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The Primal Natural Soft drink & Energy Drink All-in-One: Coconut Water

It had been some time since I’d had water from a young green coconut — perhaps a trip to Thailand or something. There, street vendors will chop ’em open for you, insert a straw and you’re off. After finishing the water you can scoop out the coconut jelly from the insides of the green coconut.

A couple of months back I was on a camping trip with the family and had intended to make some primal biscuits & gravy as my contribution for breakfast. There was a local health food market so I headed down in the morning. Then after getting my country sausage at the butcher counter I asked the girl where the coconut milk was located. She pointed me over to an isle and when I got there, noticed it was a cooler isle with beverages.

She’d thought I meant coconut water and to my pleasant surprise — being a health food market — they had several brands of the stuff, either in the cans or the boxes.

So I grabbed myself a can (being on a camping trip and having a few drinks the night before…) and chugged it down on the way back to camp. Wow! I immediately felt refreshed and energized.

Of course, I had checked the carb load before the purchase and to my mind it’s quite sane. Now I wouldn’t advocate overdoing it but on a typical day I’ll have one with a meal. I’m pretty big on not ingesting any calories except in conjunction with a meal, so that’s what I do, or I enjoy it as a "dessert" of sorts immediately after.

In all it’s about 1.25g of carbs per ounce, so 14g for the 11.2oz boxes. That’s pretty sane, if you ask me. As to the health benefits, it looks pretty good. Primarily we’re talking about quite a bit of potassium, but also four other essential electrolytes: magnesium, calcium, sodium, and phosphorous.

And…it’s fat & cholesterol free! …But you don’t care about that.

According to several sources I checked, it’s a "natural isotonic beverage," containing similar levels of electrolytes as those found in human blood. Interestingly, it can apparently be used as a blood plasma substitute in a pinch. It’s sterile, which raises the obvious question of why the hell all of the coconut water products seem to be pasteurized.

Goddamn Louis all to hell! (tongue-in-cheek alert)

This page lists a number of other health claims, most of which I’m skeptical about, but perhaps there’s some justification for some of them and I’d appreciate anyone with valid info either way to chime in. I’m just very satisfied to have a natural beverage with just a bit of sweet and carb energy that tastes delicious — especially chilled — and has some decent nutrition to boot. Why does it need to be a "miracle beverage?"

And, why in hell would anyone want to drink Gatorade, Powerade, or any other such sugar-water swill?

Anyone have any creative uses for it — such as in recipes — beyond just drinking it? I’ve come up with one, which is to use it in place of water to mix a meal replacement shake. Goes well with no/low-carb whey protein, chocolate or vanilla flavors; but I much prefer the vanilla. Whey To Go Protein Powder is a brand I particularly like.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

19 Comments

  1. Jamie on July 5, 2010 at 22:44

    Check out this Frankenrubbish hitting the kids in New Zealand.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCpa6SIRzGI&feature=related

    They didn’t give a name credit to the woman talking halfway through, but I’d put my money on her being a dietitian.

  2. Joyful Abode on July 5, 2010 at 23:00

    I bought a box of it (in the little individual serving boxes) to take to the hospital for my labor/post-partum beverage. I’ve heard that if you keep your electrolytes “replenished” during labor, that the contractions will be less random/crampy and more efficient/useful. I don’t know if that’s valid or not, but it makes a bit of sense (think of having a baby as similar to running a marathon – a long athletic event) and it tastes great so even if it doesn’t “work” it’ll be delicious.

  3. hans keer on July 5, 2010 at 23:27

    When I see this kind of products, I can’t help thinking of all the energy that is wasted (production and transportation) and the pollution and litter that is created. And for what? We live in a crazy world. I may sound like a retarding pessimist, which I’m not. It’s just what comes into my mind.

    • John Campbell on July 6, 2010 at 10:06

      We can eat and live like cavemen (sorta) without living in caves. As a Canadian, am I only allowed to consume locally grown coconut water? And if I enjoy that coconut water – if it brings value to my life – if I pay for it and bear the costs of its production, distribution and ultimate disposal. If the other people in the chain profit in the process, who is to judge that energy was wasted and the world is a more polluted place?

      I love this 21st century – we are so well off that we can wring our hands while things are getting better (in the aggregate). Check out http://www.rationaloptimist.com/

      Humans are very successful survival machines and for many that means a huge and regular dose of worry and dread about the present and even more for the future. Please forgive my reckless optimism – I forgive your tut tutting at freedom to produce and consume. And just when has the world not been crazy? – whatever that means.

    • MC on July 6, 2010 at 12:58

      The solution to your problem isn’t to get rid of the product. It’s to design better packaging, and better transportation. Recyclable, renewable packaging. Electric cars, whatever.

      As soon as Corporations stop impeding the progress of technology in order to make more money, then we’ll see changes in this crazy world. In the meantime, if you know to thrive not just survive, requires you buy some products, then do it for your health, and the health of your children.

      We can’t all move to the Garden of Eden where every animal and plant food can be found in abundance.

  4. Chris on July 6, 2010 at 00:06

    Nothing is better than a good cold carton of coconut water after a workout on a hot hot day, especially after a load of sweating. It is amazing you can just tell the body replenish itself within minutes, I also like to keep some on hand to nurse hangovers. Nothing works better…..

  5. Anna on July 6, 2010 at 08:49

    On our recent road trip vacation through the Western US states, 11 yo our son had a GI and a lot of fluid loss. He was becoming very dehydrated in the dry desert air and the deepening dark circles under his eyes were worrying me (my own hands felt like sandpaper it was so dry). I knew he needed rehydrating very soon or else we’d need to seek medical attention.

    We luckily passed by a Whole Foods visible from the Interstate (they also stocked probiotics to replenish gut flora after the illness). I bought a few containers of coconut juice with resealable tops for our traveling convenience to keep in the cooler. A sip of coconut water every 15 minutes for electrolyte replacement was just the ticket (and it didn’t come back up), and without all the junk that is in the “big name” brand of pediatric electrolyte replacement fluid. He was soon on the mend.

    I don’t buy a lot of packaged beverages, but I do think I’ll keep a few of containers of coconut juice tucked away at home for the rare GI bugs that sometimes hit.

  6. mallory on July 6, 2010 at 10:13

    asked my farmers market to order some a few weeks ago….still waiting on it!

  7. Erik Cisler on July 6, 2010 at 10:28

    Hit up your local Chinese/Asian supermarket (if you have one available). They sell young coconuts for like a buck each. Drink the water, eat the flesh, and you can even use the shell as a powerfully effective cold insulator.

    My local Whole Foods sells coconuts from the same source for three times the price.

  8. Clif on July 6, 2010 at 10:45

    Ultimate pre and intra workout beverage: coconut water mixed with some BCAA’s. Lime seems to taste the best (put the lime in the coconut). During my basketball games or longer/more intense workouts this keeps me feeling great. And you’re right, ultimate hangover “cure”.
    //

  9. Anna on July 6, 2010 at 11:01

    By the way, for those who don’t usually buy whole coconuts, the liquid from the mature brown coconuts isn’t the same as the liquid from the immature white “young” coconuts. The immature coconuts are white because the green skin and some of the fibrous exterior has been sliced off.

    The interior of an immature white coconut is different, too, varying from a small amount to no firm coconut “meat”, though if you are lucky, there is some coconut “jelly” to scoop out and eat when you cut it open (the gel becomes the white firm “meat” as the fruit matures).

    My son loves to drink from straw poked into a young coconut at a local Jamaican restaurant. When it’s empty, they slice it open in the kitchen with a machete and he scrapes out the jelly for dessert.

    I discard the liquid from mature coconuts when I open them before grating the firm coconut meat with a great rotary coconut grater from an Indian grocery store. Freshly grated coconut meat can be soaked in warm water and strained to make fresh coconut milk (let the coconut milk sit and skim the top layer for coconut cream). Then I spread the strained grated coconut flakes out on a sheet pan and dry it completely in a slightly warm oven (stirring now and then) before storing in an airtight glass container for later use in cooking.

    From one mature coconut ($.99-1.49) and a small amount of work, I get the equivalent of two cans of coconut milk/cream and two bags of grated coconut. But no “young” coconut juice. But brown coconuts are a bargain and great fun for kids. YouTube has lots of videos of cracking open brown coconuts and grating techniques from all over the world.

  10. Primal Toad on July 6, 2010 at 12:53

    I first discovered store bought coconut water while in Chicago, IL. It was so quenching. I now love the stuff and buy the Vita Coco brand off of Amazon. I enjoy the plain flavor as well as the peach/mango and pineapple. Coconut water has become a favorite of mind. And, like you said, it might be only carbs but very healthy at that. I enjoy adding about 4 oz to smoothies too which makes it just a few carbs.

    Tons of potassium as well as vitamin C and other nutrients. So refreshing on a hot summer day like today!! Today will be the 3rd straight day it has reached 90 degrees in Michigan… I am about to make me a smoothie with coconut water!

  11. jon w on July 6, 2010 at 15:18

    what an irony… in Hawaii coconuts run about $2-$4 each in stores. probably imported. they are rarely found outside since they are considered hazardous in any landscape setting and trimmed off before they get to softball size.

  12. anand srivastava on July 7, 2010 at 00:47

    Bangalore is a haven for coconuts. You can find it on nearly everywhere. Its also dirt cheap, just 12Rs or .25$. And you get them very fresh. Sometimes when I am out I will have it for lunch ;-). The best meal you can have outside home.

  13. Elisabeth on July 7, 2010 at 07:00

    Yes, coconut is a whole lot better than Gatorade or Powerade. I’m having trouble selling clients on it though, because they either don’t (or think they don’t) like coconut, or they balk at the price. These are the same people who buy beer at eight dollars a six-pack, of course.
    When we buy coconut products, at least at this time, we’re supporting…not exploiting…the people where coconuts are harvested.

  14. Derek S. on July 7, 2010 at 10:36

    I buy the young coconuts by the case from a local Vietnamese market for about a buck each. Great value and I suspect there’s a bit of a nutrition advantage to drinking it fresh from the coconut as opposed to processed into man-made containers. The amount of water varies somewhat but is always in the range of 10 to 16 oz per coconut in my experience (I love it when I hit the motherload and it fills up my 16 oz glass). And you’re right, Richard, this is a fantastic post-workout drink. Love it.

  15. Adam | SEE on July 8, 2010 at 22:11

    When I lived in Brazil, we kept a stack of coconuts on the back porch, with a machete nearby. Top and drink that simple. Then, split it open and eat the meat. Most refreshing / nourishing combo after surfing.

    As others indicated, it is also an excellent remedy for an upset stomach. I keep a few cans in the fridge for when the kids (and adults) have a tummy ache.

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