Piercing the tender top of a young, green coconut with a straw and slurping its sweet, mildly nutty juice is guaranteed to rejuvenate you on a hot afternoon. What adds to the kick is the conviction that you have made a ‘healthy’ choice. After all, everyone from Madonna to tennis ace John Isner has been guzzling this natural cocktail and researchers have dubbed it a ‘wonder tonic’ with the power to fight conditions ranging from hangovers to heart disease.
But does the crown fit the coconut’s head? A section of experts claim the drink is not as healthy as it’s touted to be. The good news is that their concerns are linked to the commercially packaged cartons of coconut water sold at supermarkets these days, not the natural fruit, and the misleading claims made by marketers.
Tests conducted on popular brands found that packaged coconut water contains less electrolytes than the real version and what the label states. Worse, it has added sugar and artificial flavours.
The pitching of coconut water as a ‘sports drink’ has also invited criticism because it is rich in potassium — providing as much as two bananas— but has low sodium. Athletes lose more of the latter during rigorous workouts and coconut water cannot adequately replenish it.
Natural coconut water, however, gets a thumbs-up from medical experts globally. The drink is rich in B vitamins and minerals. And, it is cholesterol and fat-free with four to five times less sugar than a cola or fruit juice.