Nutrition By Darren 35to65’s Brand Picks (Nutrition/Hydration): Coconut Water There’s a lot of hype surrounding Coconut Water these days. After years of declining tolerance to the caffeine in Coffee and the sweeteners in Sports Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, I decided to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Note: To those of you that have read my previous post on Coconut Water, “Coco– for Coconut Water”, you may not want to read this report from the beginning. If you are already familiar with what Coconut Water can do for you and your Sports Performance levels, you may want to jump ahead to our DO’s and DON’T’s for selecting the healthiest brands followed by our Top 5 Recommendations. For the rest of you….. The Problem With Using Caffeine and Sugar to Refuel The problem was I got older. No really, my body got older and I was having more and more problems staying focused, alert, and balanced when exercising intensely or playing competitive hockey, soccer, or tennis. At that time I knew my body required both Hydration (Water) and Electrolytes (see below for definition) to keep me going strong and I started drinking copious amounts of Gatorade mostly because I didn’t know where else to turn for those Electrolytes. What happened was I did get the additional support my body needed with the Electrolytes but I also got a free bonus— bitter blood sugar battles. Coffee and Gatorade (and a few other sports drinks I subbed in from time to time) were great initially in that they would provide a big jolt of energy (in the forms of caffeine and sugar) and I would feel invincible for a few minutes but a few minutes later if I didn’t “refuel” with another cup or squirt, I would start to crash and feel supremely fatigued. Worse yet even is that neither of those states would give me a feeling of control as I continually bounced from one to the other and my blood sugar battle took attention, focus, and ultimately performance away from my battles on the rink or on the field. I was frustrated and fed up. I was looking for anything to help, even a sign from Heaven. Enter Heavenly Mist Hawaiians refer to Coconut Water as “Noelani”, which means ‘mist (or dew) from the heavens’. Coconut Water is a natural Electrolyte replenisher that can help you kick your heavily processed and sugar-filled Sports Drinks to the curb (like I’ve done now) but it is also so much more. In physiology, according to The Free Dictionary Online, an Electrolyte is any of various ions, such as Sodium, Potassium, or Chloride, required by cells to regulate the electric charge and flow of water molecules across the cell membrane. Perhaps most importantly with Coconut Water you get not only Potassium as an Electrolyte but also the Master Super Micronutrient and Alkaline Mineral Magnesium (see more I’ve written on Magnesium or how to easily increase your Magnesium levels in a relaxing bath here). Finally, you also get very low calories, a natural better source of glucose, no fat, and very little Sodium. Amazingly, Coconut Water is so pure and similar to human blood chemistry that in World War II both American and Japanese doctors used it in times of emergencies in place of Electrolyte I.V. solutions. In english, all those great sounding important minerals and attributes translate to one thing I cared about: PERFORMANCE. Now all I had to do was figure out which of the hundreds of brands (and types) of Coconut Water I should be drinking or does it even matter? Is Coconut Water merely coconut water? Coconut Waters Were Not All Created Equal When I first heard about Coconut Water, I thought eww, that sounds awful and didn’t give it a second thought. Years later when I actually tried some (Blue Monkey in a can), I thought, well it’s not quite as awful as I’d imagined but still not something I’d ever want to drink regularly, sports performance enhancing or not. After weeks of research and lots of conversations with regular drinkers, I soon learned however that Coconut Waters were not all created equal. The best (and thankfully best tasting) are all natural and some brands are infinitely more processed than others which often drastically reduces the quantity and quality of nutrients available. Basically the rule of thumb is that the less processed and more natural your Coconut Water (and most other food and beverages) is, the healthier it will be for you. How Coconut Water Transformed My Game I now use Coconut Water (as a vital component of my Sports Hydration regimen) mainly to replenish my Electrolytes during times of high exertion and have found it to be vastly superior to the regular sports drinks in nearly every way. You don’t get the “Sugar Highs” and you don’t get the “Sugar Crashes”. You simply get sustained energy and/or quick recovery without the uncertain feeling of a high speed roller coaster common to regular sports drinks. Even better, you don’t feel jittery or out of control. You feel calm, balanced, and in control, ready to handle anything your opponent might throw at you. In essence, it gives you back your game and control of your performance. When before I often felt like I was running on autopilot during a game and constantly having to check my fuel tank levels, now I felt powerful and in control, knowing my fuel would last as long as I required it. If you’ve never tried Coconut Water during exercise or competitive sports, I highly recommend it– it is transformative. DO’sand DON’T’s: What To Look For When Choosing Coconut Waters For some people Coconut Water is an acquired taste and it certainly took me a little time to get used to the taste of most of the brands I tried. However, the ones listed below were generally an exception in that most people that I sampled them with (especially those already familiar with the taste of Fresh Coconut Water from Young Coconuts) became instant fans. With that said, there are some attributes commonly found in Coconut Water today that you surely want to steer clear from like the ones in the list below: Coconut Water – DON’T’s Avoid at all costs: 1) Concentrate 2) Pasteurized/Heated 3) Added Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners 4) Artificial Preservatives, Flavorings, or other Chemicals 5) Sourced from Mature Brown Coconuts instead of Young Thai or Young Green Coconuts Note: For a more detailed explanation of what these DONT’s are and why these are attributes you want to avoid when selecting Coconut Water (and other beverages), Harmless Harvest has a great glossary of common industry used (and often misleading) packaging and labelling terms at: http://www.harmlessharvest.com/glossary Coconut Water – DO’s 35to65’s List of The Healthiest Coconut Waters: #1 1) Fresh Organic Young Thai Coconut (The water from the natural fruit itself, not a brand of Coconut Water) http://www.rawguru.com/organically-grown-young-green-coconuts.html http://www.melissas.com/Sweet-Young-Coconut-p/220.htm The best place to find young coconuts are in Asian Markets. Sometimes supermarkets will have them or will special order them. #2 2) Feeding Change (Formerly “Organic Lives”) Young Thai Coconut Water (Raw, Organic, and Frozen) http://www.feedingchange.me, Vancouver, Canada based is also available at some Whole Foods, Choices, and Pharmasave locations. Note: Feeding Change also sells Coconut Meat and Coconut Oil #3 3) Exotic Superfoods Coconut Water (Raw, Organic, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Kosher, Frozen) www.exoticsuperfoods.com,also available all around New York, and in some Whole Foods. Note: Exotic Superfoods also sells Coconut Meat Note: Both Feeding Change and Exotic Superfoods sell their Coconut Waters completely frozen. It takes around 6 hours to completely unfreeze them and you should not consume before they are completely unfrozen and well shaken. Once unfrozen and opened, you should consume within 6-7 days to maximize taste and nutrients. Alternatively, they can remain frozen for around 6 months if desired. #4 4) Harmless Harvest Coconut Water (Organic, Sustainably Produced, HPP (High Pressure Processing)) http://www.harmlessharvest.com, currently available only in the US at most Whole Foods, Costcos, and some Health Food Stores, Markets, or Co-Ops. Note: According to Harmless Harvest, “HPP is a process where thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch are applied to coconut water bottles in a cold water bath that evenly distributes the pressure. This pressure acts on cell membranes within the bottles and delays the development of naturally occurring microflora. Studies on overall effects of HPP on enzymes show varied results based on the makeup of what is being processed, as well as the duration, temperature, and amount of pressure used. These results range from enzymatic denaturing, zero effect, to even stimulating the activity of the enzymes. In our coconut water, there is very little change between enzymatic activity before and after HPP.” #5 5) Taste Nirvana Coconut Water (Organic, Raw, Sustainably Produced, Available in Glass Bottles, Combination of Steam and Pressure) www.tastenirvana.com, also available at some Wholefoods locations. Note: Taste Nirvana makes available its Coconut Water in both cans and glass bottles. Glass bottles are likely superior for both retaining nutrients and for minimizing ingestion of pollutants commonly found in plastic containers like BPA and BPS (Bisphenol A and S). Conclusion: If your brand is not one of the 5 above, more than likely it subscribes to one or more of the DON’T’s above. Maybe it’s time to switch your brand or at least try a couple of the “Healthy 5” we recommended above so you have a basis for comparison. If you want to read more about Coconut Water, you can click over to my previous post, “Coco– for Coconut Water”. Disclaimer: The Top 5 Healthy Coconut Waters are 35to65’s ultimate recommendations based on Darren reading and experimenting with everything he could find about Coconut Water (including numerous blog comment threads) and corresponding with some company reps and/or owners about some faqs (and some less frequently asked questions). We have not performed any scientific analyses to determine if any of the brands contain everything (and only) everything they claim to. Furthermore, Exotic Superfoods is the only brand on the list that has not been taste tested. However, from all Darren has read and heard about Exotic Superfoods, it deserves a spot on this list. Fuel up and stay healthy my friends!