When exactly does coconut oil go bad, if at all? Let’s find out. First of all, this tasty edible oil has a long shelf life and contains many health benefits.
Because of its rich content in fatty acids, it does not break down very quickly.
In fact, its high levels of lauric acid provide its many beneficial medicinal properties. However, if kept for too long, it can become rancid and start smelling bad.
You may notice that when it’s “turned off,” its color changes from white to a yellowish mass, which may also have mold stains.
Does coconut oil go bad? Does it expire?
Coconut oil will have a “best before” date on the bottle. This gives you an idea of when you can expect it to go bad. Also, the smell is always a good indicator of its overall condition. The shelf life depends largely on how it was produced and how it is stored.
For example, pure virgin coconut oil (the kind that is best for your health) generally remains fresh longer than refined coconut oil.
In this article, you’ll learn the telltale signs of bad coconut oil. Furthermore, we’ll tell you how to find out if there’s anything you can do to extend its life. This is especially important if you’re using it because of its health benefits.
We’ll also cover the many health benefits of this wonderful product. From healthy hair to even help you lose weight.
Refined or unrefined?
There are 2 types of coconut oil you can use for either cooking or apply to your skin: refined or unrefined (virgin). Both refined and unrefined have their own advantages and disadvantages.
This type of oil is processed by bleaching and purifying the coconut meat before drying it. It is then extracted to produce a tasteless and odor free oil.
One of the benefits of refined coconut oil is that it has a smoke point of 450°F (232°C), which makes it better for frying. However, much of its nutrients are eliminated this way.
This one is less processed and contains more beneficial properties than its refined counterpart. Depending on the method used, the meat can be either dried or fresh. When dried, the oil is extracted mechanically.
When the coconut meat is fresh and undried, the milk is squeezed out mechanically. It’s then processed naturally to separate the oil. Both methods enable the oil to retain its characteristic taste and smell.
The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) reported that virgin coconut oil (VCO) contains high levels of lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties.
These fatty acids are useful against fungi, bacteria and viruses.
In fact, the only other substance with equal amounts of lauric acid is breast milk. These anti-bacterial properties are the ones that help preserve the quality and shelf life of this great product.
Many Doctors coincide that VCO contains a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Although they’re classified as saturated fats, they work differently in the body.
Some studies claim that MCTs can help you lose weight without increasing metabolic risks. Other studies show that medium-chain fatty acids help reduce fasting lipid levels and blood sugar levels, which may help protect against inflammatory conditions.
How long does it usually take to expire whether refined or virgin?
Research into both types’ shelf life has shown that refined oil deteriorates faster than the virgin one.
A 2015 study conducted in Japan found that the refined type would start deteriorating about 2 years after production and shorter shelf life than the virgin samples.
The same research found that VCO has a shelf life of about 5 years. It was suggested that it does not become rancid as quickly because fewer antioxidants are destroyed during processing.
4 Telltale signs it’s going bad
So, why does coconut oil go bad? Over time, heat, oxygen, and light can affect the chemicals and alter their quality.
Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that although the expiration date may seem acceptable (and this is usually about 2 years from when the coconut oil was bottled), it does not indicate when the coconuts were harvested and the oil was extracted.
Therefore, sometimes it can even go bad before the expiry date.
1. Smell & taste
Most oils can begin to smell or taste bitter when they have gone bad. You may notice that the once pleasant, almost sweet smell of VCO becomes stale or dirty.
Another telltale sign is if it has lost its white color or lacks transparency when it melts. When stale, it will have a yellowish color, a sure sign that you should get rid of it.
3. Consistency is no longer smooth
When expired and gone bad, it’s usually lumpy and does not have a smooth consistency anymore.
4. Dark spots
Although rich in antimicrobial properties, bacteria or mold stains can appear in rancid products. Therefore, you don’t want to eat it nor apply it to your skin.
There is a lack of research regarding the side effects of consuming or using expired coconut oil. However, by looking at what happens with other types of oils, we can have an idea.
For example, changes in fatty acids are known to occur in oils that have become rancid or heated beyond their smoking point. Likewise, there’s evidence that shows how vitamins are destroyed in cod liver oil when it becomes rancid.
It’s also believed that these oils’ antioxidant properties are also affected, and free radicals are formed.
According to the journal Anticancer Research, chemical changes in rancid corn oil can affect tumors in the body. The researchers found that rancid corn oil may promote tumor growth or even be a cause of them.
However, it should be noted that this refers to oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, while VCO has low levels of omega-6.
Although it’s improbable to get sick or intoxicated, the toxins, free radicals, and oxidative nature of rancid oils may have a cumulative effect over time and cause health problems.
How to extend its shelf life
When VCO is stored at room temperature in moderate or cold climates, it will remain white and solid. It usually begins to melt when the temperature rises above 75°F (24°C). So it’s always best to prevent this from happening by keeping it below the 70s.
To help prolong its shelf life and prevent it from going bad before the expiration date, you should keep it away from direct sunlight. This is because sun exposure destroys its antioxidants and makes it go bad faster.
The best place to store it would be in a kitchen cabinet where it’s dark, and the temperature is more stable. Nevertheless, if you live in hot environments, a fridge would be ideal.
So the fridge is best?
Yes! If you live in very hot or humid climates, you should store it in the refrigerator to prevent it from spoiling.
Remember, to prevent coconut oil from getting spoiled by bacteria, always use clean cooking utensils when serving/stirring.
How about freezing it?
As with many other foods and proteins, you may freeze it to extend its life even more.
The best way to freeze coconut oil is to heat it until it becomes liquid. Then, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for a couple of hours until it solidifies. This will make it easier to use whenever you need it.
Virgin coconut oil benefits
Let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits and what scientific research says about its medicinal properties:
Its rich fatty acid content makes it an excellent natural treatment for your hair when used in small amounts. Use moisturizer and conditioner to give your hair an incredible shine and look.
A study in 2007 found that coconut oil helped hair retain moisture longer than mineral oil. This is because it prevents water vapor loss.
Therefore, if you have dry or frizzy hair or want to give it extra shine, apply some VCO in between hair strands.
Supports hair growth:
This is another benefit, especially when used in conjunction with other natural hair vitamins. It’s been known that coconut oil has been used for centuries as a natural hair growth remedy.
Other oils that have shown results in helping stimulate hair growth are castor oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil.
The rich moisturizing effect, along with anti-bacterial properties, makes it the perfect natural ingredient to apply to your skin.
Moisturize face and hands:
Of course, you can use it to moisturize any part of your body. But because the face and hands succumb to so much wear and tear, VCO makes a perfect remedy for dry or blemished skin.
You can also combine coconut oil with a little sugar and honey to create a luxurious exfoliant. This facial scrub can help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores naturally while at the same time nourishing your skin.
VCO is an excellent natural remedy for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Researchers have also found extensive antibacterial activity, enough for preventing and treating secondary skin infections.
Although classified as comedogenic (which can block pores), VCO can help treat acne’s visible signs.
You may also use VCO to treat vaginal yeast infections, fungal skin infections, or thrush (mouth candidiasis).
Yeast infections are usually caused by an overgrowth of candida in the body. That’s why antifungal properties help fighting yeast infections.
To maximize its antifungal effects, you can add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to the mix.
The Journal of Medicinal Foods reported its effectiveness against all kinds of candida. In fact, when used against fungal infections, it proved to be as effective as fluconazole, a popular drug for fungal infections.
Other great uses for coconut oil
There are many other ways you can use VCO for excellent health, such as:
The reason why it supports weight loss is due to medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). These fatty acids are metabolized faster in the body, transformed into energy, and NOT stored as fat.
The CSNM (Canadian Society of Nutrition Management) reported that consuming 30g of MCTs per day helps increase energy expenditure by up to 120 calories per day.
The study concluded that MCTs may help prevent long-term weight gain.
A 2003 study on obesity found that consuming MCTs instead of long-chain triglycerides (which is what most saturated fats contain) helped increase fat oxidation in obese women.
Coconut oil for pets
All the health benefits of VCO can be as useful for your furry friends as they are for you. For example, it can help keep your pet’s coats bright and shiny.
You can also apply some to skin rashes or cuts to help speed up the healing process. Furthermore, adding VCO to your pet’s diet helps prevent blood sugar spikes and relieve constipation.
Brushing your teeth
Because of its antibacterial properties, you can use VCO as a natural toothpaste to prevent gum receding disease and tooth decay. It kills strains of Streptococcus mutans bacteria. This is the type of bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gingivitis.
It also reduces inflammation of the gums and improves oral health.
You can make your own toothpaste for excellent oral health: mix 2 tablespoons of VCO with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Brush your teeth at least twice a day to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Coconut oil can also be used as a mouthwash for oil extraction or oil shaking, a traditional folk remedy mentioned in Ayurvedic medicine for oral health.
Why you should consume more VCO
As said before, there are many reasons. Generally, we all try to stay away from saturated fats; however, the saturated fats in coconut oil are unique and work differently in the body.
This is why VCO gets a bad rap because of its saturated fat content. However, reports indicate that tropical countries where this product is widely used have some of the lowest heart disease rates in the world.
Medium-chain fatty acids have been found to help improve cholesterol profile and reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.
You can find ideas on incorporating coconut oil into your diet with your personal physician or nutritionist.
Recommended daily intake (RDI)
There are no official guidelines on the amount recommended for daily consumption.
Studies on the effects of consuming more coconut oil for weight loss have shown that 2 tablespoons a day can be beneficial.
So, two tablespoons would be approximately 30 ml, which has been shown in studies to contain enough MCTs to stimulate the metabolism and improve satiety.
Where to buy virgin coconut oil?
To ensure that it doesn’t go bad quickly, you should always buy it from reliable sources. Another trick is to buy organic virgin coconut oil, which helps ensure that you don’t get pesticides or toxins.
You can get it at health stores, online, and supermarkets. To make sure it doesn’t get damaged too soon, always check the expiration date. Assess if you’re gonna consume the whole bottle before the “best before” date.
Again, the most important thing is to ALWAYS inspect the labels.