The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
The mania for coconut water has been sweeping the country in the last few years, with the number of coconut water products on store shelves growing fivefold since 2008. It's been called nature's own sports drink: low in calories compared to most sweet drinks, packed with electrolytes like sodium and potassium, containing many useful vitamins and minerals. Is it really that good for you?
Photo credit: Shutterstock
In a word, yes. It's good for heart health, good for blood pressure balance, good for regulating body fluids. It's fat-free and cholesterol-free and contains antioxidants. But with the craze for coconut water and the over-the-top claims—it prevents cancer! it can stave off dementia! it can cure hangovers!—came the profiteers. And some companies are selling versions of the real thing that might have none of the health benefits and add some not-so-good things as well.
The good stuff comes from young, green coconuts, which are filled with water. As coconuts age, the water—and the nutrients—are absorbed into the meat of the coconut. So of course, the water from those coconuts can be cheaper for processing companies to buy. Not only does it have little of the nutrient value of young coconut water, it also loses some of its flavor, so that's when you see "natural flavors added" on the package. Chances are pretty good those will contain sweeteners too to improve the past-the-prime taste.
Fresh young coconut water has plenty of sugar in it so it doesn't require additional sweeteners. If sugar is an added ingredient, you don't want that either. And with the big beverage bottling companies that have been aggressive opponents of GMO labeling getting into the coconut water game, you probably want to take into account that some of that sweetener could be from GMO crops.
If it's from concentrate, it has been heated to reduce it to syrup, with water added prior to packaging. While the syrup is cheaper to ship than fully constituted water, the heating takes away most of its nutrients and enzymes—the reason you want to drink it in the first place.
The same thing applies to pasteurized coconut water. If it's in a bottle or box sitting out on the shelf, stop and think about how it can be there for a long period of time without going bad. The answer is it's been heated to kill bacteria—and all those enzymes, vitamins and minerals hat are good for you. If it's from concentrate AND pasteurized, it's been heated twice. So you're really not drinking anything useful anymore.
Food blogger Food Babe writes that there have been reports of whole coconuts dipped in formaldehyde, a proven carcinogen, to preserve them for shipping, which suggests the chemical might seep through the meat into the water. She says she circumvents this by buying hers at organic cafes that have their water shipped directly to them.
She also checked in with some of the big beverage companies that now make their own versions of coconut water to find out what exactly they were doing to, or putting in, the stuff. She's got a list of "Coconut Waters to Avoid at All Costs." Given that coconut water isn't cheap, you'll want to get the most benefit from it, so it's worth checking out.
The best way to drink coconut water? Lolling beachside at a tropical resort sipping from a straw stuck directly into a young coconut. But that's REALLY going to cost you!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."