Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a young green coconut. Many people associate drinking fresh coconut water with holidays to the Caribbean, Brazil, South East Asia, Pacific Islands or Africa but these days you can buy coconut water almost in any supermarket or corner store.
Why is coconut water good for you?
Coconut water is good for you because it contains a unique blend of vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. For example when your body is sweating, it is losing minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. The electrolytes in coconut water can replenish these, making it a very effective natural sports drink. A study published in the Molecules Journal in 2009 shows that coconut water, in addition to minerals and vitamins, contains other health beneficial compounds like phytohormones. These phytohormones help to fight arthrosclerosis, hypertension, ageing, cancer, heart disease and neural diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Drinking coconut water can also boost the antioxidant system and helps to prevent anemia in pregnancy. Dr. Bruce Fife N.D. points to other studies that show the ability of coconut water to treat or prevent high blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, osteoporosis and Crohn’s disease.
Is it really worth the money?
This all sounds amazing, so where is the catch? For the coconut water to have these health enhancing, disease fighting and anti-ageing qualities, it needs to be fresh and the coconuts need to be young. Therein lies the problem. Unless you live in the tropics and have coconuts growing outside of your house, drinking coconut water is unlikely to deliver these amazing health benefits. Most of the coconut water that we buy in supermarkets has been heavily processed. In order to eliminate fermentation and bacterial growth, and to lower the transport costs, manufacturers use a number of techniques. These include: sterilization through high temperature / short time pasteurization, boiling coconut water into a syrup or making it into a powder. Unfortunately these processes destroy many heat sensitive nutrients that are so beneficial to our health. To make matters worse, some manufacturers add sweeteners, preservatives and flavours, making coconut water into nothing more than a juice. In my opinion, unless you buy raw, unprocessed and preservative free coconut water from the chilled section of a supermarket, then buying coconut water is not worth the expense.
If you are very sporty and buy coconut water for its rehydration qualities, then you may be interested to know that a study conducted in 2012, founded by Vita Coco and published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that neither coconut water nor sports drinks were better than water in hydrating young men after an hour long session. In addition, there are many people who believe that drinking water and eating a banana after an hour of exercise is just as good as drinking coconut water.
So how do you choose which coconut water to buy?
1) Fresh is best – Ideally you want to drink coconut water from a fresh, just off the tree, young coconut. This type of coconut water will give you the most health benefits. Some supermarkets sell green slightly trimmed coconuts but don’t be fooled into thinking that these are fresh. They have most likely been on the road for about 2 months. During this time they take on woody taste of the coconut and some of the beneficial nutrients seep into the flesh of the coconut, making it into a less nutritious drink. In order to stop the fresh coconuts from browning and molding they are sprayed with a chemical called sodium metabisulphite that may irritate skin, cause nausea and can be fatal if consumed in large amounts.
2) Go for frozen – Freezing is by far the best way of extending the life of coconut water without destroying the various health enhancing phytohormoes, vitamins and minerals. In this process, the coconut water is frozen almost immediately after it is extracted. You can get frozen coconut water from a company called Exotic Superfoods.
3) Buy 100% raw coconut water from the chilled section – In the chilled section of a supermarket, there may be many brands of coconut water. You want to choose the one that is 100% raw and avoid the flavored coconut waters as they contain added sweeteners, various flavors and preservatives.
4) Buy organic – Buying organic will help you avoid various pesticides.
5) Understand the label – Some manufacturers claim on the ingredients list that you are buying 100% coconut water even if it was made from a concentrate or a powder. To avoid this, check where the coconut water was manufactured. If it was manufactured for example in San Francisco where coconuts don’t grow, then you know that the manufacturer used either a powder or concentrate to create the coconut water.
Here are some brands I like: