Food Babe Kitchen- Start Here Header

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 

 

 

Food Babe Kitchen - Book
Food Babe Grocery Guide

Sign Up For Updates

And Get A FREE Healthy Grocery Guide Sent To You Now!

Find out what to buy and where at the top grocery stores near you

Posts may contain affiliate, sponsorship and/or partnership links for products Food Babe has approved and researched herself. If you purchase a product through an affiliate, sponsorship or partnership link, your cost will be the same (or at a discount if a special code is offered) and Food Babe will benefit from the purchase. Your support is crucial because it helps fund this blog and helps us continue to spread the word. Thank you.

537 responses to “How To Buy The Healthiest Coconut Water And Avoid The Worst!

  1. Can you please tell me if it is healthy to get coconut water directly from coconuts and store it in fridge in plastic bottles? How long will that last ?

  2. My son has mitochondrial dysfunction and needs his coconut water for the electrolytes. ..has even kept him out of the hospital when ill and managed without IVFs. Was giving him plain ONE but no more dt the change in ingredients and def now after reading this article. Will now need to test out other coconut waters…maybe we should just move to Maui!

  3. Coconut water and sports drinks are all smoke & mirrors. Hydrate with water, take a multi-vitamin or two. For what a sports drink or coconut water in its most potent form, neither is even in the same league as a single multi-vitamin. Potassium in coconut water is overkill. Your body neither loses that much nor can use that much potassium to avoid muscle cramping.

      1. apparently you have never worked a labor intensive job day after day in the florida summer heat because i assure you losing the amount of electrolytes from sweating working in those conditions it is almost impossible to replenish you electrolyte levels. if you consume a lot of water after you have lost electrolytes it dilutes the electrolytes you have left and makes the problem worse. Sodium is probably the most important thing you need back in your system but stating drinking water and taking a multivitamin to maintain electrolyte levels is totally a false statement and makes it obvious you have no knowledge and have done zero research on this topic.

    1. How could water and multi vitamin be compares to coconut water? Coconuts are so good for you but don’t drink it like you would water. Taken in moderation there should be no problem with potassium levels. There are so many other good things, like polyphenols, enzymes, vitamins & other minerals that make coconut amazingly nutritious. Do some research on coconut water and while you’re at it, do some on those multivitamins as well.

    2. 98% of Americans are deficient in potassium. The daily requirement was raised to 4700 mg and it is very difficult to get it from food. Potassium from food is far superior to chemical supplementation. Coconut water is one of only a few natural sources of potassium so I am happy to have it. Low potassium effects blood pressure when you get to age 67 as I am, you would be wise to get your vitamins and minerals from natural foods. I recommend the App Chronometer-it will enlighten you.

  4. This is all very well but there is not one single brand from your acceptable list that is available in my area!

    1. I agree. There is no where to buy coconut water in my area. I have a trader joe, and Vani doesn’t talk about them. Harmless Harvest is $99.00 for a case of 12. I can’t get those..

  5. Hi. I live in British Columbia Canada and cannot find the brands that you suggested. Have you tried Thai Heritage Coconut Water and if so, what results have your found. Thanks

  6. Hi, I live in Mexico and buy Acapulcoco 100% natural coconut water sold at my local Sam’s Club. Is it one of the good ones?

  7. Coconut water is a marketing fad, and way over priced. Buy a packet of good quality electrolytes for less than a dollar that is more or lest the same as coconut water.

  8. I like this article.. But I don’t understand how you got through this whole article without mentioning Thai Young Coconuts. You know, the white pointy ones? They’ve been really popular lately. Are those coconuts good to eat?

  9. I have read this article a few times now and the brand I drink isn’t listed. It’s Zola distributed by Zola San Fransisco, CA 94107. It’s probably not a great one as it’s not organic and from concentrate but I love the flavor! They claim it’s GMO free. how does this brand rate on your scale?

    1. It’s from concentrate so just know that if you are looking for nutritional value, look elsewhere. If you just want a sweet drink/treat every now and again, it’s ok.

  10. I like this article, really helpful for finding the most nutritional coconut water.
    But all the GMO talk is distracting. There is nothing inherently bad about GMO foods. Why are you so opposed?

    1. GMO foods are often lacking nutrients or include added genes that make them rot proof or roundup proof. Either way, lets say you eat 2 corn on the cob, GMO. Then you get a stomach ache. It could be that you are unable to digest the franken food. Or your kids get sick. Then you spend a bunch of money trying to find out why you are all sick. That is GMO.

  11. What about Costcos Kirkland Signature Coconut Water? It says not from concentrate, no added sugar Ingredients show only coconut water and vitamin c

    1. I would like the answer to Kirkland, as well. Costco does an amazing job of researching the best products…

  12. Good Day!

    I really like your article and specially that you show people about the really awful products. BUT you have forgotten to mention cocowell. Definitely the best coconut water in the World. Awarded several times best coconut water and it is 100% organic and under permanent supervision due to european food regulations. And it is grown on an organic plantation in Brazil!

    You can contact me to find out more,

    Cheers Matt
    CEO cocowell South Africa

    1. Would you tell us how it is processed- steam and sterilization? I am very interested in learning & hearing what you would share with us…How is Cocowell packaged? Pls do come back and educate us….so many are looking & needing a company to trust in. Thank you very much.

  13. Coco Zia? Just bought a case … :/ Hope it’s ok. Ingredients say 100% organic cno and has the usda seal (not that I trust usda..)

  14. Harmless Harvest should be in your second from top category. They are Raw and Organic with all of the nutrients present (evident in the pink colour in many bottles)

  15. My family always drinks coconut water. I am reading your book the food babe way and you talk about harmless harvest. I research everything before I just believe something, and I noticed they had a law suit against them for lying about being organic in 2017 2 years after you backed them in 2015.. do you still stand by them? Trust them?

  16. Thank you for a very informative article Vani! It’s so important to point out these differences between an actually very healthy product to consume and something that has been stripped off most of its nutrients and over-processed, but is still marketed as ”healthy.”

    I’ve linked to your article on my coconut blog.

    Thank you for all you’re doing!

    Erika

  17. what about the HUGE class action suit brought against Harmless Harvest??? – supposedly they are not what they are advertising.

  18. Taste Nirvana was sued and lost, admitting that they add HFCS and cane sugar and water to their product. Here’s a quote from the court records: 50.

    Wattanaporn met with Farmkind and admitted that his production process was far less “natural” than Defendants represented. Wattanaporn admitted that significant amounts of water, sugar, and additives including coconut extract are added to all Taste Nirvana Products. Wattanaporn further admitted that this process decreases production costs and enhances the final product’s flavor and fragrance

    If you want coconut water buy coconuts and get the water out of them. This is a fad and just as fraud is in olive oils it’s in coconut water. It’s all HFCS and added sugars. BAD BAD BAD

  19. I didn’t see KOH listed. What is your take on it? I use to think coconut water was disgusting, until I had it right from the coconut in Thailand. I have drank Harvest Bay from green coconuts and it doesn’t taste to bad. I was looking at trying KOH, but can’t find any reviews on it.

  20. I love how diligent and committed you are about your health, and informing others about what they are consuming- thank you! Thank you a thousands times!
    Could you please tell me, if you know how does the coconut water brand “Grace” rates in your scale? That is about the only coconut water I find appealing to my taste.
    Thank you!

  21. Fresh coconut will start going bad within an 1/4 of an hour, the fridge may extend that to 12 max24 hrs, but I don’t ,try it.
    Additives and pasteurization are necessary unless you open the coconut and drink it then and there. Freeze it thor it, ??? buy it fresh or tolerate the preserving methods
    A liar uses no preserving means or added coconut flavors

  22. I used to recommend Taste Nirvana to others because I believed it to be 100% coconut water per the bottle. However…I just noticed tonight they must have changed! Because their new label lists these ingredients: coconut water, coconut essence, less than 1% fruit sugar, vitamin C. It used to just be plain and simple coconut water. What the heck happened??

  23. Be good to see an updated (2019) list including:
    Trader Joe’s Organic King Coconut Water (Sri Lanka).

  24. Hello I was wondering if you have any info on the wild harvest brand 100% coconut water? I’ve found it in my local grocery and love it. I just read your article and now I’m wondering if it’s any good. Thank you

  25. Hello, my name is Markus and I was wondering how you feel about ‘Azul’ found at nearly all Dollar Tree stores. THANKS.

  26. Hello, what is your recommendation on Cocoking? I find it to be the best tasting but it has added sugars, and contains “sodium Metabisulfite”? I am pregnant and was suggested to try coconut water for the nutrients. Is it odd that coconut waters all taste so different from one another as well? Shouldn’t they all taste like “coconut water”?

  27. Do you know if the Sprouts Farmers Market coconut water is something to avoid? It says it’s non-GMO and 100% coconut water but who knows about heat pasteurization

  28. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and detailed breakdown. Really appreciate it. Harmful Harvest has always been my favorite as well, but I am concerned about its credibility now after reading about the lawsuits against them — apparently they’re saying the product is not actually organic or raw. What are your thoughts on this? It seems like you have more insights after having met with company members. Thanks!

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalnewsline/2017/01/10/coconut-water-no-longer-raw-after-1-million-class-action-settlement/#752719f04ce0

  29. I dont see a problem with GMO. Being “organic” is just a trend for people who are picky eaters and they’re just looking for an excuse to be picky.

  30. Hi was wondering if you’ve ever heard of chaokoh coconut water I use to go get at our Asian market it’s imported from Thailand was wondering if they were bpa free or didn’t use alot of processing

  31. Any info. on Walmart Organic Great Value Coconut Water, 100% Organic, not from concentrate, no added sugar, no preservatives per the packaging. The ingredients list state organic coconut water. It is in a can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

food babe with grocery cart - footer image