I first discovered the company Tropical Traditions a few months back, and subsequently wrote about my conquest, nay, my OBSESSION to win some of their products. Well, guess what - I conquered! And then some! :D Shortly after writing that article, I was the lucky winner of a quart of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from the blog One Frugal Lady, which was the product I was most eager to try!
I've read about many of the emerging benefits of virgin coconut oil, and I was super excited to try out some of the great coconut recipes on the Tropical Traditions website. Then it struck me - why not blog about all this and see if I could offer one of my readers this same great prize in the process? I checked in with the Client Services representative I'd been in contact with at TT, and following a short review period, he confirmed that my blog had been approved for hosting reviews and giveaways, starting with this one. Sweet!
As I prepared for this review, I did a lot of research on coconut oil. As a quick Google search shows, there is a staggering amount of information out there, some of it seemingly conflicting. As such, I've attempted to sort out the discrepancies and distill everything down below.
So first things first. What is "virgin" coconut oil? This term is used in the coconut oil industry to refer to a form of processing that is the most natural and least refined. The coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts via physical means and is not exposed to high heat or any chemical treatments. Virgin coconut oil tastes and smells like coconut, and is a fine oil which melts and solidifies quickly.
Contrast this with "RBD" (refined, bleached, deodorized) coconut oil, which is typically made from "copra", the dried meat of the coconut. Heavy processing is required to produce the oil, and the resulting product is thicker and lacks the definitive "coconut-y" smell.
In the 80s and 90s, coconut oil (along with other so-called "tropical oils" like palm oil) had a bad rap due to its high levels of saturated fat. However, most of the research appears to have been conducted around RBD coconut oil, which contains trans fats. Newer research has emerged suggesting that coconut oil in its virgin form does not pose the same health risks as the highly-refined variant, and may actually have numerous health benefits! Let's look at this a little further.
- Virgin coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and used by the body.
- It is highly resistant to oxidation, even at very high temperatures. This is an extremely important benefit, as oxidization creates free radicals, which cause cellular degeneration in the body. This property also allows virgin coconut oil to have a shelf-life of several years.
- The most prominent fatty acid found in virgin coconut oil is lauric acid, which is also a component of breast milk. Resesarch suggests that lauric acid can help fight pathogens in the body such as bacteria, yeast, fungi and parasites.
- There may be other health benefits as well; I encourage you to do some research of your own if you are interested in exploring this further!
Now that we've looked at virgin coconut oil in general, I'd like to tell you about Tropical Traditions' approach to producing their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. This oil is made on/near Mt. Banahaw in the Phillipines, where the volcanic soil creates coconuts which are exceptionally nutrient-rich. Coconuts are harvested on small family farms and other rural areas, hand-picked to ensure quality and used fresh (within 24-48 hours). Fresh coconut meat is wet milled and cold-pressed, then within about half a day the oil naturally separates from the water. This traditional method has been used in the Phillipines for hundreds of years, and the coconut trees and family producers creating this product for Tropical Traditions are certified organic according to strict USDA standards.
There's a neat little story behind how the founders of Tropical Traditions discovered this unique oil. Take a look at the video below, or visit the Tropical Traditions website to learn more!
Alright, let's get to the fun & delicious part of the review! :)
When I first cracked my own jar of this wonderful stuff, the aroma was incredible! It was really difficult not to grab a spoon and just start eating it right there. No, seriously.
It's been pretty hot recently and we've only used our air conditioner sparingly, so our indoor temperature has hovered around 25 degrees C. As such, our oil is somewhere between a solid and liquid state. Notice that the solid sections are white and the liquid sections are clear:
The first recipe we tried was the World's Best Movie Popcorn. I'm one of those people who ALWAYS has to get popcorn when I go to the movies. I don't care if I've just had a huge dinner. I just have to. :) Strangely, however, I don't make popcorn at home all that often. But that's about to change.
Although "world's best" labels tend to be thrown around rather frivolously, this recipe could, indeed, be true to its title. While the popcorn did its thing on the stove, my husband proclaimed that it "smelled like Thailand"! Check out the popping action below. (Oh, and don't mind my stepfather shouting at us to "take the lid off!" in the background ;)
The coconut taste was more subtle than the smell, but was definitely there. My mom said it tasted like "tropical popcorn". I found that the more I ate, the more of a coconut essence I noticed. All in all, it was definitely delicious and addictive!
Next up, we tried the Spiced Zucchini Bread. We did change up the recipe somewhat; we halved the amounts, replaced the sugar with about 2/3 cup maple syrup, subbed in apple sauce for the water and opted against the nuts and raisins. All in all, the bread came out pretty moist & tasty, but not too sweet. I'm not sure I could taste the coconut oil specifically, but it was good to know this was in there in place of butter or other types of oil.
Third, we added coconut oil to our morning smoothies. We started with a banana, a frozen fruit mix (containing strawberries, mangos and peaches), yogurt and a little orange juice.
We blended these up, then followed Tropical Traditions' recommendations for incorporating coconut oil in cold beverages.
Finally, I commemorated the occasion by enjoying my smoothie in a fancy glass. ;)
And the taste? OMG - absolutely DIVINE. Not only did it have a wonderfully pungent coconut-y flavour (reminiscent of a pina colada), but it also had a silky smooth texture. It doesn't seem right that something so delicious can also be healthy. Needless to say, coconut oil will be a smoothie staple moving forward!
The last dish we whipped up was Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps! We substituted bok choi for the green pepper and used red leaf lettuce for the wraps, since we had some of both kicking around. These were tasty! The coconut smell & taste did come through, but it was fairly subtle in this case.
Oh, I should also mention that I spread coconut oil on my toast this morning in place of my usual peanut butter. Sooo much yummier!!!
I'm eager to try some of the other great recipes in the Tropical Traditions catalogue, as well as invent some of our own! I'm also interested in checking out other uses for coconut oil, such as deep conditioning the hair and helping to reduce cellulite, however I might purchase some expeller-pressed coconut oil for this as I don't want to "waste" my precious Gold Label virgin oil!! If you're interested in other ways to use coconut oil (80, in fact!), check out this great post from Hybrid Rasta Mama, one of my favourite mama bloggers.
If you live in the United States, you can purchase Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil (and other great products) directly from the Tropical Traditions website. They often have terrific promos & discounts going which you can keep track of by signing up for the Tropical Traditions newsletter.
If you live in Canada, you can order from their Canadian distributor and if you live in Europe, you can order from their European distributor.
Tropical Traditions has generously offered to give away a 32oz. jar of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to one lucky Manager to Mom reader!
To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!
Disclosure: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.