You discovered a bottle of coconut oil on the shelf, and you can’t remember when you bought it. Is it still good? What is the shelf life of coconut oil?
The last thing you want to do is cook with something that will be harmful to yourself and your family. Even though you’ve committed to becoming more healthy, you're unsure that coconut oil is the secret ingredient to everlasting health and happiness. What is coconut oil exactly? What about using outdated coconut oil for a topical and not eating it? How long is the shelf-life of the product? And are there signs of when it turns sour? You are scared to use it, but you don’t want to waste product if you can help it. So what is a health-conscious consumer to do?
Coconut oil has a two-year shelf life if stored properly. Due to its longevity, coconut oil is one of the best cooking oils and has several skincare uses (in sunscreen or as a moisturizer). Any oil container should be discarded if it is past its expiration date.
And what all the hype you’ve heard about coconut oil? Does it reduce belly fat, help dementia, or strengthen the body's immune system? Is it that healthy for your family to start using it daily? Even though you want to try and cook better dishes for your family, if coconut oil isn’t the way to go, or if it is a hassle to store, you want to find something else.
Let’s dive into this versatile oil and see if we can answer some questions. We’ve done a bit of research for you to help eliminate any confusion about this oil that seems to be setting the diet world on fire.
What Exactly is Coconut Oil?
Coconuts are grown in the warm climates on either side of the equator in places like the Pacific Islands, Australia, Florida, the Caribbean, and Indonesia. The oil from the coconut is extracted from the white meat of a fresh or dried coconut, which is, in turn, run through various machines to homogenize and purify the oil from impurities. Virgin coconut oil uses fresh meat with minimal heat applied during the process, while refined coconut oil uses dried coconut meat, intense heat, and a more lengthy machine process. The oil is labeled as either virgin or refined, although there are no specific regulations detailing what can and cannot be labeled.
Coconut oil has a smoke point of around 350 - 400 degrees, making it suitable to sautee or bake with, but it is not the best oil for frying. Refined coconut oil is stable enough to be used in deep frying. However, once the oil reaches its burn point, the oil gives off a smell that many people feel less pleasant.
How Can You Tell if Coconut is Spoiled?
Coconut oil has a very long shelf life, up to 2 years. There are several ways to determine if coconut oil has spoiled and is past its prime, other than checking the date on the container. The FDA does not recommend using coconut oil or sunscreen past its expiration date.
The Color Turns to Yellow
Rancid coconut oil is the color of an off-white to yellow. If you open the bottle and notice that your white, milky coconut oil is a cream color - better throw it out. Any sign of dark spots or greenish flakes is likely due to mold, which indicates that the oil is bad.
The Consistency Looks like Curdled Milk
Just like white milk looks chunky and curdles, so does coconut milk. Take the bottle and pour a little bit out of the container. If it has the appearance of cottage cheese, or you see clumps in the mixture, chances are you need to discard it.
Oh, the Smell is Awful
There is a rotten or sour smell that comes from expired coconut oil. If you take a whiff test and your head snaps back in disgust, time to dispose of the container and buy something new.
It Tastes Stale to Me
If you still are on the fence, take a spoon and try a bit. It will likely only take a tiny bit to determine if there is a staleness to the oil. If so, and the taste makes you want to gag, throw it out.
What’s the Best Way to Store Coconut Oil?
Consumers should store coconut oil in a cool, dark place so that it won’t get knocked over and spilled. It is unnecessary to refrigerate it, just screw the cap back on tight. Because the melting point of coconut oil is 78 degrees, don’t be surprised if the consistency changes while it is stored (from solid to liquid - or vice versa if you put it in the fridge).
Is Coconut Oil Healthy for You?
Coconut oils contain plenty of saturated fats, which most experts will tell you are not the best kinds of fats to consume. Most dieticians suggest that an average person should intake no more than 10% of their daily caloric consumption based on the 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The American Heart Association released a report in 2018 indicating that the consumption of oils laden with saturated fats like coconut oil was a direct cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), leading to an increased chance of heart attack and stroke. Oils like olive oil, sesame oil, and avocado oil containing unsaturated fats, antioxidants, and more vitamins than coconut oil (it contains only Vitamin E) are far better choices.
Despite the lack of medical evidence, there are a lot of current trends and diets that incorporate coconut oils. The oil is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), which quickly absorb into the digestive tract and often provide a brain boost. They are healthy for the body, and many people use a shot of coconut oil for their morning coffee or smoothie.
MCTs in the body produce ketones, providing additional support for brain function. Many medical researchers are finding promising results in using small amounts of coconut oil to combat Alzheimer's and Dementia.
Coconut oil has some benefits when applied topically. When applied to the skin, the oils reduce inflammation as fatty acids and vitamin E are absorbed directly into the skin. The product is used in various sunscreens due to studies that show that coconut oil blocks harmful rays. While not the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommended SPF of 30 or higher, many companies use coconut oil as an additive.
The product has also been known to help condition dry hair, and many people apply coconut oils to stimulate hair growth. While more studies are needed to determine the exact benefits that coconut oil has, a person can use coconut as a remedy for dry skin. Any regimen involving coconut oils should be done under the supervision and direction of a qualified physician.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker