappeared, it would take 5-6 years for life to cease. If all the humans on this planet disappeared, the planet would flourish. Something to think about………
A few of Sadhguru's tidbits of wisdom:
*Speaking of the US election, without naming any names, he addressed the accusations about the current “divisive language” by our leader (of course meaning President Trump). Sadhguru said that the divisions and the issues were all there for many, many years before the last four years in America. He added that the language used has been positive, as the issues are now raised to a level of discussion and heightened importance which may actually lead to improvements. Positive steps have been made and more will be made, but blaming one man for anything as systemic as racism or poverty or environmental issues is foolishness according to Sadhguru.
*Our strong identities are what cause us great pain and suffering. Again, as related to the election, “taking on an issue with missionary zeal will eventually yield to strong identification with the mission and attacks on those who are not identifying in the same way.” Further he stated, “If we speak of justice, unknowingly the mind thinks immediately of revenge.” He added that justice yields division, even if for the right reasons. Justice usually leads to fights, destruction, and pain.
This second point seemed particularly relevant to my yogi friends who referred to Trump supporters as stupid and the appointment of justice Barrett to the Supreme Court as illegal. They were attacking with revengeful language, while simultaneously claiming to stand for justice and for a kinder, gentler country and discourse. These same yogi friends are also invested in the environment to the point of missionary zeal, and indeed attack anyone who does not identify in the same way. Again, interesting to think about……..
*It is the success of business that can make a difference in the world.” He regularly speaks to business leaders and says that is where the most impact can be made - not vilifying business but getting the leaders to understand why a different perspective might be good for the world and business at the same time. Helping them understand the importance of the process, rather than the end goal.
*”We should display sensibility in every aspect of our life” “If you want to win the cricket match, it’s not about beating the other team. It is about hitting the ball and doing it well. Doing the right things, devoting oneself to the process is what yields success.”
**”The media is playing it (divisiveness) up at a certain level. In our democratic society there should be a free press. Unfortunately all media across the world is owned by some corporation or another. It is no more free. It is tangled up with money. Big Time…Journalists are serving a company.…
Media is not just another profession in a democratic society. It is an important pillar of democracy. Without it, democracy will slowly go away to something else. …..It could be a complete mess, if there are no more checks and balances in the press. Today, don’t you already know which media belongs to which party?………Anonymous journalists, those who don’t dare to put their names, they are saying all kinds of things. But If you walk through the country, it is the same as it was - there are still problems and solutions. If you go off television and switch off your phone, and walk on the street, you’ll see everything is quite fine.”
*”Work and serve where you have access and acceptance - this is where you can make a difference - otherwise it will be like beating your head against the wall without the access and acceptance. You need to find the door, not the wall. Then you can easily walk through.”
He spoke for nearly two hours and covered many topics. Some of his comments resonated with me and others I’m still considering with some skepticism. I especially enjoyed the section on food and health. If you’d like to watch this thought provoking discussion in entirety:
May you and your loved ones be healthy and safe,