Unless you’ve been in hibernation for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the invasion of coconut water in your local grocer and deli. What was once a beverage marketed only to health fanatics and raw foodists is now a mainstream pleasure.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit it. When a new health “craze” pops up – be it exotic, South American berries that are supposed to make me live forever, dubiously titled “superfoods,” or protein concoctions that promise a better body in a bottle—I tend to be skeptical, if not downright dismissive.
But the coconut water craze is one trend in this vast sea of nutrition manias that you can actually embrace. This simple, nutrient-rich, and low-calorie beverage is actually as good—and as healthful—as it’s cracked up to be.
What's In It?
Generally extracted from the inside of young Thai coconuts, coconut water packs a wallop of good nutrition. It’s loaded with magnesium, potassium, chloride, and proportionate amounts of sugar and sodium. It’s so rich in electrolytes that a growing number of athletes are ditching Gatorade and other conventional sports beverages in favor coconut water from the Zico, O.N.E., or VitaCoco brands.
And who can blame them? Electrolytes are crucial for rehydration after athletic exertion. But most sports drinks offer electrolytes alongside a hefty dose of high fructose corn syrup and sodium, not to mention frightening artificial colors. Coconut water offers us all of the electrolyte replenishment with none of the processed ingredients: it is nature’s Gatorade.
The benefits of coconut water are more profound than hydration alone. Its pH is optimally balanced; in fact, it’s quite similar to the pH of human blood.
A Little Coco Water History
During WWII, doctors in the Pacific theater actually used coconut water as plasma in blood transfusions, since it was cool, sterile, and provided a safe environment for red blood cells.
Some fanatics claim that coconut water is a “universal donor”; this, I’m afraid, is an urban legend. What works in wartime is not appropriate for a normal day in the ER! But I think most doctors will agree that, whether you’re an athlete or a simply a busy person on the go, coconut water is an optimal beverage for energy and health.
How to enjoy coconut water? It’s fabulous on its own, before or after a workout, or in smoothies. It’s also terrific as a base for cool summer soups, like cucumber, cream of zucchini, or gazpacho. And if none of those work, try it in this zippy, avocado based salad dressing. You’ll be glad you did!
1 cup young Thai coconut water
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup basil
¼ tsp salt (or more)
2 dates, or 1 packet stevia
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper (I must have used 1/8 tsp) and 3/4 inch ginger for heat
Blend all ingredients on high and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve this over a mélange of refreshing vegetables, like cucumber, greens, cilantro, and bell peppers, and prepare to have your taste buds awakened!
Gena Hamshaw is a certified clinical nutritionist with an emphasis on plant-based nutrition. She writes about body image, green living, and a plant-based lifestyle on her popular blog, ChoosingRaw.com.