Coconut water is well-known as a popular health drink, with many benefits – as a post-workout beverage to help you rehydrate (1), as a means of controlling hypertension (2), and even as a way of helping to reduce oxidative stress (3).
It’s little wonder that coconut water has become ubiquitous in recent years, sold not only at health food stores but in most grocery stores and drug stores as well.
However, not all commercial coconut waters are created equal. Some bands contain harmful chemicals, or are processed in ways that undermine the nutritional content of the drink.
How To Spot Unhealthy Coconut Water
Healthy coconut water comes from fresh, young coconuts. However, there are several packaging and extraction methods that negatively impact the quality of the drink. Here are some common mistakes that manufacturers make:
1. Using mature coconuts instead of young coconuts.
The water from young green coconuts is more nutritionally dense than water from mature coconuts. Mature coconuts, which are cheaper than young coconuts, are better for the production of coconut oil and coconut milk.
2. Making coconut water from concentrate instead of using fresh coconut water.
The process of reducing coconut water to a concentrate and then reconstituting it causes it to lose many of the vital nutrients that make it so healthy. Manufacturers use these concentrated syrups because they are cheaper to import than fresh coconut water.
3. Using heat to pasteurize fresh coconut water.
Coconut water is perishable – it needs to be refrigerated in order to keep from spoiling. To prolong its shelf life, some manufacturers use heat to pasteurize coconut water so it will last longer unrefrigerated. Unfortunately, the heat in this process destroys many of the nutrients contained in coconut water.
4. Using preservatives to sweeten and flavor the coconut water.
If coconut water has extra preservatives and sweeteners listed in the ingredients, chances are it’s made from mature coconuts instead of young coconuts. Young coconuts have a naturally sweet flavor that does not require extra sweeteners; mature coconuts have a slightly bitter taste.
5. Using chemicals to preserve coconuts for transport.
Many non-organic coconuts are preserved using known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde or sodium metabisulphite.
Which Brands Should You Be Avoiding?
When it comes to branding, many companies sink big bucks into marketing their products, including coconut water, as being organic or “100% pure”. However, what you see may not be what you’re actually getting in the case of the following common coconut water brands:
1. Coco Libre – while this brand is marketed as organic, their coconut water is made from concentrate, instead of being fresh.
2. Cona Zona – This is another brand that reconstitutes its coconut water from concentrate.
3. Goya – A staunch opponent of GMO labeling in California, Goya uses heat pasteurization and added preservatives in the production of its coconut water.
4. Naked Juice Coconut Water and O.N.E. Coconut Water – These brands are subsidiaries of Pepsi. Naked Juice has faced a class action lawsuit for using synthetic substances in their produce while practicing deceptive labelling, and O.N.E. Coconut Water uses flash pasteurization.
5. Vita Coco – This brand flash-pasteurizes its coconut water using heat and also contains added preservatives such as carrageenan.
6. Zico – Zico is a Coca-Cola company, and a major GMO supporter. Their coconut waters are not only made from concentrate, but also contain added flavors.
What To Look For When Buying Coconut Water
So you know which brands to avoid – what makes a brand of coconut water good?
Generally the things to look for are high-pressure pasteurization (or HPP), an indication that the coconut water you are buying is not made from concentrate, and a list of ingredients that isn’t a mile long.
It may seem daunting, but savvy grocery shopping will go a long way when it comes to getting the most out of their coconut water!