Nuts for coconuts 

Popularized by such celebs as Madonna, Rihanna, Alex Rodriguez and Matthew McConaughey, the clear liquid found inside young, green coconuts is quickly growing in popularity. While the taste is slightly acerbic, it is touted as natural hydration — especially after a postworkout session — and it might offer a host of other health benefits.

The Buy For Less grocery chain and now its new flagship store, Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W. Covell Rd. in Edmond, stock the city’s most comprehensive selection of the stuff.

“This incredible category has seen the strongest growth in the last few years,” said John Dotson, Buy for Less’ natural-foods buyer.

You can easily be enticed by the clever brand names: Maui & Sons, Blue Monkey, Coco Juice, Pure Naked and Zico. So ingenious and tropical, you might overlook the variation in prices that ranges from $1.69 to $2.49 for a 17.5-ounce serving. Most are sold in plastic bottles, cans or Tetra Paks.

Flavor blends are almost limitless.

Besides plain coconut, creative combinations include pineapple, peach blended with kiwi, mango, passion fruit, acai and pomegranate.

“Chocolate was the hot flavor last year,” said Dotson. “Flavors give non-water drinkers a choice and make it more palatable.”

Other local retailers have eagerly jumped on the new trend. Coconut water is stacked along with bottled waters and sodas in most
stores’ soft-drink sections. Interestingly enough, the beverage is now
being sold in single servings in the small refrigerated coolers next to
cashier stations at many big-box shops.

“I
despise coconut, but I bought [the water] to make a Thai recipe,” said
Jessica Hunt, among the fans of coconut water. “I tasted [it], and
thought it was really good and refreshing. It was much better than bland
water.”

Coconut
water, which long has been enjoyed from the Caribbean to Malaysia, is
nothing new. Street vendors lop away tops of coconuts and, once the
green husks are stripped, remove the water. The operation has ramped up
as more companies work to fill the gap to commercially grow and sell the
liquid while marketing its healthy image.

The
water doesn’t have fat, in contrast to coconut milk that is pressed
from the flesh. With about 60 calories for an 8-ounce serving, coconut
water typically has a lower calorie count than most fruit juices.

Coconut-water
producers contend their product is a healthy substitute to sugary
sports drinks because it not only hydrates, but replenishes lost
electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium and potassium, which are known to
help prevent cramping. Other publicized benefits might include improved
immunity, increased circulation and reduced risks for cancer, stroke
and heart disease.

However,
Brian Atterbury, fitness trainer and owner for Results Fitness and
Nutrition Center in Edmond, believes this is just another fad.

“It’s
all Marketing 101 by celebrities with high school degrees,” he said.
“If you drink 10 to 12 glasses a day, it’s not a good idea [because]
that’s over 150 grams of carbohydrates and 600 calories.”

He recommended sticking to plain water following vigorous exercise.

Whether
you decide to crack open a coconut, buy some Zico in bulk or stick with
plain ol’ water, the choice is yours — just keep yourself hydrated.

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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