1. Real Food Is Inconsistent
The only foods that are absolutely consistent in terms of nutritional value in a laboratory environment are manufactured foods. Real foods can vary in nutritional make up, depending on soil conditions, water, location. In fact, the FDA allows a 20% variance in nutritional claims.
Michael Kirban, the founder and CEO of Vita Coco, said the company is investigating and questioning the accuracy of the ConsumerLab.com results. Because Vita Coco is a natural juice, the nutrient content can deviate slightly from the label. But the company tests multiple batches of the product every month and has never encountered variance greater than 15 percent, which falls within the Food and Drug Administration's 20 percent allowance, he said.In general, coconut water does contain water, sugar, salts, and electrolytes including potassium without extra high fructose corn syrup, bright blue or red food coloring, and binders to hold it all together.
2. A Healthy Alternative to Water
If you are looking for an alternative to water that offers hydration with no additives, artificial flavors and colors, oils, or extra sugars, coconut water works well. While not everyone loves the taste, that is a personal preference and some manufacturers like Zico (interestingly enough the most consistent of all the brands tested) make naturally fruit flavored alternatives.
As with most fruits and vegetables, you will get the greatest nutritional levels from the freshest green coconuts. In every stage of the manufacturing process from the moment the coconuts are cut and drained, the liquid is pasteurized and packaged, travels, to the moment we open the container, the nutritional levels begin to drop. But again, this is true for every single fruit and vegetable - freshest is usually best.
Of all the water replacement beverages out there, even the least consistent coconut water will be better for you than sugar filled juice drinks, juice cocktails, standard sports drinks, and sodas. And coconut water is definitely better than artificially sweetened and colored diet sodas and "light" juice drinks, including all the different flavored powders on the market now.
3. Lawsuits Are Often Frivolous
I know, you just can't even believe I would say this, but it's true.
Edwin Aiwazian, a lawyer who represents Shenkman in both suits, said his client is an avid runner who turned to coconut water for its purported "super-hydrating" attributes. When Shenkman learned of the ConsumerLab.com study, he was "disheartened" and decided to take legal action, Aiwazian said.So this runner, who is apparently still running and feeling fine, and doesn't seem to have suffered at all from drinking coconut water, is "disheartened" at the lab results and therefore suing. Was there a problem? Did he suffer any ill effects from drinking coconut water? What am I missing?
At least in the infamous McDonald's coffee lawsuit it was found that the typical 160-180 degree coffee that McDonald's served was in fact hot enough to cause scalding burns to human skin within 7 seconds of contact and McDonald's knew this was a problem. However, we also know that coffee tastes best when brewed quickly at very high temperature, and even today the majority of McDonald's breakfast customers say they want their coffee "steaming hot."
4. It's Not A Replacement, but An Addition
We seem to always be looking for replacements. What can we drink instead of water? Where can we get potassium other than bananas? Can't we replace whole fruits and vegetables with juice or enriched drinks?
We would also prefer that the replacements be perfect. We want the mega super awesome ultra nutrition packed alternative with all the benefits of the original, and if we can't have that we get upset, and sometimes we sue. According to Catherine Pearson for Huffington Post,
The ConsumerLab report does state that the drink is "a good source of potassium," which is key to maintaining muscle and nerve function. According to Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, this may be the beverage's greatest attribute.If you like coconut water, in my opinion it is a perfectly healthy water alternative that offers a few electrolytes and other goodies under its hood.
"What coconut does have is higher levels of potassium than a lot of other foods," she explained. "The American public in general, if they're not eating enough fruits and vegetables, they're not getting enough potassium."
5. It's All Just Marketing
Vita Coco (which happens to be my favorite) claims that it's product is "100% natural with no fat or cholesterol, five essential electrolytes, and more potassium than two bananas." Zico (which to me always tastes of the plastic bottle) claims that it is "The Ultimate Hydration Drink," but for the same reasons. O.N.E. (which I also like but don't see as often) makes the most far-reaching claims, stating that "coconut water...has proven to be more effective than hydrating with plain water. Coconut water contains all five of the essential electrolytes (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and sodium) needed for effective rehydration. Coconut water is especially rich in potassium — 15 times the amount of potassium as most sports and energy drinks."
But in the end it is all marketing, and it is unfortunate that we live in a society where consumers have stopped thinking critically and therefore feel misled by marketing. I find it interesting that the plaintiff in these lawsuits, Kevin Shenkman, is himself an attorney. Yet somehow this presumably bright man with good enough critical thinking skills to pass the LSAT and the bar exam is upset and "disheartened" because a natural juice beverage might have inconsistent amounts of sodium and magnesium.
Frankly, I am more than disheartened by his attitude and I plan to continue drinking coconut water. I hope you will do the same. Here in the Caribbean, when I cannot get fresh green coconuts I actually drink canned Goya brand unsweetened coconut water, which wasn't even included in the testing.
In the end, eat healthy whole foods, drink plenty of water (including coconut water if you like the taste), and exercise daily for optimal health and wellness.