The Truth About Coconut Water

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giselle photo 
By: Vivien Veil

Coconut Water.  One of God’s amazing gifts to us.  Coconut water boasts a stockpile of minerals, natural electrolytes, vitamins, trace elements, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.  Both athletes and fitness junkies turn to this low calorie drink to fuel their bodies with an abundance of health benefits.

Coconut water – touted as “nature’s sports drink” – is all the rage in celebrity La La Land for its hydrating properties.  Celebrities and professional athletes are loco for coco.  The endless list of famous stars sipping coconut water makes you wonder, “Should I waste my hard earned cash on this?”

A lifelong staple in tropical regions across the globe, coconut water graced supermarket shelves a few years ago.  The booming advent of coconut water on American soil owes its roots to yoga.  India’s 5,000 year old discipline convinced giant companies like Coca-Cola’s Dasani and VitaminWater to jump on the alternative sports beverage bandwagon.  Privately-owned Vita Coco and Coca-Cola backed Zico kicked off in 2004, near the inception of America’s love affair with yoga.  The big brands owe much of their success to yoga-loving women.  Now, coconut water is advertised everywhere.

Not all coconut water is created equal.  ConsumerLab.com broke the news that Vita Coco and Pepsi’s O.N.E. lied about its electrolyte levels on its packaging.  Vita Coco refused to plead guilty, however, they did pay ConsumerLab.com a hefty $10 million bucks to settle the lawsuit.

Top 3 Coconut Water Companies in the USA

1) Privately owned Vita Coco

2) Coca-Cola’s Zico

3) Pepsi’s O.N.E.

Source: CNBC, April 17, 2012

top 10 countries that produce coconut water

While Vita Coco’s coconut water carries a mild sweet taste – coconut water from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines tend to carry a sweeter taste.  Some of their varieties are specifically grown to taste sweeter whereas Brazilian coconuts are left in their natural state – hence why they taste less sugary.  This clear liquid made with 95% water from young green coconuts has acquired a reputation for being anti-ageing, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory.  It also comprises the five electrolytes the body needs for optimal health.  We require these minerals in relatively large quantities to maintain consistent levels in our body.  The loss of a tiny percent can bring dramatic effects.  For example, a drop of 6% in potassium can cause complete heart failure.

Five Essential Electrolytes

  1. SODIUM –  an essential nutrient that surrounds the cells.  Not many people pay attention to sodium deficiency because of the adequate amounts found in our diets.  However, sodium deficiency is an often neglected, but widespread dilemma.  Sodium balances body fluid and transports electrical impulses in the body.  Sweating and urinating depletes this nutrient, so replenishing with coconut water assists in producing more enzymes and helps with muscle contractions.
  2. POTASSIUM – One of the most important minerals in the human body and required for good health.  98% of the potassium in our bodies reside in our cells.  Potassium controls nerve and muscle function and regulates the heartbeat.  Kathleen Zelman (MPH, RD, and LD) states, “Coconut water contains more potassium than four bananas.”  Coconut water encompasses up to 15x as much potassium as the average sports drink.
  3. MAGNESIUM – essential for energy production, proper muscle function, and prevents an overload of calcium.  A necessary electrolyte for growth and repair.  Symptoms of low magnesium levels include tremors, muscle weakness, leg cramps, and foot cramps.
  4. PHOSPHOROUS – A key electrolyte for building strong bones and teeth.  About 85% of phosphorous is found in bones and teeth, but it is also located in cells and tissues throughout the body.  It helps filter out waste in the kidneys and plays an important role in how the body stores and uses energy.  It reduces muscle pain after an intense workout session and repairs tissues and cells.
  5. CALCIUM – A fundamental mineral for the health of the bones and teeth.  It is the most common mineral found in the body.  It is needed for bodily functions like muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, and blood clotting.  The body loses calcium daily, so it must be replaced with foods rich in calcium.  Adequate amounts of vitamin D help with calcium absorption.

Athletes who engage in strenuous exercise require more electrolytes than the average 30-minute a day walker.  Sodium is critical for hardcore athletes.  The key determining factor is how much sweat an athlete loses during each training session and/or competitive event.  I highly recommend adding a pinch or two of natural Himalayan sea salt to one litre of coconut water.   A 2007 study by Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health discovered that sodium-enriched coconut water is as powerful as the leading commercial sports drinks for whole body rehydration after exercise.  Plus, coconut water has way more benefits than Gatorade.

Eight ounces (1 cup) of coconut water contains less than 2 grams of protein, which is not very much.  Becci Twombley, director of sports nutrition at UCLA, says that adults need at least 15 to 17 grams of protein after an intense exercise session.  Let us not forget the importance of carbohydrates for endurance athletes.  So, I devised a top-notch recovery drink for on fire exercise junkies.

Carbohydrate Tip:  Eat 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day.

Smoothie Ingredients

One of the most sensational aspects surrounding the coconut water craze is its similarity to human blood plasma.  According to the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, this extraordinary feature means coconut water can be infused intravenously into the bloodstream.  Doctors successfully used coconut water as an IV fluid for more than 60 years, exclusively in remote regions of the world where medical supplies were limited.  This act alone saved many lives!

Coconut water is hands-down one of God’s perfect foods.  The phenomenal benefits will enhance your overall health!  Yes, coconut water costs quite a bit of money, but think about it – coconut water is much healthier than Starbucks lattes or other energy drinks.  Did you know Indian grocery stores sell cheaper coconut water?  I discovered that here in London a few months ago.  It may not be true in all stores, but it is worth checking out.  Reward yourself for exercising by purchasing coconut water.  No Exercise.  No Coconut Water.

Remember to always check labels, so that you are buying the best coconut elixir.  Word of advice – do not buy any brands associated with Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  Why?  Because both companies spent millions trying to keep labels off genetically modified foods in California.  Aim to drink the purest form of coconut water.  Split open a fresh coconut and experience its invigorating effects!

Benefits of Coconut Water

Tips for buying packaged coconut water

While coconut water from young green coconuts is BEST, I understand that it is not always feasible to purchase them.  Fresh coconut water beats the packaged competition since they have not been pasteurised.

  1. Frozen coconut water is the most expensive of all the coconut waters.  There is no pasteurisation – meaning you will gain more nutritional benefits.
  2. Glass bottled coconut water is a superior option over other packaging methods – except of course for the frozen glass variety.
  3. Tetra Pak packaging is another great choice over plastic and canned packaging.  Tetra Paks contain 70% paperboard combined with thin layers of LDPE (low density polyethylene) and a little aluminum foil.
  4. Canned coconut water is always better than plastic bottled coconut water.
  5. The Naked coconut water brand get their coconuts from Brazil.  Some coconut aficionados dislike this brand’s taste.  One Amazon reviewer complained that “it tasted too sour and smelled like it had gone bad.”
  6. Stay away from Zico as they do not use fresh coconut water.  They instead use 100% coconut water from concentrate.   Also, it is owned by Coca-Cola – genetically modified organisms (GMO) supporters.  They also use plastic bottles in some of their packaging.

“Coconut water is super hydrating and has kept me going in long matches and prevented me from cramping even in the hottest and most humid conditions.  I mix sea salt for on court hydration, and mix it with protein powder for post match recovery.”

– John Isner, 27-year-old American Professional Tennis Player

Nature’s Second Best Drink

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Nature's Perfect Drink by Vivien Veil

I discovered coconut water years ago and fell in love with it!  It’s an ideal post workout drink, although some people dislike the taste.

Celebrities like Madonna, Rihanna, Gisele Bundchen, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Gwyneth Paltrow helped boost coconut water’s popularity by touting it’s benefits and carrying it in public.

celebrities drinking coconut water

What’s Coconut Water? 

It’s the translucent liquid inside young coconuts.  It’s loaded with protein, potassium, iron, calcium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, sodium, magnesium, and other nutrients. This electrolyte weapon makes it a fabulous sports drink – way better than the leading commercial sports drinks.

Did you know that coconut water’s electrolyte content is comparable to human plasma? Doctors used coconut water as an intravenous fluid in the past!

Why should I drink this after exercising? 

You lose a lot of water and electrolytes when you sweat.  That’s why it’s important to drink a lot of water afterwards.  Adding coconut water on top of water is an added bonus. You’ll kick dehydration in the face by replacing the lost electrolytes with this ultimate hydration drink.

Dehydration is serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Dehydration is imperative for athletes, pregnant and nursing mothers, the elderly, anyone who’s ill, and those who like kicking back on grandpa’s old cough medicine.  That’s why coconut water makes a great hangover drink.

Headaches, tiredness, fatigue, muscle cramping and fogginess are signs of dehydration, so instead of reaching for a coffee or tea, reach for some coconut water or pure water.  🙂

What are the benefits?

  • Drink it religiously, and it’ll help decrease wrinkles and sagging skin
  • Eliminates swelling in hands and feet
  • Good for those suffering from hepatitis
  • Carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
  • Assists in digestion by getting rid of toxins
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties help boost the immune system
  • Treats and prevents kidney stones
  • Makes your skin smooth and supple
  • Boosts energy naturally unlike energy drinks
  • Contains more potassium than a banana

With so many coconut water brands popping up, which ones do you buy?  Check out my popular article “The Truth About Coconut Water” to learn which shop brands are the best and which ones to avoid.