As Latinos, we most likely have tried agua de coco (coconut water) at some point in our lives. This inexpensive, delicious, and refreshing drink is widely available in many Latino stores.
Apparently, agua de coco is being labeled as the latest trendy health food. It has now hit the shelves of many upscale grocery and organic stores. By having this label, agua de coco is now overpriced. There is lots of money being made on this once simple and inexpensive drink. Heck, when I walked around the grocery store recently, I saw a 10 ounce coconut water drink that costs $3-5 dollars each! The funny thing is that those $3-5 dollar, hip and healthy small coconut drinks would cost me no more than $2.00 dollars, with twice the quantity, at the local Mexican grocery store.
So is the overpriced American coconut water worth the health benefits it claims to have?
According to John Salge Blake, a registered dietician and clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University, “coconut water has a rich source of potassium, where many Americans fall short on their recommended daily intake”. However, Blake also said that bananas and potatoes contain just as much or even more potassium and are much less expensive. He went on to say, that eating whole foods rich in potassium also gives you fiber and other nutrients that coconut water lacks.
While it is true that eating the meat of the coconut will provide you with a rich source of potassium and fiber, the drawback is that the coconut meat is extremely high in saturated fat. Thus, the meat of a coconut, defeats its own health benefits.
Coconut water is also being marketed as an alternative to sports beverages. At a recent American Chemical Society’s annual meeting, researchers stated that coconut water was a great sugar free substitute for sugary drinks like Powerade and Gatorade. Potassium and other electrolytes are essential for muscle function, which is why they are supplements often found in popular sports drinks and coconut water. One of the presenters, Chhandashri Bhattacharya, a chemist at Indiana University Southwest, reaffirmed that coconut water contains other electrolytes besides potassium that are lost during exercise and is a low glycemic drink, meaning it will not cause spikes in blood sugar.
Does the benefit of replacing sports drinks with coconut water outweigh its cost? While Bhattacharya and other supporters of coconut water are promoting that it is as effective at rehydrating athletes after an intense workout as water and sports beverages, there are a few drawbacks.
Athletes who are considering the switch to coconut water need to pay heed to the fact that it does not replace the sodium that is lost during extreme workouts and it will cost 2 the 3 times more than a sports drink. If cost is not an issue, you can always drink your coconut water with salted peanuts or any other salty food to replenish your body from the lost sodium from a hard workout. Just be careful to not increase your salt intake too much.
Overall, there is not one food or drink that the human body needs above all others. If you do decided to go with agua de coco as a sports drink substitute or a healthy drink to grab during lunch, just remember one thing. Do not buy coconut water with added sugar, since its high in calories and it would defeat the purpose of living a healthy lifestyle.