If you like this tropical fruit, chances are you’ve stumbled upon coconut water brands many times before. It’s all the rage in fitness circles.
Coconut water is often confused with other coconut-flavored drinks. Compared to other fruity beverages, however, it’s a much healthier option.
We’re going to answer all of your undying questions about this mysterious drink. By the time you’re done reading this, we’re sure you’ll add it to your next shopping list.
Table of Contents
What Is Coconut Water?
Some companies try to get away with taking the water from more mature coconuts. While that’s still better than other juices, coconut water from unripened coconuts is ideal for harvesting the most nutrients.
Coconut Water vs. Coconut Milk
Older, more mature coconuts are better for coconut milk. This begs the question… what exactly is the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?
While coconut water is the juice from the center of the coconut, coconut milk is a bit more complicated. It’s made from the white flesh of the coconut mixed with coconut water and other ingredients, to make a milky texture.
Coconut milk can be light or on the heavier side. Thick coconut milk, or coconut cream, is made from the liquid of the grated flesh that is squeezed through a cheesecloth. It is typically higher in fat content than your usual coconut milk.
Standard coconut milk comes from the coconut flesh left inside the cheesecloth. It’s mixed with warm water and goes through the cloth a second time, straining out some of the fats.
How to Use Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a great liquid to use in cooking various dishes and makes a hearty addition to smoothies too. Its creamy texture is a good way to add thickness to soups and curries, and it can even be used to make kefir.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use coconut milk:
- Coconut kefir ice cream pops. All you need for this is coconut milk kefir, a fruit of your choice, and honey. Blend together 2 cups of the kefir and fruits and 2 tablespoons of honey, and then freeze.
- Use it in your next curry. Check out our recipe for sweet potato and chicken curry. The coconut milk will give a sweet finish to balance the spices.
- Breakfast bowls and chia pudding. Use coconut milk in place of dairy milk for a sweet coconut taste, sans lactose.
How to Use Coconut Water
Like coconut milk, coconut water can also be used in cooking. It won’t, however, have the thickness that coconut milk does. Coconut water is a good agent for sauteeing different foods and can be substituted for regular water when brewing tea.
Here are some of our favorite uses for coconut water:
- Brew your tea with it. Instead of using regular water, try coconut water instead. Coconut water pairs well with green tea.
- Make popsicles. You can blend coconut water with various fruits or simply freeze the whole fruit inside. This is a yummy and easy summer treat everybody will love.
- Use it in sangria. Mix a cup of coconut water with a bottle of white wine, a half cup of vodka, and any fruits you want to add.
Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Coconut water is a popular choice among health-conscious people. While it’s technically considered a juice, “unflavored” versions have significantly less sugar and calories than others.
We put “unflavored” in quotations because, in reality, it isn’t truly flavorless. You still get the nutty, sweet taste. This way we can still enjoy a sweet drink without feeling completely sugar loaded.
Coconut water is a natural way to give your body electrolytes, like potassium and magnesium, it may be lacking from other foods you eat. Keep in mind though, coconut water also contains much more sodium than other juices, which can cause issues if over-consumed.
The number of electrolytes will vary depending on the age of the coconut, so remember to keep that in mind too.
There isn’t much research out there telling you how much to consume, but it’s important not to drink too much at once. Doing this can overload your body with potassium, which can have adverse effects on your heart and blood pressure.
Also, while it’s lower in sugar and calories than other drinks, it will still add up if not consumed in moderation.
A good time to drink coconut water is in the morning to rehydrate your body after waking up. Or in the afternoon after you’ve been out and about, or following exercise.
Who Should Drink Coconut Water?
Unfortunately, if you don’t enjoy the taste of coconut, this is probably not the drink for you. If this applies to you, I’m surprised you made it this far into the article. Kudos!
If you’re not sure about coconuts yet, you can hide coconut water in smoothies with other fruits and veggies. This way, you’re not totally missing out on the benefits.
Coconut water is typically used for dehydration, whether that be through exercise or diarrhea. Some people even swear by it for lowering blood pressure, although there isn’t a whole lot of research to back up the claim.
If you’re looking to add more potassium to your diet or you’ve just got over a stomach bug, give it a go. If you want a new refreshing beverage to enjoy after hitting the gym, then it may be suitable for you as well.
How Is It Made?
Coconut water is completely natural, but it does have to go through some processing steps to maintain its freshness for transport and consumption (source, page 27).
First, the coconuts must be washed and brushed to thoroughly remove any dirt remnants. Then, the fruits are put through a sanitation process. After that, the coconuts are ready to be used, though some companies go through pasteurization first.
This is where you need to be careful. Pasteurization and other processes that use heat are detrimental to coconuts and the nutrients they provide. They’re a naturally perishable food, so keeping them cold is a must for freshness.
While some companies use pasteurization and other heating techniques, others use a more suitable process, called high-pressure processing (HPP). In this process, an immense amount of pressure is applied to a product that mold and other bacterias can’t survive under.
Because HPP uses pressure instead of heat, it’s much more effective in maintaining the natural texture and nutritional value of the coconut.
How To Choose The Best Coconut Water
First of all, you’re going to want to find any brand that offers an “unflavored” option just like we talked about above. Pay close attention to the ingredients listed on the nutrition label.
This is where you will see which brands are legit and which ones are pulling your leg.
If possible, be on the lookout for the following:
- The maturity of coconuts used.
- Coconut concentrate.
- Added flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
A good rule of thumb to remember is the fewer ingredients, the better. Ideally, you’ll want to see only coconut water listed and maybe regular water too. If your label shows a bunch of things you don’t know how to pronounce, set it down carefully and slowly back away.
The Maturity of Coconuts Used
The younger a coconut is, the more concentrated the fruit’s nutrients are.
As the coconut gets older, it becomes sweeter and contains more meat than water. You’re going to want to buy coconut water made only from young coconuts in order to get the most out of your beverage.
This isn’t always going to be made present on the label, so a good indicator is the color of your drink. In this case, the greener the drink looks, the more nutrient-dense it is.
Concentrate is a big no-no, not just with coconut water, but any juice in general.
A concentrate is made when a liquid is reduced to a syrup and then mixed together with regular water. Heat is typically used in this process. As we now know, any heat applied to coconut water vastly reduces its nutritional content.
Most manufacturers use pasteurization as a means to kill bacteria and extend the shelf life of certain products. Again, this is a process that uses heat, so it isn’t ideal for coconut water at all.
Coconut water is naturally perishable, therefore it must be kept cold in order to maintain its quality. It should be refrigerated immediately after opening and used within one to two days of purchase for highest quality.
Added Flavors, Sweeteners, & Preservatives
Any added flavors and sweeteners will greatly increase the amount of sugar in the drink, which doesn’t help the health factor. Sticking to the basics will help you find the right one.
Preservatives aren’t actually necessary if a company is using green coconuts, so this goes back to noting the maturity of the coconut. Preservatives and other flavorings are only really used if the coconuts the water was extracted from were mature and acidic.
Here are some additives to stay away from:
- High-fructose corn syrup.
- Sodium benzoate.
- Artificial sweeteners, like Aspartame.
- Sulfur dioxide.
- Food dyes.
Recommended Coconut Water Brands
Have we completely sold you on coconut water yet? If so, here are our choices of the best coconut water brands and brands to stay away from.
Bear in mind that some companies mislabel their products, so always pay close attention to the ingredients. When in doubt, do a little research online or find a different product.
Best Coconut Water Brands:
- Harmless Harvest.
- Amy and Brian’s.
- Trader Joe’s.
Harmless Harvest coconut water is fair trade and organic and the company only harvests green coconuts from Thailand. So, not only are you getting a quality product, you’re supporting a business all the way down to the farmer.
While this brand comes canned, there are no preservatives or GMOs used anywhere in the process. Amy and Brian’s products are 100 percent natural and don’t come from coconut concentrate.
If you’re worried about BPA from their cans, you don’t need to be. They are BPA-free. Anyhow, they do offer other packaging, including tetrapaks, not to mention natural flavor additions, like cinnamon.
This is a good, organic option that also doesn’t come from concentrate. The coconut water comes from Sri Lanka, one of the top coconut producers in the world. It’s organically grown and hand-harvested, with no added sugars or preservatives.
It’s only available at Trader Joe’s, though, so it’s not convenient if you don’t have a store near you.
Coconut Water Brands to Avoid:
- Naked Juice.
- Vita Coco.
This one comes with added sugars and other preservatives. It’s also stated to keep it at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator, which sets off a few red flags with us.
Naked has been receiving a lot of criticism for some shady antics. The company’s been caught mislabelling and misrepresenting its products and brand on multiple occasions. This includes the sugar content, among other dishonest claims.
This is the brand that will surprise you. This is the one you constantly see commercials about, so it has to be the best one, right?
Evidently not. Vita Coco has used heat pasteurization and added sugars as well.
Coconut water is gaining quite the reputation for its ability to rehydrate and refresh the body. So much so that some athletes have even sworn by it — and we can’t blame them.
The nutritional value is excellent, compared to other sports drinks and juices on the market. With its abundance of potassium and thirst-quenching ability, it can make a great addition to your lifestyle.
However, as nutritious as it is, it should still be consumed in moderation. As it turns out, you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing.
So have you bought your ticket onto the coconut water train yet? Don’t knock it until you try it.
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