Are Your Nuts Green?
For many cultures throughout the tropical world, the coconut palm has been their tree of life for centuries, utilized for food, drink, oil, medicine, clothing, matting, baskets, building materials, roofing, fuel and the list goes on.
In recent years Western cultures have “discovered” the health and nutritional benefits of products derived from the fruit of the coconut palm.
For the last 75 years or so, Western “health experts” edible oil manufacturers and dairy produce` manufacturers vilified coconut products, particularly coconut oil as being unhealthy for human consumption. In recent years, a surge by enlightened consumers towards healthier, more natural, less additive adulterated foods and beverages has led to a rapid rise in the global consumption of coconut products.
The meteoric rise in the consumption of coconut juice, or as it is more popularly called coconut water, with its major rehydration and health benefits, has been spectacular. Coconut water has the fastest growing beverage sales around the world.
I have been asked, “Do you sell fresh, young green coconuts? I only want fresh, I do not want canned or bottled coconut water, fresh from the coconut is best” and I agree, however premium quality, fresh young green coconuts are not readily available in Australia. Apart from a few drinking quality coconut palms imported from overseas over the last couple of decades and planted here, the bulk of coconut palms planted in Australia were for copra production and are inferior for drinking.
Unopened green coconuts, if kept at the optimum temperature between 2-4degrees centigrade may keep for up to 2 to 3 weeks, however the taste and quality is markedly degraded if not rancid. Similarly, the white, plastic wrapped diamond cut coconuts available at supermarkets, as time from picking in the plantations to shelf in an Australian supermarket is at least four weeks. White diamond cut supermarket coconuts are white as a result of being soaked in a bath containing a solution of Sodium metabisulphite and occasionally other chemicals before being dried and plastic wrapped. Failure to chemically preserve the outside of the coconuts would result, within days, with fungus and mould covered coconuts.
Young green coconut water is very delicate, once the coconut is opened the water begins degrading within hours, even if refrigerated.
For maximum health and nutritional benefits, coconut water must be derived from young green coconuts. The water, extracted from the coconut within hours of picking, should immediately on extraction be packed in ice and chilled while held for the canning or bottling process, which again should take place within hours of extraction, as previously mentioned coconut water is the most delicate of all fruit juices and deteriorates rapidly after extraction.
Young, green coconut water contains a complex blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, antioxidants, bioactive enzymes and other nutrients.
In the tropics young, green coconut water has been used for generations to treat the dehydrating effects of cholera, dysentery, influenza and other infectious diseases. Plain water is ineffective in treating severe dehydration. Young, green coconut waters unique blend of minerals and nutrients enable rehydration of the body and provide energy to help fight off infection.
Young , green coconut water with its electrolyte content of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals is similar to human blood plasma and compatible to it, making coconut water a natural and superior sports drink compared to manufactured beverages.
Young, green coconut waters natural sterility and compatibility with the human body has enabled doctors to use, in times of plasma shortage, the water intravenously direct from the coconut to the patient.
Young, green coconut water is an ideal beverage for pregnant or nursing mothers as in addition to previously mentioned minerals and nutrients also contains folic acid, lauric acid and niacin, all necessary nutrients for a healthy baby.
Young, green coconut water is suitable for diabetics, it can improve blood circulation and blood flow and improve insulin sensitivity.
Unfortunately in Australia few coconut water brands available here are produced from premium grade young, green coconuts, Coconut Groove being one of them. The majority of coconut waters available here are from inferior grade coconut water produced as a by-product from older “mature” coconuts grown primarily for their white “meat”. Most of the mineral and nutritional content of the water inside these coconuts is now contained in the nutritious “meat”. Recently I had a long conversation with the General Manager of one of the biggest coconut product manufacturers and coconut plantation owners in Thailand. He told me these “mature” coconut waters are regularly diluted on a one part coconut water to one part plain water, effectively doubling the amount of “coconut water”. Additives and essences or flavouring is then skilfully added to enhance flavour and texture, making it very difficult to tell the difference between the pure and adulterated coconut water.
If a can, Tetra Pak or bottle has a photo or diagram of a green coconut featured on the front label, it DOES NOT MEAN the contents are young green coconut water. Read the ingredients on the back of the can label. If “young green coconut water” or at least “green coconut water” is not stated then it may well not be.
I was amazed to learn that the top selling Certified Organic coconut waters in Australia are from mature coconuts.
In particular the contents of most of the litre size Tetra Pak and plastic bottles now on the market are derived from these inferior grades of coconut water.
Due to the Western Worlds rising demand for coconut products over the last few years the wholesale cost of coconuts has increased. Retail prices for coconut products in the countries of origin have also risen.
There is no such thing as cheap or inexpensive coconut water, there is only premium, inferior or in between. You get what you pay for.
I taste most coconut waters released onto the Australian market.
As a rule of thumb I find the smaller size 250ml to 330ml Tetra Pak coconut waters to be of medium quality. Aluminium cans and plastic bottles of any size are generally poor to medium quality. Better quality coconut waters are generally in steel cans (BPA free) or glass bottles.
Many people see the words “Coconut Water” on a product and automatically think it is good for them, it may not harm them, however unless it is from young, green coconuts, the benefits they derive from that product may be minimal.
There are several basic, though not infallible tests for coconut water quality.
If the coconut water has a discernible coconut taste, or has a slightly oily texture, it’s a fair bet it has been made from inferior grade “mature” coconut water.
If the coconut water has a thin, watery taste, in all probability it has been diluted with water.
Quality coconut water should have a pleasant slightly sweet taste. Coconut water taste will vary between different areas and countries. The taste can be influenced by soil type, whether grown in salty areas close to the ocean or grown inland, climate, time of year picking takes place and variety of coconut. Each new batch of pure coconut water can have a slightly different taste due to any of the above factors.
The lower the sugar content (natural fruit sugar, not added sugar) the lower the quality of the coconut water, correspondingly as the natural sugar in coconut water is the energy source, the lower the sugar content the lower the energy value. Quality energy is expensive, be it for body, home or car.
Young, green coconut water sugar content comprises of approximately 67% glucose and 33% fructose.
The glucose is rapidly metabolized by the cells, giving a relatively quick energy burst. Fructose must be broken down by the body into glucose before cells can utilize fructose energy.
In effect young, green coconut water is both a quick and a “slow release” energy source.
I have personally tested young green coconut water from coconuts picked while visiting the Thailand plantations. The water tested contained a sugar level of 7% or more.
Over the last few years there has been a lot of negative press regarding sugar consumption. I agree with limiting or removing processed sugar from the diet, however the body’s major source of energy is derived from sugar (carbohydrate) broken down into glucose. Fat is another source of energy however it is slow to digest and break down into glucose before it can be utilized by the cells. It is folly to lump natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables into the same bracket as foods with added processed sugar.
Distributors of some brands of coconut water claim their product has the lowest sugar content on the market. In effect they are saying we have the lowest energy value coconut water in Australia.
At the Coconut Groove cannery in Thailand, every batch of young, green coconut water being prepared for canning, is tested for sugar content. Any batch testing below 5.5% is rejected as inferior quality.
Traditionally Thai coconut plantations are organic. Many people are misled into paying high prices for Organic Certified products, including coconut water, thinking Organic Certification equates to quality. It does not. Organic Certification basically purports that the certified product is grown and processed in a chemical free environment. Product quality is not assessed or controlled.
All coconut water imported into Australia, by law is pasteurized in one form or another.
High temperature is deleterious to vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients.
The safest heat pasteurization method with negligible effect on the nutritional value of the coconut water is low temperature extended time pasteurization. Up to 65degrees Celsius is regarded as a safe temperature. Coconut Groove is steam pasteurized at 49degrees Celsius, after it has been canned. The laboratory tests for the nutritional panel on the back of the can are done in Sydney after the pasteurisation process.
Some coconut water companies proudly proclaim they use the “flash” pasteurization method, in fact they are admitting to the destruction of heat sensitive nutrients in their coconut water. Flash pasteurization may be of short duration, however at temperatures of 71.5 to 74 degrees Celsius it kills enzymes, the majority of healthy microorganisms and denatures proteins. Flash pasteurisation is conducted prior to canning or bottling, leaving the coconut water at risk of coming in contact with spoilage organisms before or during the canning and bottling process.
Coconut water can be an acquired taste, unfortunately there are coconut waters being sold in the market place that frankly, taste disgusting, if someone who is unfamiliar with the taste of coconut water drinks one of these coconut waters as their first taste, they often react by saying “If that’s coconut water I’ll never drink it again”, which is unfortunate as they miss out on the health and nutritional benefits of a great beverage.
David Hughes, the founder of Coconut Groove coconut water, has spent many years during his lifetime living and working in Pacific Island communities, and has been a consumer of coconut products, particularly coconut water for decades.