I was recently sent a beautifully packaged box of VitaCoco Coconut water. I was rather eager to try it as I had seen them at a local grocer and they were new to South African shores, however, the VitaCoco coconut water brand has been widely endorsed by celebrities and sold in various parts of the world.
My first ever taste of coconut water was on my honeymoon in 2007 in Phuket, Thailand. This however, was straight from the source, a street vendor hacked open a young coconut and shoved a straw in there – this was the REAL DEAL coconut water – sweet, delicious with a unique coconutty taste. So, when I got the VitaCoco – and the carton said “like sticking a straw in a coconut” – I was getting flashbacks of Thailand and that young coconut.
Much like “cold-pressed” juices have been flooding the market as the new ‘it drink’ – so too has coconut waters. And much like its counter-part, not all coconut waters are created equally, so I wanted to dig a little deeper.
As I said, coconut water is nothing new to people from Brazil who have been drinking it for years. So have people in India, south east Asia, the Caribbean and anywhere else that the coconut palm grows, its only since the early 2000s that the drink was packaged and commercialised for the rest of the world (starting of course in the States).
In it’s purest form coconut water contains a unique combination of B vitamins, vitamin C, micronutrients, and phytohormones that are exceptionally beneficial to one’s body. A scientific review of coconut water, published in the journal ‘Molecules’, highlights some of the ways that coconut water replenishes your body:
• Helps to prevent heart attacks
• Lowers high blood pressure
• Can have anti-aging effects
• Fights free radicals to help prevent cancer
• Contains trans-zeatin which can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
Now, before even consulting experts – the general rule of thumb I use (and so should you), eat/drink anything as close to its natural form as possible, generally making it healthier and less likely to contain preservatives and added ingredients. So, having that said, the coconut water we’re drinking that is not straight out of a young coconut – we should approach with caution.
What I did like about VitaCoco coconut water was on inspection of their ingredients list – it was a very short one with no unpronounceable ingredients – this was a good sign: coconut water (percentage changing depending on flavour 87%-99%); fruit juice (9-14% depending on flavour), fructose (1-2% in plain coconut and lemon flavour blend respectively); coconut puree (2% only found in pineapple blend) and Ascorbic acid in all of them.
The fact that these drinks contained fructose/fruit juice in the first place, made me rather nervous. All I could think about was the sugar content. They contain between 15g – 20g of sugar (330ml carton depending on flavour) which equates to 3-4 teaspoons of sugar per carton, which compared to a can of coke, has about double that amount of sugar in it.
So, I tried it in various scenarios – first as a pre-workout drink – for a hour HIIT workout, drinking then water during the class, it seemed to give me some added fire. I sipped it as part of a post workout recovery drink – I felt replenished and hydrated. I was still rather uncomfortable about the sugar content so I would never drink an entire carton in one sitting but rather sip on it for a day or two, even topping it up with water.
I then decided to go all in and did a very challenging High Intensity Interval Training class on nothing but coconut water and I found I was not lacking in anything and was not missing my usual workout concoction.
While my impressions of the VitaCoco coconut water as a performance/energy and hydration alternative drink is favourable – the expert opinion was more critical like that of Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent tester of health products ConsumerLab.com, conducted a study on coconut water in 2011 and was quoted in Time Magazine saying, “If you plan on using it for mild hydration, it’s fine. But if you are doing prolonged physical exercise, you are losing sodium (not potassium) in your sweat, and coconut water is not a good source of sodium.”
So, do we recommend it? The short answer is yes, but as with all things – in moderation. I would not recommend guzzling this like one would water. When doing regular exercise like I did, for sure, it’ll work, on a hot day, for added hydration – yes, great choice (aside from water of course!). If you’re doing something more taxing like an endurance sport or event like Argus Cycle tour or a Two Oceans marathon – the experts would suggest no.
In short – it definitely is a better alternative to fizzy drinks, juices and energy drinks.
VitaCoco is a go!