The Perfect Drink for Summer

Whenever any food, drink or supplement hits the market with a lot of fanfare with claims that it does everything from cure diabetes to speed metabolism, I’m suspicious. But I’m also curious.

Recently, I’m seeing more and more people sipping coconut water.

The sight of people sipping coconut water from a straw directly inserted into the coconut itself is a tropical custom that seems to have been imported up north to street fairs everywhere! The fad hasn’t escaped the attention of beverage giants Pepsi and Coke, both of which have purchased large stakes in companies marketing the new drink- Coke took a 20% share in Zico, one of the top consumer brands, and Pepsi bought Amacoco, the largest coconut-water company in Brazil.

So what’s the story with this new fad drink that’s become so popular even the New York Times recently did a piece about it?

Coconut water- not to be confused with the far richer (and tastier) coconut milk- is the near-transparent liquid found inside young coconuts. (Ripe coconuts have crunchy white meat inside them, but the young ones contain liquid and some- much softer- meat that feels and looks something like a gel.)

Surprisingly, coconut water doesn’t taste much like coconut at all, and instead has a slightly nutty and semi-sweet taste that’s quite pleasant and refreshing.

Coconut water is a perfectly good option for staying hydrated. It’s very high in heart-healthy potassium, with most brands providing about 700mg- much higher than a banana. It’s also low in sodium, and has only about 60 calories per 11 ounce serving.

Because it contains electrolytes (like potassium and sodium), and because it’s mostly water, some people are using coconut water as a sports drink. Just for fun, I did a comparison to original Gatorade, the most popular sports drink on the market.  Eight ounces of coconut water contains less calories than Orange Gatorade (43 vs.  50),  way more potassium (471 mg vs. 30 mg),  less sodium (25 mg vs. 110 mg) and slightly less sugar (11 grams vs. 14 grams).

Water is still the ultimate rehydration drink, with zero calories, but coconut water is a nice refreshing option.

Coconut water is now available in single serving sizes everywhere. Three popular brands are ZICO, ONE and VitaCoco. From a nutrition standpoint they’re virtually identical. All are available online at Amazon, VitaCost and at supermarkets everywhere, and the average price per single serving is $1.70.