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. 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. For all of these reasons, it is our number one choice.
2. 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.
3. ONE Pure Coconut Water
ONE Pure Coconut Water is a great balance between purity and great taste. It’s free of unnecessary additives, and the organic certification means that you can be assured that it is free of pesticides and fertilizers. It’s a very solid all around pick.
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. MOJO Pure Coconut Water
MOJO Pure Coconut Water is a super-simple coconut water that comes in a recyclable aluminum can. The taste is pretty middle-of-the-road, and while it does not have an organic certification, it’s still got a simple formulation that makes it a good choice.
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.
Who should buy coconut water?
If you’re turned off by the high sugar content in most sports drinks or artificial ingredients and high caffeine content of energy drinks, but want something that does a better job at hydrating and boosting performance than just plain bottled water, you should really look into coconut water.
It contains several trace minerals and vitamins, including the essential electrolytes potassium, sodium, and magnesium. On top of that, it contains just the right concentration of carbohydrates for optimal sports performance, at right around 3-5% carbs by weight.
This is enough to keep the flavor of coconut water sweet, and to deliver carbohydrates to your muscles during intense exercise, but not so sweet that it will upset your stomach during exercise. Higher concentrations of carbohydrates like you might find in some commercially available sports drinks drain more slowly from your stomach, increasing the chances of gastrointestinal distress while exercising.
If you are trying to keep your blood sugars under control and wean yourself off sugary drinks, coconut water is a great alternative to soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. While it might be best to drink something without any calories at all, like tea or coffee, sometimes you need something that provides at least a little energy.
It may even help control your blood lipids, which are an independent risk factor for heart disease. Coconut water has gained a reputation as a stereotypical “healthy drink,” but this reputation is well-deserved: it tastes great and has numerous health benefits to back it up, making it a much better choice for everyday hydration than soda or sports drinks. While it still has some calories, there aren’t nearly as many as a super-sugary soda or another sugar sweetened beverage.
How we ranked
The benefits of coconut water can be traced to its natural, unaltered ingredients and chemical composition. Because of this, we sought out only the purest and simplest coconut water brands on the market for our rankings.
We immediately discounted anything that used sugar to add sweetness to coconut water, as this would defeat much of the purpose of drinking coconut water. We also had a strong preference for simplicity: we particularly favored brands that presented coconut water with as little processing as possible.
We still considered products that had sweetener as long as they were non-caloric, like stevia, but these wound up lower in the rankings than coconut water products that used no sweeteners at all.
To keep coconut water from spoiling, it’s first pasteurized to kill off bacteria that could make the coconut water go bad. However, some health food activists have argued that high temperatures and long pasteurization times can destroy some of the beneficial compounds in coconut water.
Because of these concerns, we had a preference for products that used flash-pasteurization, which is faster and (hopefully) less destructive to some of the more delicate compounds in coconut water.
Unlike something like a zinc supplement, where you can just look at the dosage to measure the quality of the supplement, coconut water poses more of a challenge.
As a surrogate marker of quality, we looked for indicators like organic certification and labeling that indicated where the coconuts used were grown.
Coconut water products that supply this kind of information are more likely to be higher in quality and more pure in their composition. We also looked to user feedback on the consistency of the taste—manufacturers that source coconuts from all over the world have a harder time keeping the taste consistent, while makers with better control over their sources of coconuts have an easier time with consistent-tasting coconut water.
After considering all of these criteria, we ordered the remaining products by their overall quality. Our final rankings represent the best options on the market right now if you are looking for a top-quality coconut water drink.
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.
Some of the antioxidant effects of coconut water can be attributed to beneficial bacteria in coconuts. New research is shedding light on the mechanisms behind at least some of the benefits of coconut water, and might have implications for the kind of coconut water you should drink.
A study published by a team at the National Institute of Technology in India analyzed the source of some of the antioxidants in coconut water, and discovered that they were synthesized by bacteria within the coconut (6).
There are a few important implications from this study. The first is that shorter pasteurization procedures are probably better from the perspective of preserving some of the probiotic bacteria in the coconut water.
Second, there might be even greater health benefits from fermented coconut water, which is a new frontier in coconut water supplements that you should be on the lookout for.
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.
In a few rare cases the high potassium content of coconut water can pose problems, if you have pre-existing conditions and you consume a lot of coconut water over a long period of time.
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.
People who have diabetes and are taking medication that affects potassium levels shouldn’t consume large amounts of coconut water on a regular basis.
While the high potassium content of coconut water is one of its health benefits, people who have diabetes can have a hard time regulating potassium levels, especially if they are on certain medications for diabetes, according to a case study published in the journal Practical Diabetes (7).
The study details the case of a 62-year-old who started drinking a liter of coconut water every day, and experienced a slow accumulation of potassium in his blood. While the problems caused by this high level of potassium were reversed after he stopped drinking coconut water.
This case study suggests that you should consider coconut water like any other supplement—if you have a chronic medical condition and especially if you take medication to control it, you should talk to your doctor about any potential interactions before starting to use it, especially in large amounts.
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 (8).
Since the composition of coconut water is so close to an optimally formulated sports drink, you can just replace sports drinks 1:1 with coconut water if you already have a hydration routine that you follow.
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.
Q: Does coconut water taste like coconut?
A: Yes, though coconut water has a much milder and more complex flavor than you might expect if you are used to artificial coconut flavoring.
Coconut water has a light, airy flavor that is sweet but not overpoweringly so, and has just enough flavor to tell that you are drinking something with a bit of carbs and electrolytes in it. This is definitely part of its popularity in tropical regions, as it’s great to drink on a hot summer day.
Q: Is coconut water good for sports?
A: Yes, coconut water is an excellent replacement for a traditional sports drink. While Gatorade or Powerade use added sugar and artificial flavoring, coconut water is all natural and has only the naturally occurring sugars in coconuts.
It has just the right concentration of carbohydrates to provide your body with energy during exercise without causing an upset stomach or stomach cramps. If you still want to perform well in a high-intensity activity, but want something healthier than a traditional sports drinks, coconut water is an excellent choice.
Q: What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?
A: Coconut water is harvested from green (unripe) coconuts by punching a hole in the hard outer shell and draining out the liquid. Since it doesn’t involve extracting any coconut pulp, coconut water has very little fat in it.
In contrast, coconut milk is made by taking coconut pulp and boiling or soaking it in hot water. This allows the natural oils in coconut to be released, which results in a very thick liquid that’s rich in MCT oil. Coconut milk is usually too thick to drink on its own, but is great for cooking.
Q: What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut oil?
A: Coconut oil is made by pressing coconut flesh to extract the oils, in a procedure not unlike what’s used to make other plant-based oils like olive oil.
As a result of the pressing procedure, coconut oil has almost no water in it, making it well-suited both for cooking and for cosmetics use. Coconut water barely contains any fat at all, because it’s extracted from only the liquids at the center of the coconut, which do not have much in the way of fat in them.
Q: What’s the healthiest kind of coconut water?
A: If you want your coconut water to be healthy, you should strive to get a product that has no added sugars or artificial ingredients.
Because coconut water has become so trendy, there are a lot of low-cost brands that use coconut water alongside other ingredients, often sugary ones, to sell products.
From a health perspective, these sorts of coconut water products are not ideal. You want something that’s pure coconut water with no added sweeteners, like the coconut water products at the top of our rankings.
Q: What is coconut water?
A: Coconut water, in its simplest form, is the liquid that is found in the middle of a coconut. Most commercial coconut water comes from green, unripe coconuts, as these coconuts are sweeter and have a better flavor than the liquid inside a brown, fully ripe coconut.
After this liquid is drained out from the center of the coconut, it is pasteurized and bottled or packaged in a sealed format to keep it fresh. Since coconut water does not contain any of the flesh of the coconut, it is very low in fat, unlike other familiar health products derived from coconuts (namely coconut oil, MCT oil, and coconut milk).
Coconut water has moderate amounts of carbohydrates (circa 3-5% by weight) and is high in electrolyte, making it a great natural alternative to sports drinks.
Q: How is coconut water made?
A: At small scales, you can get coconut water just by puncturing a hole in a coconut and draining out the liquid in the middle. “Green” coconuts (i.e. unripe coconuts) tend to give a better flavor than fully ripe coconuts.
When you buy coconut water at the store, there are a few extra steps that have to happen. The liquid has to be pasteurized to prevent it from spoiling. Higher quality coconut water uses flash pasteurization, which prevents spoiling but preserves more of the antioxidants in coconut water.
Q: What is coconut water good for?
A: Coconut water is a great healthy alternative to drinking soda and sports drinks, as it’s lower in sugar and has more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
It has just the right concentration of carbs to foster sports performance, and some research suggests that coconut water can help control blood sugar and lower blood lipids, making it a great general health drink as well as a replacement for sports drinks.
Q: How much coconut water should you drink?
A: The only real threat from too much coconut water can be traced to its high levels of potassium. A single eight ounce serving of coconut water has around 600 mg of potassium, which is healthy in amounts equal to a few servings of coconut water.
Too much, however, can put stress on your kidneys, especially if you have other conditions that put stress on your kidneys (9). If you limit yourself to three or four servings per day of coconut water, you should not have any trouble with excessive potassium.
Q: Are there any disadvantages to coconut water?
A: Perhaps the primary disadvantages of coconut water are the fact that it still has some carbohydrates, and the fact that it is fairly high in potassium. These characteristics, which are useful in some situations, nevertheless rule out coconut water for some people.
Coconut water is not a great beverage if you are on a ketogenic or low carb diet, because while it is relatively low in calories, almost all of these calories do come from simple carbohydrates. While the potassium content of coconut water is beneficial in moderation, it can pose a problem for people who have diabetes, are on certain medications that alter potassium metabolism, or who have pre-existing kidney conditions.
Aside from these edge cases, though, coconut water is quite healthy and a much better option than soda or sports drinks.
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. Coconut water’s antioxidant powers might be linked to probiotic bacteria activity, so you should look for flash pasteurized products instead of high-temperature pasteurized coconut water.
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.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 coconut water recommendation, click here.