Coconut Water: Hype or Fact?

Coconut water has exploded in popularity as claims of its being as good as or better than sports drinks at hydrating and replenishing electrolyte levels have been tossed around.  But now those claims are being called into question.  A 2011 report by CNN states that of the three most popular U.S. coconut water drinks—O.N.E., Vito Coco, and Zico— only Zico lived up to its claims of boosting electrolytes.  The others were found to have 82% lower sodium and 35% lower magnesium levels than those stated on the products’ labels.

As of this writing, coconut water represents a $200 million dollar industry.  As we reported last December, many celebrities have been shown drinking the various brands of coconut water, and many people have been trying it as an alternative to calorie-laden sports drinks.  But according to the CNN report, coconut water may not be the appropriate choice for refueling after exercise. In fact, it turns out that ordinary water is usually the best choice as an after workout drink. Unless you workout over 90 minutes, or under strenuous conditions, electrolyte levels don’t fall very much.

So another trend may be losing the wind in its sails. Although coconut water by itself may not be as good at replenishing electrolytes as sports drinks, if it is enriched with sodium, coconut water may be an appropriate choice for after workout refreshment.

Coconut Water: The New Celebrity Craze

No need to visit the tropics to indulge your craving for coconuts – this fruit is now a part of the multi-billion dollar bottled water industry. And, like many other brands of bottled water, it even has quite a few celebrity endorsements. Touted as the natural alternative to sports drinks like Gatorade, coconut water comes from the center of young, green coconuts, and is said to be healthy, fat-free and hydrating after a long work out. At least, that’s what the bottling manufacturers would have you believe…

Before you pay $2-3 for 11 ounces of this “miracle” drink, you may want to investigate its worth. Coconut water’s biggest claim is that it’s high in potassium and low in sodium, a combination, which nutritionists say are not ideal after a strenuous workout. ZICO, one brand of coconut water, advertises  with pictures of runners, hikers and mountain bikers on its website. However, as we’ve seen in the past, bottled water manufacturers are very clever when it comes to advertising. Pictures like this, along with multiple  celebrity endorsements, appeal to the majority of people in America. Some brands have even “gone green” by packaging the water in the supposedly “eco-friendly” Tetrapak bottles. Smart move, seeing as how environmentalism is a hot topic these days. But is this just more greenwash? Is coconut water really better than your average sports drink in terms of health? Better yet, is it a good substitute for pure, filtered water?

Coconut water is very popular in foreign countries like Brazil. If this drink really is as good as they say it is, then we’re supporting, yet again, the bottled water industry’s scheme to take good water from people who really need it, waste massive amounts of energy to bottle it up and ship it to the U.S. so that those of us who already have access to clean water can drink it instead. Does that sound like a good idea to you?