For thousands of years, coconut oil has served as the primary source of cooking oil to the millions of inhabitants across the globe. Some of the common uses of coconut oil include, but not limited to cooking, industrial processes and as medicine. Due to its stability in high temperatures, it is particularly helpful in the preparing dishes in high temperature such as deep frying. Due to its high level of unsaturated fat content, it is one of the healthiest foods in the world and many health organizations including the American Heart Association have encouraged its consumption.
The oil is produced from the kernels of coconuts. The coconuts are felled from the trees, and the hard outer part is removed. The kernel is then obtained from the inside and dried either under the sun or in a kiln to obtain copra. The copra is then pressed with solvents to produce oil together with a high protein fibre mash. The age at which the coconut has been extracted from the tree also determines the quality of the oil produced. Copra that has been obtained from young coconuts is usually harder to process than that obtained from mature coconuts.
Refined, bleached and deodorized oil (RBD oil) is usually made from copra placed under a hydraulic press with a lot of heat. This process usually produces a lot of oil from the coconuts. However, the oil obtained from this process is not 100% efficient for consumption as it contains impurities. These must be refined by continuous heating and filtration. Enzymes can also be used to act on the copra to produce high quantity oil. However, unlike other forms of extraction of coconut oil, oil obtained from this process contains very little coconut taste. It can be used for commercial purposes especially in cooking and industry.
Coconut oil is mainly used in cooking in cultures across the world. It is mainly used by vegans and people who are allergic to animal fat, although these are not the only people who use coconut oil. Movie theatres have also been known to use coconut oil while preparing popcorn since this oil is healthier as compared to other saturated fats on the market. Coconut oil can also be used in replacing solid fat in the confectionery industry through hydrogenation. There have also been chocolates around the world whose main ingredient and selling point is the coconut oil in them.
Apart from cooking, coconut oil has a lot of other uses. For instance, the oil can be used not only in cooking but also as a skin moisturiser helping keep the skin soft throughout the day. When using coconut oil for hair, it can increase the protein content there and therefore reducing the falling off of hair. Although it has been used as a sexual lubricant in some cases, it has been found to greatly weaken the effectiveness of latex condoms. In some traditional communities, coconut oil has also been used as a fuel in the lighting of lantern lamps.