You know something’s up when one day you spot a small news item reporting the health benefits of this or that, then there’s a friend of yours saying she ran an entire marathon and her secret was that very thing, and then Madonna is an investor and…Wham! You walk into your grocery store and you’re greeted by a massive display wall of the latest cure all. Admittedly, I’m behind on this one (apparently Madonna has been on board for quite some time) but for me, coconut water went from being something the Professor and Gilligan were forced to drink to being everywhere all at once. So what’s so great about coconut water…other than its marketing?
As with a lot of good stories, coconut water’s arrival on North American shores was really a story about a boy (from New York) and a girl (a hot Brazilian girl).
This particular version can be credited to the brand Vita Coco founders. So, boy meets beautiful girl who tells boy that her beauty secret is coconut water. Boy flies down to Brazil and not too long afterwards the taste makers of North American style are drinking coconut water. (Boy marries girl, by the way). And the celebrity endorsements have piled up, including Madonna, Rhianna, A-Rod, Demi Moore and others.
Frankly, the celebrity angle is more off-putting to me than enticing, but it does explain the giant displays and the unusual demand coconut water is getting in Canadian and US markets. Coconut water has always been on the menu in tropical places, of course. It comes from young green coconuts and its greatest claim is that it is the ultimate hydrator. This too makes sense: keeping hydrated is more difficult in hot climates.
The Vita Coco brand seems to have cornered the celebrity angle and is marketing coconut water not just a drink but a a way of living, and the living is about youth, beauty, health and fitness. Their website states Vita Coco is “all natural, super hydrating, fat free, cholesterol free, nutrient packed, potassium stacked, mega-electrolyte coconut super water.” Kind of says it all doesn’t it? Well, if it doesn’t say it all, it sure says it well. But again, that’s just great marketing. And we all know that food and marketing make for troubling bed fellows. So I did a little digging. And you know, the coconut water companies’ claims are not so far from reality (if a little over the top). Coconut water is indeed a great hydrator, it contains essential electrolytes (calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous) lost during exercise through sweat. It is indeed fat and cholesterol free, low in sodium, all natural - check, check and check. And from what I’ve read, it makes a fine replacement for gatorade which is loaded with refined sugars and colouring. The only caveat is that it doesn’t contain as much salt as is lost in heavy exercise and while it does have a lot of potassium – more than in two bananas worth – that is probably more than is actually needed.
Some of the other health claims out there that I’ve seen are: a hangover cure, detoxifier, cleanser, weight stabilizer, kidney stone treatment, immune booster, and PMS eradicator. But these claims aren’t being made by coconut water companies. Really, they are marketing coconut water as a an all natural replacement to Gatorade and that’s something I can buy into.
Some final thoughts concerning coconut water:
Coconut water does have sugar not as much as fruit juices – but should not replace water as the best beverage for regular hydration
Use coconut water rather than juice or milk in smoothies
Use coconut water feverish kids
Use coconut water to dilute juice for drinking and for homemade popsicles