Once requiring a trek to the health food store to find, coconut water has now gone global, and you'll find it stocked on grocery store shelves, sold in gyms and yoga studios, passed along to runners during races, all in nifty box containers or cans and touted as nature's perfect sports drink. But is it just a clever marketing scheme or does it really work miracles?
A taste for coconut water originated in the tropics, places like Brazil and India, where palm trees thrive and locals have been drinking the fresh clear water from young coconuts for ages, dubbing it "miracle water."
Scientists say the benefit is all about potassium (it contains more than a banana) and its naturally occurring electrolytes, along with the added benefits of having no fat or cholesterol and not many calories.
Coconut water, primarily from brands Vita Coco and Zico, has been hot in the US for years, with Rihanna as the face of Vita Coco and splashed on billboards all over the country. The Independent in the U.K. reports coconut water is the fastest growing category in non-alcoholic beverages in the U.K.. Vita Coco is already in more than 10,000 outlets in the U.K., and in around 16,000 across Europe, adds The Independent.
Meanwhile, the search for all those fresh, young coconuts is on. O.N.E. coconut water brand ran out of Brazilian coconuts in 2011 and has had to turn to the Philippines and Indonesia for supplies, while other brands are reaching out to Thailand, according to The Independent.
But do people really need all that coconut water? While some experts say it does a better job at keeping you hydrated than plain water, most people aren’t working out long enough or hard enough to seriously need it, nutritionist Monica Reinagel told National Public Radio in the US. "They really don't need an electrolyte replacement drink," she says, "all they need to rehydrate is water."
For hardcore fitness enthusiasts, she adds that the mineral they need most is sodium. Coconut water doesn’t have much of that.
Men's Fitness magazine spells it out: "If your taste buds just can’t take another sip of tap water, choose coconut water. If you’re heading to the gym for a light training session or going for a leisurely bike ride, grab coconut water. If you’ve just wrapped up an intense workout or logged more than an hour of exercise, a traditional sports drink will help replace the sodium you lose through sweat."