Full Disclosure: Recently, I was contacted by Epicurex (makers of Cocozia Coconut Water).
They offered me a free case of unflavored Cocozia to try in return for writing a fair and honest review.
My opinions cannot be bought, sold, or tampered with, and since they had no problem with that I readily agreed!
Coconut water is currently *the* IT drink, rumored to soon be a billion dollar industry.
Major players like Coca-Cola (Zico) and Pepsico (O.N.E.) have conquered much of the market.
And … oh my stars and garters … do a little Googling and prepare to have your mind blown. Chicken Little bloggers and quasi-health experts claim coconut water can cure anything and everything from cancer, crow’s-feet, and fallen arches while warning the wrong brand of coconut water will cause irreparable harm.
So to them I say …
“Save the drama for yo’ mama!”
Being a practical vegan, I will attempt to sift through some of the drama, heavy breathing, and hyperbole to discern the actual facts, so you can make informed choices about coconut water!
Let’s start with a few random things you should know about any and all coconut water …
Your first sip of coconut water may not be what you expect. I think I – and many other people – expected coconut water to taste more like, well, coconut milk. Thick and creamy and ultra-sweet. But coconut water is actually the clear liquid inside young, green coconuts. It is – true to its name – watery, with a slightly slippery feel on the tongue. The taste is slightly sweet, green, earthy (some say grassy or nutty).
Coconut water may be an acquired taste for some. Some people love their first sip of coconut water, some don’t. I speculate that’s because coconut water tastes very different from other beverages we drink in the States.
Coconut water can also taste very different depending on whether young or mature coconuts are used (younger is better).
Finally, even where the coconuts are grown (Brazil, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines) can affect taste.
So, if you think you don’t like coconut water, try another brand (or two) before giving up! Think of it like wine, maybe. There’s a vast difference between Merlot and Zinfandel and Cabernet. Just as there is a vast difference between Zico and Trader Joe’s and Cocozia. Sip around.
Coconut water is a great home remedy. Due to its high potassium and mineral content, this drink is perfect if you have a stomach flu, diarrhea, hangover. I also know several people who swear it’s helped with migraines, menstrual cramps, morning sickness, and restless legs. Possible – because those conditions can be worsened by electrolyte imbalances.
But coconut water is not magic. Be skeptical of wilder claims – coconut water alone is not going to cure or prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, or Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Coconut water is nature’s sports drink. Because of the high levels of potassium, magnesium, and other minerals, coconut water first found popularity hundreds of years ago in Asian countries for those working outside in the hot sun. Today, it’s a very popular and healthy alternative to sports drinks (like Gatorade and Powerade) among weekend warriors. The high potassium and magnesium ward against muscle cramps. Wimbledon tennis player John Isner is a big proponent of coconut water, mixing it with sea salt and protein powders.
Benefits of coconut water vs. sport drinks and sodas include less sugar, sodium, artificial sweeteners, and dyes.
Coconut water is absolutely awesome chilled.
Coconut water is also great mixed with citrus juices. Try oranges, pineapple, mango – or anything “tropical.”
What do critics say about coconut water? (“Real” critics, I mean, like doctors and R.D.’s.)
Calories can add up fast if you’re not careful … water has less calories. Well, duh! Obviously it’s not a good idea to replace your 8 daily glasses of water with 8 glasses of coconut water. However, most do agree it’s a very healthy upgrade from a sports drink, cola, or sugary juice.
Coconut water doesn’t have as much sodium as sports drinks. True! But, most of us are not “serious” athletes and we get more than enough sodium in our daily diet. I don’t think lack of sodium is an issue for most Americans. If you are a serious, competitive athlete, like John Isner, you can always use coconut water for the base of your own power drinks and smoothies.
People on restricted potassium intake should avoid coconut water. Well, this one has some merit. Coconut water does have a lot of potassium and if you are on a potassium-restricted diet it’s best to avoid it (also bananas). Hopefully, however, if you are on a restricted potassium diet your doctor has already coached you about what foods to eat or avoid. If not, check your insurance – many insurances will pay for one or more visits to a Registered Dietitian if you have special eating requirements.
It’s really important to remember that most of us do not need to worry about overdoing our potassium intake – 98% of Americans are deficient in potassium! So for the majority of us, more potassium would be a good thing, not a bad thing.
And now … let’s talk about Cocozia!
Cocozia has several flavors of coconut water (chocolate, coffee, mango, and pineapple). This review is for the plain, unflavored version.
Taste: Very “clean.” A little green. Decidedly less sweet that many other coconut waters – but still sweet enough. Less “earthy” or “murky” than most. Not bitter at all. Little to no aftertaste (some coconut waters have a quite strong aftertaste). A great coconut water to try if you’re new to coconut water, or have tried packaged coconut water in the past and didn’t care for it. The taste is clean and neutral enough to work well mixed in juices and smoothies.
Dribble-Free Packaging: Cocozia’s tetra paks come with this absolutely adorable telescopic mini straw. Maybe I’m clumsy, but it seems every time I try to drink straight from the “mouth” of a tetra-pak, I wind up dribbling liquid all over myself. Not the worst look in the gym but rather harder to pull off if you’re working in a bank and trying to convince people to trust you with their money. I realize most men do not care about dribbling, but for us ladies, that straw is effing awesome.
USDA Organic: Cocozia is 100% organic. You’d expect all coconut waters to be organic, since they are marketed as “pure Coconut water” and “100% natural,” but many brands are NOT! Some popular coconut waters that are not organic include Naked, O.N.E., Vita Coco, and Zico.
The Organic Question:
How important is it that coconuts be organic?
Do coconuts fall more within the “dirty dozen” (foods you should ALWAYS buy organic) or the “clean fifteen” (foods it’s ok to buy conventional if your budget is tight)?
Opinions are mixed.
Some say coconut shells are so hard, pesticides and other chemicals cannot possibly get through.
Others say the three soft spots on a young coconut, called the germination pores, can easily let chemicals pass through.
To be on the safe side, I personally prefer to drink organic coconut water. Not only for my health, but for the health of farm workers and the environment.
Kosher: Cocozia Coconut Water is kosher. This might be an important distinction for some.
The Formaldehyde Question:
Are young coconuts really prepared for transport by soaking them in formaldehyde?
My heart skipped a beat when I first heard this rumor about a year ago, but fortunately that’s all it is – an urban rumor. Promulgated by Chicken Little bloggers and people with a few organic coconuts to sell.
Young coconuts are not soaked in formaldehyde, but in water that contains a very small amount (maybe 1% – 3%) of sodium metabisulfite. This is a food-grade antioxidant and preservative used to prevent mold. Furthermore, coconuts are not “soaked” for hours but rather “dipped” for 3-5 minutes.
Sodium metabisulfite is also used extensively in dried fruits and vegetables (apples, prunes, bananas, apricots, tomatoes) and occurs naturally in vinegar and wines. So, it’s really not anything scarier than what you are probably already eating.
Of course, it may still be wise to choose organic to limit your overall exposure to chemicals.
THOSE WHO ARE SENSITIVE TO SULFITES OR SUFFER MIGRAINES SHOULD ALWAYS CHOOSE ORGANIC COCONUTS AND COCONUT WATER!
No Added Sugar. Remember how I noted Cocozia tasted decidedly less sweet than some other brands? There’s a reason – many brands of coconut water have added sugar. Of course, you’d expect added sugar in some of the flavored coconut waters – chocolate coconut water, for example – but not in plain, “unflavored” coconut waters like Vita-Coco or Goya.
Why is sugar added to a supposedly 100% “pure and natural” product? In some cases it’s probably just to appeal to Americans who are used to sickly-sweet sodas. In other cases, it’s likely the coconut water came from mature coconuts instead of young, green ones. Water from mature coconuts is less expensive, BUT it’s also more acidic. Added sugar helps mask the taste.
Non GMO Project Verified. This was another claim by Cocozia that had me scratching my head. Coconuts are not high on the list of foods that have been genetically modified. Did this claim mean genetically modified coconuts were on the horizon? A little Googling, however, gave me some clarity. Sweetened coconut waters use a range of sweeteners from cane, beets, corn, and rice – some of which may be GMO. At least one brand, Coco-Vita, uses “natural fruit sugar,” from pears and apples. This sounds enticing, until you realize the fruit could still be GMO or non-organic! Sneaky, eh?
Another reason to choose non-GMO coconut water is because so many of the big brands (Zico, O.N.E., Goya) are owned by companies that spend millions of dollars fighting GMO labeling. I’d rather purchase from a company like Cocozia who proudly labels their products non-GMO verified.
The Pasteurization Question:
Is it true that pasteurizing coconut water destroys all the “magic”?
Lately, according to quasi-health experts, pasteurization is the new boogeyman. Supposedly it destroys flavor, kills all vitamins, nutrients, and enyzmes as well as bacteria, and even causes cancer!
But pasteurization has been a method of preserving food since the 1100’s. (Yes, Chinese monks were treating wines to avoid spoilage several hundred years before Louis Pasteur was born.)
In a (coco)nutshell, pasteurization consists of simply heating food to a high temperature for a few seconds (literally, one to four seconds, depending on the food)! This is done for health and safety reasons – to kill dangerous microbes and bacteria (such as salmonella, e.coli, and listeria). Depending on the food being pasteurized, taste could be *slightly* affected and the level of nutrients/enzymes *slightly* lowered. The difference in most cases is minimal.
Reality Check #1: Milk and almost every single fruit juice or vegetable juice you buy in a store has been pasteurized. (Yes, even Odwalla and Bolthouse Farms green juices.) It’s not just coconut water. Most likely, you’ve been drinking and eating pasteurized products for years. But if you don’t have a problem with your pasteurized orange, grape, or apple juice, you shouldn’t have a problem with pasteurized coconut water.
I’ll admit, raw, unpasteurized coconut water comes very close to the taste of sipping straight from the coconut. The downsides are: It’s expensive. It can be difficult to find. And it often requires being frozen/refrigerated (which makes it inconvenient and possibly unsafe to just toss in a backpack or gym bag).
Of course, if you follow a raw diet you’ll want to hunt out raw, unpasteurized coconut water. Which brings us to …
Reality Check #2: A raw food follower may be enticed by an “pure” and “100% natural” unpasteurized product. But read your labels carefully! As we’ve already covered, “pure and natural” does not necessarily mean organic or gmo-free! You may wind up with an unpasteurized drink that contains pesticides and nasty chemicals (plus maybe some bacteria).
The FDA is also questioning the safety of unpasteurized coconut water. Its initial focus appears to be on the bottled and frozen brands of coconut water. After an FDA investigation in November 2014, Exotic Superfoods recalled its Young Thai Coconut Water product. Apparently, Exotic Superfoods was willing to go to HPP (high pressure processing, generally considered MUCH safer than bottling and freezing) but even that did not appease the FDA’s safety concerns.
Calories, Minerals, Electrolyte Content. In comparing nutritional information between coconut waters, I noticed Cocozia had slightly more calories than the rest (70 calories compared to an average of 60) but also higher levels of minerals and electrolytes. This included higher than average levels of potassium (730 mg), Magnesium (20%), and even iron (8%).
There are two possible explanations:
Nutritional Content was misrepresented on the label (highly unlikely after the $10 million class action lawsuit against Vita Coco for inflating the nutritional value of its coconut waters); or
Other brands are watered down – which reduces the calories and also, electrolytes and minerals.
I loved Cocozia because of the smooth, pleasant taste and the dribble-free packaging. It’s also organic, GMO-free, no added sugars, and a higher-than-average percentage of minerals and electrolytes. Definitely a quality product.
Cocozia is currently expanding into stores across the country. If there’s not a location near you, you can also order from Amazon.