Coconut water is the liquid content of young, green coconuts, and is used as a natural source of hydration, electrolytes, and trace minerals in a liquid form that has less sugar than traditional sports or energy drinks.
It has benefits ranging from heart health to diabetes control to sports performance. It’s a highly versatile supplement with a wide range of applications.
We’ve identified and ranked the ten best coconut water brands on the market right now—read on for details.
1. Harmless Harvest Harmless Coconut Water
Harmless Harvest has one of the most-lauded coconut water products on the market thanks to its simple formulation, high quality, and organic certification.
This alone puts it well ahead of much of the competition, as you can be assured that it is free of pesticides and fertilizers. These advantages make it our top choice.
2. Amy & Brian Coconut Water
Amy & Brian Coconut Water is known for its minimal processing, Thailand-sourced young coconuts, and fresh taste.
It’s a favorite among coconut water enthusiasts who value the quick flash pasteurization process, which some people believe preserves more nutrients, and the fact that there are no additives or preservatives included.
3. Nature Factor Organic Coconut Water
Nature Factor Organic Coconut Water is a convenient source of coconut water that comes in a tiny 10 ounce can, and is certified organic as a bonus.
If you don’t need the larger serving sizes typically found in coconut water cans and bottles, it’s an excellent choice, and the lack of artificial pesticides and fertilizers in the coconut growing process is even better.
4. Blue Monkey Coconut Water
Blue Monkey contains pure coconut water and no additional ingredients or additives. This keeps the sugar content low and the nutrient content high.
Users find that Blue Monkey has a consistent taste, which some manufacturers struggle with given the natural variability in the chemistry of the coconuts they grow.
5. Vita Coconut
Vita Coconut tends to be a sweeter and milder coconut water product than some other competitors, but it doesn’t have any additives or sweeteners, and it is not made from concentrate. It’s a solid, straightforward choice for rehydration or health.
6. Obrigado Coconut Water
Obrigado Coconut Water is a little different in that it sources its coconuts from Brazil, as opposed to Southeast Asia like many other brands.
This gives it a slightly different taste, which might make it a good choice if other coconut water brands taste a little off to you. This coconut water is also free of additives and is not derived from concentrate, so it’s a good choice for health and wellness.
7. Taste Nirvana Premium Coconut Water
Taste Nirvana makes a pretty solid coconut water that is sourced exclusively from Thailand coconuts and never made from concentrate.
The taste is a little fuller, richer, and nuttier than other coconut waters, which makes it a favorite among consumers with discriminating tastes.
8. Zico Natural Coconut Water
Zico is a very popular brand of coconut water that is made from coconuts grown in Thailand, but there is some concern about the ultra-high temperatures used to pasteurize the product and give it its long shelf life.
It’s a consistent and reliable coconut water product, but it gets outclassed by some of its competitors.
9. C2O Coconut Water
C2O is a coconut water brand you’ll commonly find at major grocers, and while it’s a fairly typical coconut water with no sweeteners or extra ingredients, it ranks a little lower than average because the company is a little vague on where the coconuts are sourced from, plus the fact that other brands have perks like organic certification and coconuts that come from a single source, and are likely more fresh.
10. Bai Coconut Water
Though it’s immensely popular, Bai Coconut Water scores very poorly compared to other coconut water products on the market.
It uses a range of non-caloric sweeteners to augment its taste, and the coconut content comes from concentrate, not from fresh coconuts. A few preservatives and antioxidants are added to the mix, but the net effect is a negative one.
Coconut water benefits and side effects
Coconut water is produced by draining the liquid at the core of a young, green coconut. This liquid, dubbed coconut water, is rich in electrolytes and is slightly sweetened by coconut sugar, but is fat-free—the coconut oil in the flesh does not mix with the coconut water.
The result is a beverage that is rich in antioxidants, high in potassium and other electrolytes, and sweet, but not as sweet as a traditional sports drink.
Because of these features, coconut water has become known as “nature’s sports drink,” but also proves useful for improving health conditions from heart health to diabetes.
It’s a beverage that applies to a wide range of people, which accounts for its wide popularity.
Coconut water is an effective sports drink for athletic performance. When undertaking continuous or intermittent high-intensity exercise, your body needs a sports drink with electrolytes and simple carbohydrates for optimal results.
According to a position statement from the American College of Sports Medicine, a carbohydrate and electrolyte containing sports drink during prolonged intense exercise is recommended for optimal sports performance (1).
Electrolytes are intended to replace the minerals lost during sweating, and carbohydrates provide the fuel to continue intense muscular contractions.
In addition to sodium, the primary electrolyte lost during sweating, coconut water also contains trace elements like magnesium and potassium, which are also lost during exercise—albeit at lower concentrations (2).
Coconut water is easier on your stomach than a traditional sports drink. Research on sports drinks in ultra endurance athletes has established that the optimal concentration of carbohydrates in a sports drink for optimal performance is within the range of 3-5% by mass (3).
Traditional sports drinks are on the high end of this range, and some trend closer to 6% carbohydrates by mass. The problem with this, according to Nancy Rehrer at Otago University in New Zealand, is that people vary widely in how quickly their stomach can empty out a sports drink, and higher concentration sports drinks can cause problems for these people.
People on the low end of the natural variation spectrum tend to be the ones who get stomach aches and other gastrointestinal problems when they consume traditional sports drinks. Coconut water varies somewhat in its sugar content, but it’s typically closer to 3% carbohydrates by mass.
This makes coconut water a lot less likely to cause gastrointestinal distress when taken during exercise. If traditionally-manufactured sports drinks give you stomach problems when you exercise, give coconut water a shot instead—it might be just what you need. The lower carbohydrate concentration is less likely to lead to stomach discomfort during exercise.
Coconut water might help control diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels. Initial evidence from animal models suggests that coconut water can help control high blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Kerala in India tested the effects of a coconut water drink in experimentally-induced diabetes in lab rats (4). The researchers found that the coconut water created an antioxidant and blood-sugar lowering effect in the rats treated with it compared to rats with no coconut water.
This suggests that coconut water could end up as a useful therapeutic treatment for people with diabetes, and moreover, could result in less severe of a spike in blood sugar levels compared to a traditional sugary sports drink.
Coconut water could help decrease levels of blood lipids. Levels of blood triglycerides are a known risk factor for heart disease, and coconut water appears to be an effective way to control them, at least based on some animal studies.
One paper published by two researchers in India in 2009 in the Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that coconut water could reduce blood lipid levels in rats fed a diet high in cholesterol, which is known to raise blood lipid levels (5).
By comparing two groups of rats—one fed coconut water, one fed regular water, but both fed a high cholesterol diet—the researchers were able to demonstrate that the coconut water substantially reduced the rats’ levels of blood lipids.
This suggests that coconut water could be a useful way to reduce your own risk for heart disease, especially in the presence of a diet high in cholesterol. This does need to be confirmed in research on humans, but these initial results are promising.
Since coconut water is derived from a safe and well-tolerated food, the chance of side effects are very low—certainly no more than if you’d eaten food containing coconuts.
The only issues some people may run into are 1) the sugar content in coconut water and 2) the use use of sugar alcohols as a sweetener in some brands of coconut water.
The sugar content could disrupt a ketogenic diet if you are attempting to keep your carbohydrate content very low, since coconut water averages about a gram of sugar per fluid ounce of liquid.
With regards to the sugar alcohols, these can cause gastrointestinal distress, but in almost every case you should be opting for a coconut water drink that does not have any additives anyways, so with a high-quality product, this won’t be an issue.
For sports performance, drinking coconut water to thirst (i.e. drinking until you are no longer thirsty) appears to be adequate for maintaining optimal performance.
This generally results in a slight loss in body weight; losses of up to 2% of your total body mass are not expected to affect your athletic performance (6).
The fluid intake required to maintain at least 98% of your pre-exercise body mass is obviously going to depend on the ambient temperatures, with higher intakes in hotter temperatures.
For optimal health benefits, we need to extrapolate from animal studies for lack of clinical trials. If you directly translate the dosage of coconut water used in animal studies into an equivalent dose for adult humans, this works out to about two or three liters of coconut water every day.
That might be a bit excessive, though, and studies have not compared various doses of coconut water in humans. It’s probable that lower doses would still be effective, without the adverse metabolic effects of the high sugar content of such massive intakes of coconut water. A dosage of more like half a liter (about 16 fluid ounces) per day is a good place to start for most people.
Coconut water is an effective sports drink and a promising beverage for overall health as well. It’s got the carbohydrate and electrolyte content in the right concentrations to serve as an adequate sports drink, especially for people who can’t stomach a more concentrated traditional sports drink.
The somewhat lower concentration of carbohydrates makes it easier on the digestive system while still providing the fuel you need to perform well. On the chronic disease front, there is evidence that coconut water lowers blood sugar and blood lipids, albeit in animal models.
While more work needs to be done to confirm these findings in humans, it looks like coconut water is an effective adjunctive treatment for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which are linked to high blood sugar, as well as a way to reduce your risk of heart disease by reducing your blood lipid levels.
Drinking to thirst in sports events, or drinking about half a liter of coconut water per day for general health (perhaps more if you aren’t bothered by the sugar content) seems like a good place to start to get the health benefits of coconut water.