Health: Cuckoo For Coconut!


Story by 12-year-old “Veggies Go Crunch” blogger Kaynan Goldberg. Photo by Chandrika Nair.

Cary, NC – Coconut.  Just say it.  It’s a fun word.  It’s also an interesting one. 

Monkey Face

The origin of the word “coconut” comes from the Spanish word “coco,” meaning “monkey face.”  Apparently, somebody thought that the three holes in the coconut looked like a monkey’s face.  Personally, I think they look more like bowling balls.  Go figure.

Coconut Water

Anyway, coconuts are really good for you.  Or rather, the things you can make with coconuts are really good for you.  I don’t recommend eating a plain coconut.  At least, not the outside.  The white bit inside, known as the coconut meat, is actually pretty tasty.  Some other good things you get out of coconuts are coconut water (the clear liquid inside), coconut milk (made with the meat), and, my personal favorite, coconut oil.  We’ll get to all of these guys, but today, I’m going to talk about coconut water.

Coconut water is a clear liquid found in unripe, a.k.a. “green,” a.k.a. “young” coconuts.  The reason it isn’t found in mature coconuts is that as a coconut ripens, the liquid in it hardens, turning into the white meat inside.  The meat that’s in young coconuts is more like jelly, all soft and squishy.

Coconut water is becoming a pretty big thing in the food world – it’s refreshing and it tastes tropical.  However, that’s not the reason that natural grocery stores are stocking their shelves with bottled coconut water.

The real reason is that it’s so good for you.  (Why else would I blog about it?)  It’s a great all-natural sports drink.  It’s full of electrolytes, which are kind of like electricity for your cells.

When you exercise, you sweat, and when you sweat, you lose electrolytes.  This is bad, because then your cells don’t have the juice they need to run.  That’s why Gatorade makes a big deal about their high electrolyte count.  Coconut water has roughly the same amount of electrolytes, with an extra bonus: no gross chemicals!  So if you’re a big fan of sports drinks, you might want to try coconut water instead.

Another great thing is that, fresh out of the coconut, it’s one of the purest drinks on the planet.  It’s even been used in emergencies during WWII as IV fluid for dehydration, although hopefully you’ll never have to use it like that.

Hammer and Nail and Other Techniques

Where can you get coconut water?  Well, if you don’t have your own coconut trees (our friends in Florida actually do have a few in their backyard), you can go to your natural grocery store and find some young coconuts.  They’re in the produce section – you can’t miss ‘em.  They look like a cross between a UFO and a tiki hut.  They cost around $2, and yes, they aren’t local.

Coconuts, and all coconut products, are in that group of things we don’t get from the farmers’ market.   When you buy a young coconut, you take it home and cut a hole in it.  This can be done many different ways, from banging it monkey-style on a rock (crude, but effective) to drilling a hole in it with a power tool.  We usually use a hammer and nail.

When your coconut has a hole in it, you just pour the liquid out.

The Easy Way

If you don’t have the time (or willingness) to go through all that trouble, you can buy packaged coconut water.  It’s sold at most natural grocery stores, and in some supermarkets.  It comes in glass or plastic bottles, or Tetrapaks.  There are lots of different brands, so try a bunch and see which kind you like best.   A single serving can cost $1-$3, and you can also buy a box of about 12 containers at the store.  Some brands even have different flavors, from pineapple to chocolate.

Coconut water is great.  It’s healthy, it’s refreshing, and it’s pretty delicious.  So go out and try some, if you haven’t already, and tell everyone what you recommend!

More from Kaynan

Read more from Kaynan’s blog here.