Monday, August 27, 2012

Water - from a Coconut

Apparently there is another new health craze that I simply stumbled onto based solely on curiosity and cravings a couple of weeks ago - coconut water.
So, water can come from a coconut - yeah, so what? Everyone knows this, right? But to be honest with you I had never tried it until an impromptu and very hot trip to Whole Foods led me to the cool drink section. A huge area was consumed by various sizes, flavors, and brands of coconut water and I figured "Why not? Let's try something new."

I snagged the Vita Coco(c) coconut water with pineapple - hey, sounded like a pina colada to me! Then I grabbed the ZICO(c) pure coconut water from the "buy 1 get 1 free" pile barricading the aisle to try later.  My 3 year old toddler got a kid-focused coconut water with Clifford proudly displayed on the "juice" box by Hansen's Natural Junior Juice in "Very Berry".  Who wants to try something new alone, right?

The main claims about the benefits of coconut water are a boost in electrolytes, potassium (the good stuff in bananas), and it is comparatively lower in sugar than most sport drinks, sodas and even some fruit juices.  Go a step farther to hear claims about how this elixir from nature will alleviate kidney stones, hydrate you better than spring water, and even treat conditions ranging from hangovers to cancer.

The drive home was definitely made cooler and more flavorful by my drink of choice.  Not only did I enjoy it, I wasn't thirsty after drinking it - many extra fruity or super healthy foods tend to leave one feeling a bit dried out.

I was looking forward to chilling the extras purchased and adding them to my favorite new vice: at home smoothies.  My blender died a few years ago, and having a sleeping toddler will keep anyone away from loud appliances; but my husband discovered the blender free smoothie option at our local grocer and I have been hooked!  This summer has been crazy hot across the nation, and a wonderful discovery was the addition of straight up coconut water with smoothie mix instead of juice was a pleasant experiment.

But the greatest part of this new product was part II, also brought about by my husband. He came home from work with a fresh coconut, right off the tree.  We went outside as a family, and he cracked it open with a machete.  The coconuts usually seen here in Florida are green and have been recorded causing damage when they fall.  This includes hitting cars and people, and many home owners associations require their neighborhood inhabitants keep all palm trees well groomed for safety as much as aesthetics or bugs.
Coconuts are technically the fruit of the palm tree.
We held a cup under the coconut once it was split, and collected nearly 20 oz. of clear coconut water.  It has a surprisingly sweet with a bit of nutty aftertaste.  Next, my husband carved large sections of coconut meat out of the husk and we chewed yummy chunks of raw coconut.  Very cool new experience, but it got me thinking... what did I really know about the coconut? Not much - so I decided to do a little bit of research.

A coconut first develops as a small fruit, and can fatten into the large green coconuts pictured above.  These green coconuts contain the most water.  Over time the small white tissue on the inside of the coconut, also referred to as the "meat" of the coconut, absorbs the water and fattens this tissue.  A mature coconut has a hard brown shell, has absorbed most of the water into the meat, and generally falls off the tree on its own. When the water is gone, a "flower" may form inside the fruit, but leave it too long and mature coconuts will still rot like any other produce.  Therefore, I do not suggest cracking open that blackened, slimy coconut that washed up on the beach. Ew.
The Life Cycle of a Coconut
 As for health effects on humans, I went to my trusty WebMD and gleaned this nutritional info:
It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.
The fact is, natural stuff is often the best for your health.  Eating local produce and honey has been proven to boost immune health and have a lower carbon footprint.  Exploring the local options for fruits, and shopping for items while in season is always smart, and generally cheaper. Here in Florida, coconuts are plentiful.

For flavors and more about the products I tried visit the company sites:
For the cool life cycle photo, check out:

As a kid, we were all forced to taste new things. There is no reason, as an adult, to stop trying new flavors and textures - especially since you don't have to finish anything you don't like!


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