CHEF TIMOTHY: Coconut water is one of the most popular beverages available on tropical islands and resorts. It has been for hundreds of years. It is an all-natural, hydrating, nutrient-filled, clear fluid that is found on the inside of the fruit, which is encased in a hard brown shell. You'd need the proper tools to crack the shell and extract the liquid.
I'm often asked about the benefits of drinking coconut water and why it seems to be the drink of choice for a lot of people. Coconut water has been traditionally used to treat a variety of health problems, such heat strokes, digestive complications, constipation, dehydration, diarrhea, fatigue, hives, low libido, and urinary tract infections. It has been shown to improve one's overall health.
With the hot summer months approaching, coconut water not only prevents dehydration – which is caused by disease – it can be used to prevent exhaustion and assist when asserting or engaging in excessive physical activities. It also has been known to cool down or regulate body temperature.
The benefits of coconut water has even been recommended by the World Health Organization as an effective tool in the battle against dehydration caused by dysentery, cholera and other dehydrating diseases. More deaths occur as a result of the aforementioned diseases than the infections themselves.
Staying hydrated is the key to surviving the summer heat wave. In extreme conditions, the heat wave will continue to sizzle well into the night and make it very uncomfortable for most people to relax and fall to sleep. Coconut water, in this case, can be used to hydrate the body.
Coconut water has been a beverage of choice for many years in Asia and the Pacific. So why did it take so long for it to surface in North America? Transportation. Coconut water has to be refrigerated during the transportation process and must not come into contact with oxygen.
The fruit itself has a very short life span and likewise must not come into contact with oxygen for too long. Fermentation will begin and the coconut and water will taste sour and smell. It will attract bacteria and complications will arise after it is digested.
The commercialization of coconut water prevents it from fermenting and souring as quickly as the natural fruit. However, the rich flavors are lost when processing fresh coconut, which diminishes the nutritional value as it does other processed foods.
As with any commercial product, coconut water must be pasteurized – just like milk – to kill bacteria. Some products, however, are stored on shelves for months and even years. Coconut water can be frozen for no more than two months, however.
If you choose to drink commercial coconut water, the nutrients that are naturally found in the fresh coconut fruit and water are lost due to the high temperatures used in the sterilization process. For example, coconut liquid is pasteurized at 400°F.
If you are shopping for a coconut, don't be afraid to ask how long the fruit was transported or how old the coconut is? In some cases, ask if you can open the coconut to be on the safe side. You don't want to leave the store with a bad coconut.
There are so many benefits of drinking fresh coconut water versus sugary, commercialized drinks. If you want to remain hydrated, refreshed and relaxed, you'd need to stay away from high calorie drinks, which can cause a number of health problems.
In some cases, you might not be purchasing real coconut water, as advertisers would have you to believe. So do yourself a favor and purchase a young coconut and enjoy the taste. But don't forget to drink plenty of water, because coconut water cannot replace a refreshing glass of water.