What Is Coconut Water? (And Can It Save You on a Deserted Island?)

If I’ve learned anything from film and television, it’s that if I am stranded on a deserted island there are three essential things I must do to survive: build a fire, befriend a monkey, and become well-versed in smashing open coconuts. Even though that’s what happens in fiction, it turns out that the coconut part could actually help in real life. So let’s investigate the potentially life-saving properties of the coconut and its water.

What is coconut water?

The coconut is the fruit of the coconut tree, a palm that can trace its roots to Southeast Asia in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. It has a thick, greenish yellow outer skin that surrounds an extremely hard shell, which is probably what you’re more familiar with seeing in grocery store aisles or from clacking two halves together to make the sound of a galloping horse.

If you have the patience and determination to actually get inside the shell, that’s where the edible part of the coconut resides. There’s the white fleshy part, often called the “meat,” and a large amount of clear liquid that is commonly called “coconut water” (in the Philippines, it’s called buko juice). 

Coconut water is used in a lot of Filipino cuisine in dishes like nata de coco and binakol soup. However, it is most popular there and in many countries as a beverage, often drunk straight from the fruit. In the past ten years, coconut water has been commercialized quite a bit in Western countries, and coconut water brands like Vita Coco, Harmless Harvest, and Goya can be found pretty much everywhere. 

Coconut water vs coconut milk vs pressed coconut water 

Coconut water is the purest form of the drink. Some commercial products are described as “pressed,” which means that it has pieces of the coconut meat inside it as well. Think of it as the orange juice with pulp of the coconut water world. Because it contains tiny bits of coconut meat, it has a white color, as opposed to the clear color of coconut water. 

Coconut milk is another thing entirely. Producers shred the meat from a mature coconut and press it to extract liquid. Because the liquid comes from the meat, it has a much higher fat content than coconut water and a milky consistency.

What is in coconut water and is coconut water healthy?

Coconut water has become very chic these days thanks to its many purported health benefits. However, there is still a certain amount of misinformation about what it potentially can or cannot do in regards to your health. Even medical professionals are split on its benefits and the myths surrounding them

One undeniable fact about coconut water is that it does naturally contain electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and manganese. And, while it is still caloric, it has far fewer calories and added sugars than traditional sports drinks, so it is a fine substitute for post-workout or post-night out replenishment. Any other health benefits that commercial coconut water claims to offer, like lower blood pressure or better kidney health, must come with big “may” or “could” caveats. 

The other undeniable fact about coconut water is that it tastes great, is refreshing, and, while it shouldn’t completely replace regular water in your diet, it’s a fun way to change things up every now and then. And, if you find yourself on a deserted island, it could very well save the lives of both you and your monkey friend. 

best coconut water brands

Best Coconut Water

Now that you know all about coconut water, find out about the best coconut water you can buy at the grocery store.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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