Coconut water

I wrote an article earlier this year about tender coconut water, the fluid found in the immature green coconuts sold by the roadside, for our local expat associations magazine. The virtues of coconut water are being discovered in the West and there is much discussion about its value as a post-workout drink, so I thought I’d write about it again here.

Coconut sellers are dotted all round the city, and next to any road in South India; vibrant green, occasionally mottled, nuts either piled up high forming a little stall, displayed on a hand cart or hanging off the side of  an old, rusty bicycle.  Normal tap water is not really potable, so these coconuts provide a safer option to assuage the thirst of the passing traveller – the fluid inside the green coconut is sterile as long as the nut is not damaged and there are reports that it has been used as an intravenous fluid in cases of severe dehydration when sterile normal saline is not available. Not one to try at home though!

Harvested from trees in clusters when they are between 5-7 months old, these immature nuts contain between 200mls-1 litre of sweet, unctuous water that is highly refreshing on a hot summers day and incredibly nutritious and healthy, and possibly the secret to youthful skin!! The water is contained within a gel like flesh on the inner lining of the nut and tastes very different to the milk taken from the coconut meat (see Cocoloco). This is the endosperm of the nut and contains simple sugars fructose and glucose. These sugars change and become more complex as the nut matures, as does the flavour. Once fully matured, 90% of the sugar content is sucrose which gives it a much sweeter flavour and higher calorie content.

Coconut water though is very low in calories – only 19 calories per 100ml – and contains excellent amounts of potassium and good amounts of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins along with an impressive array of amino acids, cytokines and other antioxidants. This is what makes coconut water such a great medium for rehydration, specifically the potassium content which helps the body to revitalise at cellular level. And probably why the sports and health foods industry are beginning to promote this as a wonder product – with a wonder price! Seeing a bottle of coconut water on sale in the UK back in the summer, I was stunned to see it carrying a price tag of £2.50 – they cost Rs 15 here (equal to 17p).

Coconut water is a fantastic fluid replacement drink post diarrhoea, and much tastier than those revolting rehydration salts. My poor husband has been so sick the last few days with a nasty case of ‘Bangalore belly’ and has managed to recover drinking glass after glass of chilled coconut water. Lemon juice can be added to increase the flavour – I have a friend who added fanta, but not sure that’s such a good thing (you know who you are!!).
Along with hydration, tender coconut water aids digestion (in Ayurveda it promotes Agni, digestive fire), its antiseptic properties kill intestinal worms, helps clear urinary tract problems, increases mental concentration, helps cleanse the liver and reduce jaundice and, apparently, is an aphrodisiac! So even with a hefty price tag, you can’t really lose!

But that’s not all! Tender coconut water is reported to be wonderful for the skin (as are other coconut products). It can help prevent prickly heat and reduces and soothes rashes from chicken pox, measles, sunburn and just general random itching. It’s light, cooling properties soothes and calms. This is particularly useful in general skin care. If you have oily skin, tender coconut water can be used as a skin cleanser. For all skin types, it can also be dabbed on the delicate skin areas underneath the eyes – it soothes puffiness and hydrates the skin thereby reducing wrinkles. I must say, I’ve not tested this yet, but will soon and eagerly await good results!

So if you ever get the chance to stop at a roadside coconut seller, you can either drink it there and then (watch out how clean the straw is though!) or get the vendor to prepare the nut for easy opening at home, unless you happen to have your own machete in the kitchen drawer that is! Once opened, coconut water starts losing it’s beneficial properties and if left more than 48 hours could turn bitter and unpalatable. I don’t know how the coconut water that ends up on the shelves far away from their origins is prepared and stored, but it probably has lost a fair amount of goodies and maybe flavour. When I finally return to the UK at the end of the year, I’ll give it a go and see how it compares. Maybe it will bring back some amazing memories!

Published by

One thought on “Coconut water

Leave a Reply