Got Coconut Water? Our Guide to the Latest and Greatest

A nutritionist's look at the composition of coconut water and a review of some popular brands.
Fresh Organic Coconut Water

Fresh Organic Coconut Water

Fresh Organic Coconut Water in a Glass

Photo by: Brent Hofacker

Brent Hofacker

Coconut water used to be that fun drink you had on vacation — down at the beach, the hot sun on your back, a big bowling ball-sized coconut between your hands, a straw in your mouth. Nowadays, it's in stock at virtually every deli, grocery and specialty food market. And it only continues to gain popularity. Here's the skinny on its nutritional value, and our favorite brands to drink right now.

Nutrition Facts

An average 1-cup serving of plain coconut water contains about 45 calories, 11 grams of carbs and 450 milligrams of potassium. It’s free of fat, cholesterol and protein. Check labels on your favorite brand of coco concoctions; added flavorings and sweeteners can turn up the calorie count.

Worth the Hype?

Some might describe plain coconut water as pleasant and refreshing, while others might say it's an acquired taste. It has a mild coconut essence but lacks the robust coconut flavor of higher-fat coconut milk (which is made from a combination of coconut water and coconut meat). Flavored varieties of coconut water are also available, but check ingredient lists for added sugars and artificial sweeteners. If you're feeling creative, coconut water can be used for more than just sipping – check out these 10 fun ways to use it.

On the Market

There are an increasing number of coconut waters filling up store shelves. Here are some of our favorites.

If you’re looking for a fresh, unprocessed jug of coconut water, but you're not ready to fly to a jungle in Thailand, climb a tree, wrestle down a coconut and hack it open yourself, you're in luck. The guys at Harmless Harvest, pioneers of the first line of raw coconut water, are doing it for you. This organic, Fair Trade certified and “raw” (never heat-treated) coconut water uses high-pressure processing to keep it safe to drink. A 1-cup serving contains 56 calories, 1 gram of fiber and 514 milligrams of potassium. Harmless Harvest takes tremendous care in the sourcing and manufacturing of their products and also offers two newly launched flavored coconut waters, Cinnamon Clove (sourced from a plantation in Indonesia) and Cacao (sourced from the Dominican Republic).

Zico products are made from coconuts purveyed from local farms and coconut plantations in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. This brand offers convenient resealable packaging for use on the go, plus three varieties of chilled juices. Some are sweetened using fruit juice concentrates and monk fruit extract. You can find this brand at many large chain retailers across the country, as well as online.

Vitacoco brand is also widely available and comes in a variety of flavors, including lemonade, orange, and peach & mango. Instead of added sweeteners, most flavors of Vitacoco contain naturally sweet fruit purees, making a 1-cup serving come in around 60 calories. Brand offerings also include a line of sports drinks, lattes and kids’ drinks. Parents are cautioned to read labels, as the kids' drinks are sweetened with sugar.

You can find this brand at Whole Foods, smaller grocers and some large chain retail stores. It’s organic, Fair Trade certified and free of added sugars. It has a clean and fresh coconut flavor. In addition to plain coconut water, there’s a flavor sweetened with pineapple juice, plus vanilla and chocolate protein shakes fortified with a milk-based protein

Blue Monkey is a lesser-known brand, which features 80/20 blends of coconut water and fruit juice. Some flavors are sweetened with agave nectar, and each 1-cup serving contains about 80 calories. They even make a unique dried coconut “instant” powder that can be mixed with water.

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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