How To Buy The Healthiest Coconut Water And Avoid The Worst!

I love coconut water! When I’m traveling in the tropics, there is nothing better than drinking water straight from a coconut. Mother nature designed the perfect vessel for a drink that is so refreshing, slightly sweet, and keeps you hydrated in hot climates. You’ve probably heard that coconut water makes an excellent hydrating drink that replenishes electrolytes and can replace nasty chemical-filled Gatorade and Powerade – but there really is more to it than that. How do you buy the healthiest coconut water and avoid the worst?

The Best Coconut Water

Coconut water is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet

Coconut water contains a unique combination of B vitamins, vitamin C, micronutrients, and phytohormones that are exceptionally beneficial to your health.  A scientific review of coconut water, published in the journal Molecules, highlights some of the ways that coconut water replenishes your body:

  • Helps to prevent heart attacks
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Can have anti-aging effects
  • Fights free radicals to help prevent cancer
  • Contains trans-zeatin which can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

That being said, I don’t want you to think it’s okay to pick up just any coconut water off of the shelf.  Packaged coconut water is really flooding into the market recently. You can find it in bottles, cartons or powdered, frozen, flavored, carbonated, and sweetened. With all these choices it can be confusing and difficult to know if you are choosing the best one.

It usually costs at least $3 bucks a bottle, so it’s not exactly affordable- and if I’m going to spend my hard earned money on some, I make sure it’s worth it!  Primarily, I look for coconut water that is the least processed and still has the majority of its nutrients intact. This is always going to be directly from a fresh coconut – but, of course that’s not always available.  If you haven’t already heard, Pepsico and Coca-Cola have their own versions of coconut water – (O.N.E., Zico, Naked) – and you can only imagine what the corporations have done to it.  

How To Ruin Coconut Water

Using a concentrate instead of fresh juice:  Some coconut water companies get away with saying their drinks contain “100% Coconut Water” that’s “All Natural” even though it’s made from a reconstituted concentrate. Just like other juices in the store, they heat fresh coconut water and reduce it to a syrup. It’s cheaper for them to import this coconut water syrup, which they later add water prior to packaging. Any juice that has been heated to this extent loses a significant amount of its nutrients and its beneficial enzymes are denatured (i.e. the enzymes don’t work anymore).

Taking water from mature coconuts: This is a biggie. Young coconuts on the tree are usually green with an abundance of water in the center that is full of nutrients. Anyone that drinks coconut water straight from a coconut is drinking out of one of these young coconuts. As they begin to age, the nutrients in the water begin to seep into the meat of the coconut, and the water becomes less nutritious. It’s essentially watered-down. This also happens when young coconuts are picked and allowed to lie on the ground in the sun, for an extended period of time. While older “mature” coconuts might be used to make coconut oil, coconut milk and other coconut products, the coconut water from older coconuts is often discarded because it’s lacking nutrients and doesn’t taste the same. As the popularity in coconut water spiked recently, companies realized that they could buy up the water from mature coconuts  and could get it cheaper than young coconut water. This is why it’s important to drink young coconut water and not get scammed into drinking the watered-down and less nutritious version.

Adding “natural flavors” or sweeteners: Young coconut water is refreshing and sweet, so there is absolutely no need to flavor or sweeten it – unless you are trying to hide something. Guess what happens when they use mature coconuts for their water? It tastes acidic, so they mask this taste with natural flavors or sweeten it up with sugars. I’ve heard that some companies use a centrifuge system to remove the acidic taste, but it’s a safe assumption that if you see a plain coconut water on the shelf with any natural flavors or sweeteners added it is from mature coconuts and not worth your money.

Pasteurizing it with heat: Coconut water is very delicate, naturally perishable, and should be kept cold. Have you ever stopped to wonder why most bottled and boxed coconut waters on the shelves aren’t in the refrigerated section? I recently checked out one of these bottles and noticed it didn’t expire for 2 years! This is because most coconut water at the store is heat pasteurized, which literally means that it’s been cooked to a very high temperature to kill bacteria and extend its shelf life. It has been shown that heat also destroys some of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and also denatures enzymes – stripping its benefits and much of its flavor. If coconut water is from concentrate, this would be the second time it’s heated. Obviously, your best bet is to seek out and find unpasteurized raw coconut water. This can be hard to find, but there is another way to kill bacteria while keeping the nutrients intact:  HPP (high pressure processing). Without using heat, HPP is best way to preserve the goodness in coconut water, while extending its shelf life a little to make it more available commercially.

Dipping whole coconuts in formaldehyde or sodium metabisulphite: It’s been reported that some non-organic coconuts may be preserved for transport to the U.S. by dipping them in chemicals, including formaldehyde a known carcinogen. This leads to the possibility that these chemicals seep into the coconut meat and poisons the water. Some of my favorite organic cafes avoid this by getting frozen coconut water shipped directly to them. 

We called up several of the most popular coconut water companies and asked where they source their coconuts (young vs. mature), if they dip them in chemicals, how they pasteurize them, and about additives and preservatives that they may use. We got a variety of responses, and it’s almost surprising to me how much some of these companies have screwed up something as basic as coconut water. I found several brands to avoid, because they are so heavily processed that the final product barely resembles natural coconut water.

Coconut waters to avoid at all costs:

Naked Juice Coconut Water - Although it’s not from concentrate, Naked told me that they use “mature” coconut water that is flash pasteurized with heat.  The plain variety doesn’t have any additives, but all of the flavored ones have added natural flavors. This is also a Pepsico brand – a company that spent over $4 Million dollars to fight GMO labels – so they aren’t getting any of my business.

O.N.E. Coconut Water – This is another Pepsico brand that is flash pasteurized with heat. The flavored waters “with a Splash of Fruit Juice” contain natural flavors and “sugar” as an ingredient.  As it doesn’t say “cane sugar” on the label, this could very well be from GMO sugar beets.  

Pepsico told me that they couldn’t confirm whether their sugar is GMO because:

the exact source of the sugar in our coconut water cannot be confirmed because we source our ingredients from around the world and that information is not available at this time. Please know that all of our products comply with all applicable food laws and labeling requirements. O.N.E. Coconut Water relies on the regulatory agencies charged with safeguarding our food supply when sourcing ingredients for our products”. 

They are relying on the FDA’s regulations to protect us, although the FDA themselves say that the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the safety of the ingredients used in their products, including GMOs. 

O.N.E. Coconut water

Zico - They sell two entirely different coconut waters depending on which packaging you choose. The waters in the bottles are made from concentrate and are a “blend of Asian coconuts” with natural flavors added. On the other hand, the ones in the tetra-pak cartons are not made from concentrate, have no additives, and contain only Thai coconut water that is packaged in Thailand. A bit confusing, isn’t it? While the tetra-paks (boxed) seem like a good choice, they use “Ultra High Temperature Pasteurization” to give it a long shelf life. This means it’s heated well above boiling point to 280 degrees Fahrenheit, which “kills everything” according to Scientific American, including beneficial nutrients. Plus, in case you didn’t hear the news, they were recently acquired by Coca-Cola – a big supporter of GMOs who have spent over 3.2 million to prevent GMO labeling.

CocoZona –  We called and emailed them on several occasions, and they never replied to any of our questions – not even a peep! I always find it alarming when a company refuses to stand behind their product and isn’t transparent about their practices, especially since some companies have been caught lying about what’s really in the bottle. So, at this point, we know little more than what’s printed on the bottle of CocoZona, and the ingredient list reveals that it is made from concentrate. That’s enough reason to stay away from it.

Vita Coco -  Don’t be fooled by all of those celebrity endorsements! Their waters are not made from concentrate, but they are all pasteurized with heat. Many of the flavored versions contain added sweeteners and the Cafe versions contain carrageenan. Even the seemingly plain 100% pure version contains added “fruit sugar.” Watch out for their coconut waters targeting kids, which are loaded with added sugar and many different natural flavors – they are not 100% coconut water! According to their website, Vita Coco Kids is also ultra high temperature pasteurized.

Vita Coco Kids

GOYA – This brand is heat pasteurized and contains added preservatives. Some versions are sweetened with sugar, which may be GMO.  Because I vote with my dollars, I avoid any GOYA brand product as they spent over $56K to fight GMO labeling in California.

C2O – They told me they heat pasteurize their water up to 120 degrees celsius once the product is in the can for as long as 5 minutes. Although, they use no additives or concentrates, the length of this high heat processing puts it squarely on my avoid list.

Purity Organic –  It’s made from concentrate and flash pasteurized with heat, so some of the goodness has been destroyed. It’s organic I know, but not all organic products use the best practices!

Coco Libre (Organic) – It’s  made from concentrate, flash pasteurized with heat and has added “natural flavors.”

How do other popular coconut waters stack up?

Munkijo (organic) – This water isn’t from concentrate, contains no additives or added sugars and their young coconuts are sustainably grown and harvested. But I’m sorry to report they also use ultra high heat pasteurization to process their waters, so it’s far from the best on the market.  

Coco Hydro by Big Tree Farms (organic) –  I really like Big Tree Farms’ mission geared towards sustainability. Their unique version of coconut water is powdered and comes in packets that travel easily. So, there is no pasteurization involved, you just add water to reconstitute it. However, the process they use to evaporate the water uses heat, so it is not considered raw and some of the nutrients may be destroyed in the process.

Taste Nirvana (organic) – No concentrates or additives in this brand, and their young coconuts are sustainably grown, harvested and organic (though not labeled as such). I really like how it’s packaged in glass bottles. They are the only company that told me they use a “steam sterilization” process which is a combination of steam and pressure.  

Amy & Brian (organic) - Other than the fact that they flash pasteurize the water, all other aspects are good – no additives, no added sugars, no concentrates. They also told me that their young coconuts are not treated with any chemicals or pesticides.  I have to admit though, I’m not a fan of the cans they are in, even if they are BPA-free.

Harvest Bay (some varieties are certified organic) – They flash pasteurize their water for about 2 seconds at 120 degrees, and it’s not from concentrate. Some of their waters are now organic, and they are all non-GMO project verified. Although they add no sugars or additives to their plain version, most flavored varieties contain added sugar or natural flavors, so I’d avoid those.  

Whole Foods 365 – They confirmed they don’t use a concentrate, however they heat pasteurize their water which comes “from around the world depending on availability”. Their water is also packaged in cans, which I don’t like!  

Trader Joe’s – Their water is not from concentrate, but it is pasteurized. I have yet to hear back from them in regards to how they pasteurize their water (whether they use flash or ultra processing).  They fortify their water with added vitamin C, which is a red flag that it has been heavily processed. 

My top picks for packaged coconut water:

***This chart contains examples of the coconut waters we researched, however, there are many more available on the market or may be available in your neck of the woods. Please use this post as a guide to find the best coconut water in your area.***

The Healthiest Coconut Water

While the best coconut water is straight from a young coconut picked from a tree, these packaged waters below are as close to the real thing as you can get. They don’t use any heat processing or concentrates, so they aren’t cooking your coconut water.  Some of them use HPP to kill bacteria, and a couple of these brands serve it up completely raw and unpasteurized.

Harmless Harvest (organic) – I’ve written about this brand before, and it’s no secret that they are my favorite. I had the pleasure of meeting with the founders of Harmless Harvest and I’m blown away with how open and honest they are about everything. They’ve become a success not because of marketing, but because of their good practices. In fact, they hardly spend any money on marketing at all (and bloggers are not compensated either). They source their young coconuts from small organic agroforestry farms that pay a fair wage to their workers. The coconuts are then frozen and shipped to the U.S. for packaging, after which they use HPP processing to kill bacteria and extend the shelf life to 60 days.  Because it’s so minimally processed, some of the waters turn pink when the naturally occurring antioxidants or phenols are exposed to light – and you won’t find this in pasteurized coconut water. You can find this at Whole Foods and most natural food stores in the refrigerator section.

Juice Press (organic)  - This water is totally raw. It’s not pasteurized or processed with HPP. Their coconuts are shipped frozen to the store and then they ship it fresh to you with a 3 or 4 day shelf life.

Exotic Superfoods (organic)  – Another fave, this water is 100% organic and raw. It is not processed with any heat or HPP – but it’s kept frozen to preserve freshness.  

Liquitera (organic)  - This bottled raw coconut water is also organic, without any pasteurization. It’s only available at their stores in New York.

Vital Juice (organic)  –  It’s never heated or frozen, and it’s preserved with HPP, 100% organic and non-GMO project verified. It is currently only available at stores in Washington and Oregon with plans of expansion, and you can also order it online on Amazon. 

Unoco (wild coconut)  – Made from wild coconuts (not from a plantation) and processed with HPP without any additives. It’s only available in California right now.  

Suja (organic) – Suja makes a coconut water blend, Tropicaloe, which is made from freeze-dried coconut water mixed with pineapple, apple, aloe, lime, mint and spinach juices, all preserved with HPP.  This juice is exclusively sold at Whole Foods stores.

Keep in mind that while I think coconut water is amazing, I don’t drink it every day, I use it as a treat or on days I am very active and sweat hard!  

If you know someone who loves coconut water or needs a great substitute for soda, Gatorade, Powerade or other unhealthy drinks – please share this post!

We must educate as many people as possible about their choices to change the marketplace. When we change the marketplace and start spending our money on the best and safest brands, we change the world! 

Xo,

Vani 

 

 

445 Responses to “How To Buy The Healthiest Coconut Water And Avoid The Worst!”

  1. kim

    Have you tried Harmless Harvest brand? Delicious! 100% Raw, never heated. USDA organic.

    Reply
  2. Betty Harmon

    Please let me know what you can find out about this brand below. Need to know the quality of it and is it safe?

    Swansons Ultra Coconut Water Concentrate.. Guaranteed purity and potency.
    Directions: mix 1 tbsp with 8 oz of water and shake before use Refrigerate after opening. 8 oz. container Total Price: $9.99 16 servings

    Question: is this made with heat?????

    Ingred: coconut water, ascorbic acid (Vit C)

    I sure would appreciate your input. Thanks! B Harmon

    Reply
  3. Real IronDAD

    Vani,

    Thank you so much for this amazing information. I am getting ready to do an unbiased product review for a new coco water on the market called BodyArmor. Did some digging and found out they are owned by the millionaire behind vitamin water, which I think was bought out by Coke. Crazy! I have some great fuel now to go into this event and will circle back around with you to let you know how it goes. Thanks again. You are amazing!

    Cory Warren aka “Real IronDAD”

    Reply
  4. Dee

    Harmless Harvest and the pink water… Not sold my family has generations of experience in with coconuts and their waters. No one has ever seen coconut water naturally turn pink… EVER. This is something they must be doing to the water some way they are treating it that makes it pink. Either leaching from the plastic or something they are adding to it. It was hard for me to explain to my family about pink coconut water just to find out from them if this was a natural thing.

    Other sources I have found mention pink = rancid

    Reply
    • Dee (to Dee)

      I would like to know if there is a video or some kind of documentation of the changing process from clear to pink? Sorry that I am so weary after all companies get away with saying things like “natural” yet many items would not be if man did not interfere with it.

      Reply
  5. Gen

    I am writing to enquire about a delicious coconut water under the brand JTs, it is available in most places in Australia now, it says it is 100% young green coconut water, nothing added, and is flash heated at 120 degrees celcius for 2 seconds….I have found it to be extremely hydrating and tastes like real coconut water, but I would love to know if this brand is actually any good, or do they to work under unethical practices?

    Reply
    • Gen (to Gen)

      oh and also it is $4 Australian for a 520ml can, they do have it in the fridge and on the shelves, it’s $10 for a carton.

      Reply
  6. taleen

    What about Amazon Coconut Water sold at Costco? My husband drinks 5+bottles/day & it seems a bit much to me! HELP!!! Do i need to put a stop to this addiction of coconut water of his????

    Reply
  7. Terri

    Could you give me your input on Foco coconut water (plain). Thank you. Terri

    Reply
  8. Nishi

    Hi , thanks for the info . As I come from Kerala in South India , I was very pleased to see the coconut water packages flooding tje market these days . I have been fortunate to drink this everyday wen I was young . Now in uk , it’s hard to get hold of this and I have bought the packs of the shelf . It’s definitely processed , as coconut water has a shelf life of only 1-2 days before it turns to toddy. The Thai and Indonesia brands do taste almost close to the real one . But not sure again of the quality . If u do get info of the best coconut drink available in U.K. , do let me know . Once again thanks .

    Reply
  9. Chris

    Nooooooo! I love vita coco though… Oh well now I know. I will look into organic coconut water if I can afford it

    Reply
    • Skye (to Chris)

      I live in Hawai’i on Maui island where fresh coconuts are readily available. I recently bought a Vita-Coco that was on sale and I was in a hurry. Awful!! So awful I had to ready the label and realized that although it says all natural has added sugar! Auwe!! And pasteurized?? Destroying the enzymes makes it practically valueless and at such a high expense. So grateful for this article and will now go back to going out of way to us fresh coconuts only. ‘Nuf Sed!!

      Reply
  10. acumulador de agua

    thanks for sharing, nice post

    Reply
  11. Terese Pette

    Please advise about live well 100 % coconut water . It boosts 100%
    Thank you!
    Terese Pette

    Reply
  12. Yonnett

    I grew up with coconut water my whole life in South America !!! I have never seen pink coconut water … But I did noticed when I bought one from whole foods in the shell that was from Thailand it was sort of pink so it’s possible depending on what part of the world it’s grown it may be possible!! Raw hamerless is not bad but still curious how it can be on the shelf for so long??

    Reply
  13. Yonnett

    Anything in a bottle is really a joke !! If God wanted the coconut in a bottle he would have done that from the beginning of times!!! It’s funny how all of a sudden everything is Organic and especially how everyone is ranting and raving about all these delicious fruit !!! But the truth is there is a variety for a reason everything in moderation … I remember as a child in South America if you use use coconut oil to cook with you would not want your neighbor to know since it was embarrassing ….they assume you were poor and could not afford real oil! Lol today everyone wants to cook with it !! You can make your own coconut oil grate coconut then add some water squeeze milk out completely then put the milk water in fridge….leave overnight then take the cream off when it separates and you can put in the sun for virgin coconut oil! Or you can cook it down until it turn to oil but it will take away the virginity of the coconut…

    Reply
  14. Dave

    Just found your site. Love it! Thank you for doing all the “grunge” detail work, and as an added bonus, you ask the right questions and have a solid b.s. meter! Love Harmless Harvest. Wouldn’t mind your take on “fermented” coconut water that you make at home using HH. Probably the ultimate in a healthy beverage.

    Reply
  15. Dave

    Do your research, people. Mine tells me “flash” pasteurization is no better than the longer kind. There are no degrees of death. I know I didn’t want to hear this, because in the case of coconut water that means paying three times the cost to get the raw unheated variety. Wishful thinking won’t improve your body’s health.

    Reply
  16. sarah

    What is the difference between coconut water and coconut juice?

    Reply
  17. Disturbed Mother

    VitaCoCo for kids- Awful product! Parents beware mold was found inside my daughter’s carton. The only way I found out there was mold is because it wouldn’t fit through my daughter’s straw as she tried to drink it! Please check each carton before giving it to your little .

    Reply
  18. Wijesiri

    We can supply Pure Sri Lankan coconut or King Coconut water. If anyone interested giving us an order we are so glad to serve you. Pls do not hesitate to contact us.
    Tel: (+94) 777 35 77 40

    Reply
  19. Sara

    Anyone know anything about Koh Coconut water? Saw it at Costco the other day

    Reply
  20. Skye

    I live in Hawai’i on Maui island where fresh coconuts are readily available. I recently bought a Vita-Coco that was on sale and I was in a hurry. Awful!! So awful I had to ready the label and realized that although it says all natural has added sugar! Auwe!! And pasteurized?? Destroying the enzymes makes it practically valueless and at such a high expense. So grateful for this article and will now go back to going out of way to us fresh coconuts only. ‘Nuf Sed!!

    Reply
  21. Michelle

    Trader Joes has an organic coconut water that is not from concentrate.. It is green with lines.. Any thoughts on that one? I noticed the one from Trader Joes that you have on your list/chart, is not organic..so I’m assuming it’s a different one?? I’m looking for one I can buy close to home. :/

    Reply
  22. lolo

    Have you tried Paradise 100% Coconut water that is made in the Philippines? it taste really good ! They also have an Organic option to this one and it taste even better! It’s like you’re drinking it straight from a coconut tree!

    Reply
  23. Chris

    Great Article. Really interesting about the coconut syrup – I’m a Gym Fanatic and Iv just come across an article on a brand called Coco Pro. IT has just as many grams of protein in comparison to my current protein shake with all natural ingredients. The worlds first high protein coconut water drink………Sounds too good to be true! Check out the article – http://blog.baaclothing.com/2015/02/cocopro-worlds-first-protein-coconut-drink.html

    Reply
  24. Nikul

    VANI PLEASE HELP!!!

    Hey how are you? I love coconut water, my mum and I buy the stuff in bulk! We have tried a few different brands. Today she brought home a few 1 liter cartons of ‘Tipco’ coconut water. The label claims the only ingredient is 100% coconut water! But the thing is that it is soooo sweet! Please if you know anything about this particular brand of coconut water (Tipco) let me know

    Reply
  25. steve

    i respectfully disagree with a number of points made in this article. i don’t drink coconut water for nutrition. if i want nutrition i eat a kale salad, etc. i drink coconut water for hydration and electrolyte replacement. i want it to be pure so i favor organic and i want it most definitely to not make me sick, so pasteurized works just fine by me. and i want it to be reasonably priced which most of the ‘raw’ waters are not. for me Trader Joe’s organic not from a concentrate coconut water, 17 oz. for $1.49 is delicious and exactly right. Please note i own no stock in the company :)

    Reply
  26. Pete

    I looked through the page, but couldn’t find any information – do you have any information on how Blue Monkey stacks up?

    Reply
  27. Sonia

    Hello I am a big consumer of coconut water from exotic superfoods, raw and organic it really tastes like you are drinking from the coconut but I noticed in
    A couple of times that some of them, after i open it in a couple of days it starts
    To turn pink, I read your posts but in no where there is an answer of WHY does this happens? Can you please reply if you know the reason.
    Thank you so much..

    Reply
  28. Katie

    Any thoughts on Zola coconut water with pulp?

    Reply
  29. Judith Curran (to kali)

    If I can help out in any way, I will do so Kali. Just e.mail me.

    Reply
  30. Elen Castleberry (to Adri)

    Even low temps for long enough time will destroy nutrients. Last time I looked this is an open forum. I can mention whatever I want.

    Reply

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