When it comes to coconut oil, it's important to read the label carefully. See the lingo marketers use to lure us into buying various types of coconut oil.

Decoding Labels: How To Choose The Best Coconut Oil


I was at the supermarket this morning and coconut oil was at the top of my list. It’s an ingredient I buy all the time for my homemade dog treats. Since they were out of my usual brand, I looked for an alternate. But once I started scanning the labels, I realized it was going to take a little time. There were so many to choose from and labels can be deceiving. 

So what should you look for? 

In this article, I outline the lingo marketers use to lure us into buying the various coconut oil types and brands. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll feel confident selecting the best type for you and your canine companion.

There Are Two Types Of Coconut Oil 

1. Unrefined – This simply means the product is not refined. It’s pure, raw, or otherwise known as “virgin.” Unrefined coconut oil is made from the fresh coconut meat of the whole coconut. Some quick facts: 

  • Classified as Pure, Raw or Virgin.  
  • No chemicals used in the process.
  • Retains more beneficial nutrients.
  • Maintains its coconut flavor and aroma.
  • Smoke point up to 350ºF.

When it comes to coconut oil, it's important to read the label carefully. See the lingo marketers use to lure us into buying various types of coconut oil.

2. Refined – This type of coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat called copra. During the drying process, there’s a potential for bacteria, fungus, dust, bugs, and other impurities to contaminate the copra. So it’s bleached and deodorized. The bleaching process is not done with a household type chemical bleach. Rather, it’s a filtering process accomplished using a bleaching clay. Some manufacturers say they refine with steam and no chemicals. Read the label carefully.

Some quick facts: 

  • You may see it as “RBD” coconut oil (Refined, Bleached, Deodorized).
  • Some beneficial nutrients are destroyed in the process.
  • Neutral coconut smell and taste.
  • Smoke point up to 450ºF.
  • Longer shelf life.
  • Cheaper.
  • Some low-grade brands are partially hydrogenated. 

Types Of Processing

Unrefined coconut oil is either cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. With either type, there are no chemicals used in the process. The oils are mechanically squeezed from the coconut meat. The difference in the two types is the temperature used to extract the oil.

  • Cold-pressed, the coconut oil is processed at temperatures up to 120ºF. 
  • Expeller-pressed coconut oil is processed at temperatures up to 210ºF.

Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is processed at temperatures up to 400ºF. So you can see why more nutrients are destroyed at this high heat. Most refined coconut oil is bleached and deodorized.

When it comes to coconut oil, it's important to read the label carefully. See the lingo marketers use to lure us into buying various types of coconut oil.

Which Is Healthier?

Unrefined coconut oil has had the least amount of processing. It retains the most nutrients, a natural coconut flavor, and aroma. For its health benefits, unrefined coconut oil is the healthier option.

Organic Or Non-Organic?

When it comes to buying coconut oil, always opt for certified organic. It will be labeled USDA Organic. This certifies that the coconuts were grown without the use of pesticides.

Virgin Or Extra Virgin?

Of course, when you see coconut oil labeled as “Extra Virgin” it’s totally logical to think it has to be better than plain old virgin coconut oil! But is it? 

Actually, it’s not. It’s purely a teaser to draw you in and make you think that it is. There is actually no extra virgin classification for coconut oil. That classification system is reserved for olive oil. Unrefined coconut oil is virgin and the term extra virgin is just a marketing gimmick. 

Let’s Talk Liquid Coconut Oil

I get a lot of emails about liquid coconut oil. People ask me if they can use liquid coconut oil in my Proud Dog Mom recipes.

The answer is no!

All of my recipes call for organic, unrefined, virgin, cold pressed coconut oil. Coconut Oil is naturally solid at 76ºF and below, and liquid above 76ºF. The only way coconut oil can remain in a constant liquid state would be to change its composition by decreasing the saturated fats. The main saturated fatty acid targeted for removal is the lauric acid. Because lauric acid has a high melting point of over 100ºF, it has to be removed in order to produce a liquid end product. The down side is, lauric acid is what gives us the majority of health benefits in the coconut oil to begin with. So the more of it you remove, the more potential health benefits you lose. 

In Summary 

If you’re new to coconut oil, take your time and read the labels. At first glance, you’ll see they can be very confusing. Just because it says organic, doesn’t mean it is unrefined. So, I can’t stress enough to read the labels. If you want to get in some practice at your leisure in the comfort of your home, go onto Amazon.com and see all the coconut oils they have listed there. There are so many choices and reviews to help you even more.

Now that you know what to look for when buying your coconut oil, check out this article to see the many ways it can benefit your pooch!