Used as a substitute for animal and vegetable based oil, fat and butter during the time of shortages caused by the second world war, coconut oil was banned from western markets and was tabooed as a direct cause of heart diseases due to the presence of saturated fat in RBD coconut oil.
Refined, bleached and deodorised with the help of an industrial and chemical process, RBD coconut oil lacks the typical smell and colour found in coconut oil made with copra.
RBD coconut oil is also hydrogenated to increase its melting temperature and partial hydrogenation causes the unsaturated fats in coconut oil to combine with hydrogen and turn into trans-fatty acids. The discovery of the connection between partially hydrogenated coconut oil and heart diseases led to many countries reducing the production and exportation of coconut oil, striking a great blow to coconut oil manufacturers and exporters in many countries including Sri Lanka.
However the recent discovery of virgin coconut oil and its many health advantages are breathing a new life to the coconut and coconut oil manufacturers of Sri Lanka.
Produced with white coconut kernel instead of the dried coconut copra, the colourless quality of virgin coconut oil is maintained by avoiding the use of brown coconut kernel in its manufacturing process. The scraped coconut is dried under a temperature below 60oC to avoid discolouration and to reduce moisture level of coconut to an 8%.
After a period of rigorous drying under right temperature, scraped coconut is cooled down to the room temperature and is fed to a pressing cylinder for cold- pressing and production of naturally colourless and odourless virgin coconut oil.
Most of Sri Lanka's virgin coconut oil manufacturers, produce organic virgin coconut oil by default as most of the coconut plantations in Sri Lanka use organic compost fertilisers in the place of chemical fertilisers. Sri Lanka also boasts of 14,000 acres of organic coconut estates up to today, producing organic virgin coconut oil for cosmetic and food industry requirements.
In the meantime recent research into the numerous health benefits of virgin coconut oil has proved that virgin coconut oil is innocent of many negative health implications, RBD coconut oil was accused of in yesteryears.
According to recent studies, health benefits of virgin coconut oil include increased metabolism and helping with weight loss.
It is rich in medium chain fatty acids, particularly lauric acid and is a treasure trove of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and is an excellent nutraceutical. When lauric acid enters human body it gets converted to Monolaurin, which has the ability to enhance immunity. High lauric acid levels in virgin coconut oil also helps to reduce bad cholesterol and helps to maintain a good heart health while maintaining a good insulin level in blood stream, preventing the development of diabetes.
The good fatty acids in virgin coconut oil also improves the body's natural immunity and brain's cognitive function preventing the development of neuro-degenerative diseases.
It is rich in vitamin E, is non-greasy, non-staining and is widely used in soaps, lotions, creams and lip balms. When applied externally on the skin, the high levels of vitamin E in virgin coconut oil improves skin cell regeneration and encourages the development of an anti-bacterial layer above the skin.
Ancient Sri Lankans, Indians and Pacific Island dwellers have known the goodness of coconut oil for centuries and has depended on coconut for its high protein and fat contents. With the discovery and development of virgin coconut oil, the world is able to enjoy the tasty goodness of coconut oil again.