When I first started getting into the world of organic “superfoods,” I was a broke 23-year-old kid fresh out of college who had no idea where to start.
It all began after reading the classic book The Hundred Year Lie about chemicals in our food supply and continued when I tasted organic carrots for the first time. That’s when I knew I had been missing out (they actually tasted like carrots are supposed to taste).
Eventually I made eating healthy and organic as the foundation of my new lifestyle. I started slow, adopting a budget of about $20 every 10 days that I would use only on organic food.
I started with the essentials: organic mixed greens, spinach, carrots, kale and other produce, and resolved to eat all of these foods even if it was straight out of the box or bag (I had no cooking skills at the time).
Small changes like these made a huge difference, and I started getting curious about all the new “superfoods” being talked up on natural health websites, like coconut water.
The health food store became my favorite new destination, and the large paper boxes of coconut water caught my eye almost immediately. But just as soon as I began to notice them, they were gone, and the manager told me more times than I could count times that she didn’t know when they would be in stock again.
Coconut Water Mania had officially begun.
Coconut Water: A True Superfood?
We’ve all seen and read about how beneficial coconut water is for the body. But for someone buying organic food on a budget and especially someone living outside of tropical areas, is coconut water really a good value for your health?
Up here in Michigan, coconut water can range from about $1.95 or so for a 12-ounce bottle popular brand (like Zico or Naked), and even up to $3.59 or so for a smaller 8-ounce bottle (for the brand Harmless Harvest).
Here’s what you may not know about coconut water:
-Coconut water is much healthier in its unpasteurized state because all of the beneficial enzymes (like catalase, dehydrogenase, and peroxidase) remained unharmed. These enzymes are known to aid in digestion and metabolism, but they are destroyed when the coconut water is heated. Most major brands of coconut water are pasteurized.
-Coconut water using high pressure processing to kill bacteria instead of heating is healthier, but the only major brand that claims to use this healthier alternative to pasteurization on its label is Harmless Harvest, which is much pricier.
-While coconut water has solid amounts of the important minerals potassium and magnesium, there are far better sources for your money (here’s a good rundown for more info on its nutritional profile)
-Zico and Naked, two top coconut water brands, are owned by Coca Cola and Pepsi, two companies that oppose GMO labeling with millions of dollars that you should not be supporting!
Coconut Water: The Lawsuit You Probably Didn’t Hear About
Last but not least, there’s this: In 2007 All Market Inc., the owner of major brand Vita Coco, agreed to a whopping $10 million settlement after a class action lawsuit alleged that it misrepresented and basically over-hyped the health benefits of its product.
The coconut water was declared as being “super-hydrating,” “nutrient-packed” and “mega-electrolyte.” It was alleged to that the coconut water’s label falsely claimed it contained “15 times the electrolytes found in sports drinks” and “is about hydration.”
Among the evidence used against Vita Coco was this shocking report on coconut water which found that most major coconut water brands on the market came up short on their nutritional claims.
“While it’s certainly safe to drink coconut water, it’s been overhyped and even mislabeled,” said Dr. Ted Cooperman of ConsumerLabs.com which conducted the tests.
Final Thoughts on Coconut Water
While coconut water is certainly a healthier option than most other drinks on the market, it’s important to realize that it may not be the health-revolutionizing superfood it’s been made out to be, especially when in regards to mainstream brands like Zico, Naked, O.N.E. and Vita Coco.
And if you’re going healthy and organic on a budget you’d do far better for yourself by spending your cash on truly healthy spring or filtered waters (or saving for a water filter) and more fresh, local and organic fruits and veggies.
This is something that took me quite awhile to learn as I continued my own personal health journey, but not before I wasted a lot of money on overpriced coconut water products.
That being said, I still work plenty of coconut products into my diet, especially coconut oil. I also enjoy a fresh, young Thai coconut every few weeks because it’s you get way more nutrition for your money (plus better quality coconut water). And when I spent a few weeks in Costa Rica this past year where the coconuts are plentiful and cheap, and the coconut water is fresh? Needless to say, I had way more than one coconut every two weeks!