Enzymes and Coconut Oil
The Myth of Enzymes and Coconut Oil
by Brian Shilhavy, CEO Tropical Traditions
As the truth about the health benefits of coconut oil continues to spread, many people are jumping into the coconut oil reselling business and making fantastic claims for their particular brand of coconut oil. Unfortunately, most of these distributors have never lived in the tropics where coconuts are grown, and know very little about the actual processing of coconut oil.
One current claim being propagated through the Internet is that certain coconut oils are more "raw" than others because they supposedly see less heat, and actually contain enzymes that are beneficial. However, this is simply not true. If any coconut oil actually contained any appreciable amounts of enzymes, that oil would quickly deteriorate and have a very short shelf life. That is, after all, the job of enzymes in plants: to break things down and start the process of decomposition. High quality coconut oils, particularly Virgin Coconut Oil, have a very long shelf life (2 years or more) and would not have any appreciable amounts of enzymes in the oil.
When we first started making Virgin Coconut Oil the traditional way, and the demand for such a high-quality product grew very rapidly, we proceeded to investigate every possible way coconut oil was produced in order to provide larger quantities. One of the ways we learned about was from a professor at the University of the Philippines, who had extracted the oil through enzyme action, and then further separated the oil via a centrifuge process. He made it very clear that the enzymes needed to be completely removed.
Others who are very knowledgeable about coconut oil have stated the same thing when I asked them: enzymes are NOT present in coconut oil. Here is what they told me:
"There are no enzymes in coconut oil, nor any other edible oil for that matter." - Mary Enig, Ph.D, a nutritionist/biochemist and the author of Know Your Fats.
"If you don't heat the oil high enough to destroy the enzymes and then filter them off, plus filter the oil, that oil becomes unstable and tastes terrible." Ray Peat, Ph.D, author of several articles on fats and oils, and coconut oil in particular.
"The good thing about coconut oil is that it isn't damaged by heat. That's why it's so good for cooking. It's the saturation that makes it stable. If coconut oil contains enzymes it would become very perishable - just like all raw foods containing enzymes." Lita Lee, Ph.D. - Lita is a chemist, enzyme nutritionist, nutritional counselor, and has written on coconut oil.
"Coconut oil does not contain enzymes. Many in the raw food movement are misinformed about this." Dr. Adiel Tel-Oren, M.D., medical doctor, doctor of chiropractic, licensed nutritionist, certified clinical nutritionist, frequent lecturer on the health benefits of coconut oil, and owner of the Ecopolitan, the largest organic raw food restaurant in Minneapolis.
So it is a myth that there are coconut oils on the market that are "live" with enzymes and "see no heat." Coconuts are native to the tropics, where temperatures are very hot. Any coconut oil distributed anywhere in North America has "seen heat." Shipping containers used to ship the coconut oil to the US by sea from the tropics reach temperatures of over 130 degrees. If you have a truck deliver coconut oil to your home in the summer time by any of the major carriers, temperatures inside that truck will reach up to 125 degrees. In the winter time coconut oil turns solid and MUST be heated in order to be repackaged into retail size containers from drums. Tropical Traditions uses large insulated containers that hold many drums and keep a steady temperature of between 90 to 100 degrees F. in the winter time to keep our stored oil liquid so it can be repackaged. It does take longer to liquefy 55 gallon drums this way (a few days) in the winter, but it more closely resembles ambiance air temperatures in the tropics. Many other repackagers use electric drum bands to melt the coconut oil more quickly, and temperatures inside the drum become much hotter, closer to boiling temperatures. So any coconut oil you buy will have "seen heat." But the good news is that coconuts are designed by our Maker to grow and thrive in hot climates, and the oil is not harmed in any way by these low-level heats.
In the end, we determined that the traditional method of making coconut oil from fresh coconuts via family producers produced the highest quality Virgin Coconut Oil on the market. We work directly with family farmers, helping them become certified organic according to strict USDA standards. Our family producers hand pick each coconut they use to make our Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, using only coconuts harvested within 24 hours. Our Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is made from fresh coconut milk, allowed to separate from the water naturally, and then lightly heated for a few minutes to remove any remaining water or enzymes that may cause deterioration. Our moisture levels, free fatty acid content, and peroxide value are usually lower than industry standards. In addition, in 2006 laboratory tests were done on several Virgin Coconut Oils in the Philippine market that supposedly did not use any heat in the processing, and the Virgin Coconut Oil produced by Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp. in the Philippines exclusively for Tropical Traditions tested the highest for antioxidant levels. Subsequent research done in both Malaysia in 2008 and Sri Lanka in 2011 showed that traditionally made coconut oils using heat, even high levels of heat such as boiling the coconut milk, produced the highest amounts of antioxidants (more info.) In 2007 we implemented our Gold Label standards which uses the water from inside the coconut to wet-mill the coconut milk used to make the coconut oil, and since then our antioxidant levels have tested even higher than they did in 2006. Even though we now produce larger quantities of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil via our network of family farmers, it is still hand-made the traditional way. No other coconut oil on the market sees more individual attention to details in the processing, as all other coconut oils are mass-produced. We believe this is the highest quality coconut oil one can find anywhere, and many others agree with us!
"I have tried all other brands of coconut oil, and Tropical Traditions is the best!" Marilyn Diamond, best selling author of Fit for Life.
This is not my first purchase with this company. Their coconut oil is the absolute best! Bill, Mansfield, OH