June 1st, 2009

Dig In: Coconut Water (Coco-Banana Date Smoothies)

I’m not one for food fads. Okay. I’m not saying that I never get sucked in, but the researcher in me makes me skeptical of new foods suddenly touted as the next superfoods. So, in true form, I’ve totally ignored the many brands of coconut water that have recently hit the natural food stores. (Despite their nifty eco packaging.)

Here’s the BUT… summer has arrived and, frankly, coconut water sounds just plain good. I have a great memory of walking around a market in Bangkok drinking coconut water out of a straw poked straight into a young, green coconut that had been chilling in a vat of ice. It was perfect. And while it’s not quite the same walking around the Brooklyn Flea holding a paper box (even an eco friendly one), I decided I wanted to know more.

So what’s the scoop on coconut water?

The inside of a young, green coconut has just a little bit of meat, which is more like a gel than the coconut meat with which we’re familiar, and clear liquid. This slightly sweet “juice” is coconut water. As the coconut matures, the coconut water is replaced by a thick later of coconut meat and air. (Coconut milk, on the other hand, is not naturally found inside a coconut fruit. Rather, it’s made by pressing soaked, shredded meat from a mature coconut—once for the thick kind and two or three times for the thin kind.) While coconut milk is commonly used in cooking, coconut water is generally served as a beverage.

Why is coconut water good for you?

Unlike mature coconut meat and coconut milk (fresh or canned) which are high in saturated fat, coconut water is naturally fat-free and very low in cholesterol. According to Nutrition Data, it is a good source of:

  • vitamin C
  • riboflavin
  • calcium

…and a very good source of:

  • dietary fiber
  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • potassium (most brands claim their serving size provides more potassium than a banana)

The down side (if you plan on downing the stuff in quantity) is that coconut water is fairly high in sodium. But, not so fast. There’s an upside to that, too.

Along with sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus (also found in coconut water) are the five essential electrolytes that keep our bodies hydrated. Potassium is especially important, as it helps prevent muscle cramping. That means that coconut water is basically nature’s sports drink—no processed sugar added. (Here’s a quick, easy read on why we should think twice before drinking sports drinks unless we’ve been very sick and/or extremely dehydrated—and it’s not as simple as just avoiding added sugar.)

Hot weather. A naturally hydrating beverage. The obvious first foray into using coconut water: a tropical smoothie! Before I was a ChowMama and Mike a ChowPapa, we used to love going to The Standard hotel in Miami for winter weekend getaways. They used to serve a delicious coconutty breakfast smoothie that doesn’t seem to be on the menu anymore (at least not the one posted online). I remember that it also had dates, which was just enough for me to go on.

Inspired by luxurious weekends away, here’s a smoothie I whipped up for me and Mike… and the ChowBaby who’s kept us from The Standard in Miami. Strangely, it’s even sweeter shared with him.

Have you been using and drinking coconut water? Other ideas? Please share!

Coco-Banana Date Smoothies
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)

3-4 large organic dates, pitted*
2 organic, ripe bananas (i like using frozen bananas)
1/4 c organic shredded coconut (I prefer unsweetened, but sweetened works and adds, well, sweetness! Skip for kids under 8 mos)
1 c coconut water
1/2 tsp organic cinnamon
1/4 tsp organic nutmeg
1/4 c organic milk or almond milk (skip for kids under 12 mos)
ice cubes

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and BLEND! I always have bananas in the freezer (I throw them in there instead of the garbage when I find that they are about to go bad), so I only need about 3 or so ice cubes. If using fresh bananas, you may need more. Makes 2 adult + 1 toddler portion.

*Dates are nutritious and safe to feed children as young as 6 mos old. The only tricky thing is their texture. For the 6 mos version of this recipe, skip whole dates and scrape the flesh out  instead. The result is a paste that will keep the drink super smooth.

3 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Sounds yum! Am going to try make this today. Haven’t tried coconut water yet, but have been meaning to.

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