Q: I recently read in a nutrition magazine that coconut waters may not be all they claim to be. What can you tell me about coconut water-is it actually beneficial and what are my best options for purchase and ingestion?
Erin Oakland California
Garden Eats: Another great question. Like most things, there will be the good with the bad. At this point, all of the popular coconut water brands have been rated, evaluated etc. almost to the degree of bottled water.
Here are some things to remember when purchasing already packaged foods in general:
it’s packaged-the source always contains more nutrition (unless the product has been nutrient fortified and that still is questionable).
exposure-packaging affects the food-while most health conscious companies take great care to carefully package free of BPA and toxic materials, the fact is that your product is sitting in a package before it arrives to you. This means the actual food has been exposed to environmental and industrial processes, placed in a package, gained the potential to interact with the packaging, perhaps further exposed in shipping and importation and then makes it way into your hands.
When tested however, most coconut waters did contain the nutrients claimed on the nutrition panel. While I prefer the taste of a fresh coconut, some prefer convenience and opt for the packaged kind. With a little elbow grease (or a food grade drill if you have one), fresh coconuts yield the highest amount of nutrition.
Why Drink Coconut Water?
Rich in electrolytes, namely potassium, coconut water is an ideal means of hydration and replenishment from everyday life and sports-related activities.
If you think a banana is your best source for potassium, think again. Not only do they contain almost half the amount of potassium per serving of coconut water, unless organic, they contain off the charts levels of pesticides and can be difficult to digest making the potassium challenging to absorb. If you’re eating organic bananas because you like the taste, that’s one thing, but if it’s for raising potassium levels, look to other more nutrient dense sources such as coconut water, swiss chard, yams, figs, lentils, pinto beans, romaine lettuce, spinach and avocado to name just a few.