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Vita Coco vs Zico Coconut Water

Picture yourself on your Tahitian vacation, relaxing at the beach in your swimsuit in a lounge chair, watching the ocean, a coconut by your side with a straw sticking out.  It might be a rum and coconut drink, but whatever is in there is a refreshing part of your total island experience.

Now let it go (sorry).  You’re not on Tahiti, you’re not in your swimsuit. You’re at work or maybe just at home.  There are no coconuts to be seen and it’s a little early for anything with rum in it.  That doesn’t have to mean humdrum however. You can still refresh yourself with a real coconut drink, and even be healthy at the same time!

Of course we’re talking about coconut water here;  you did read the title to this article after all. There are just a couple questions you might want answers to first.  Why coconut water, and which one is best?

Why coconut water?

It comes straight out of the middle of the coconut.  It’s light, refreshing, low in sugar and has zero fat.  It’s a natural rehydration drink that will replenish your body with needed electrolytes.  There are a ton of coconut water benefits for your health.

Which coconut water?

By popular demand, there are likely many choices available in your grocery store.  But do you know which one is the best?   We know you don’t have all day for this, so let’s take a quick look at two of the most popular coconut water brands, plus three more contenders.


Vita Coco

Vita Coco is the most popular coconut water sold in the U.S.  Their coconut water comes from young coconuts from Brasil and Southeast Asia.  The only thing they add to the coconut water is Vitamin C.  Vita Coco also comes in lightly flavored versions, including peach & mango, pineapple, acai & pom, and tropical fruit.


Zico

Zico Coconut Water is distributed by Coca Cola. Their coconut water comes mainly from Thailand and Indonesia.   Zico is the only Coconut Water in this review that is made from concentrate, and also is the only brand that says it adds “natural flavoring” to their drink.  An eight ounce portion contains about 91 milligrams of sodium, which is three times more than the average of the other brands reviewed here. Zico Coconut Water also comes in other fruit flavors.


Naked

Naked Coconut Water comes from Brasil.  An eight ounce portion contains only about 14 mg of sodium, the lowest level of any of the five coconut waters reviewed here.  Naked is the only brand that adds as much as 1% natural fruit sugars, to help standardize the taste of their product which by nature will vary slightly from coconut to coconut, depending on when it was harvested, acidity in the soil, etc.   They also sell other fruit flavored versions of their coconut water.


O.N.E.

One Coconut Water is packaged in the Philippines and distributed by Pepsi.  There is no added sugar and no additional ingredients beside coconut water, except in their other fruit flavored versions of the water.


Taste Nirvana

Taste Nirvana grows and bottles their coconut water in Thailand, and nothing is added to the water.  They don’t carry other flavors, but they do also offer coconut water with pulp.  At about 505 mg of potassium per eight ounce serving this is the highest level of the five brands reviewed.


Tradeoffs

The FDA requires all bottled drinks to be heat pasteurized, which destroys many harmful organisms, enhances consumer safety and provides long shelf life.  All of these coconut drinks receive a flash pasteurization, which works at relatively low heat within a few seconds.  Even so, the process of killing harmful organisms also kills live beneficial enzymes, so any of these packaged coconut waters will not be as good for you as drinking straight from a coconut.
Vita Coco, Zico, Naked and O.N.E. all come in Tetra Paks, which are reported to be more environmentally friendly than cans, and also reportedly do not contain BPA.  However, the coconut water companies will not tell you about a 2008 German study that looked at the low density polyethylene plastics used in Tetra Paks.  In this study they found leached estrogenic hormones in the contents of these packages.  One study is not enough to recommend avoiding coconut water in Tetra Paks, however if you are concerned you might prefer Taste Nirvana, which comes in glass bottles. Zico also has a glass bottle option.


Taste Test

I have tried each of the five coconut water brands reviewed here, and have even conducted my own “blind” taste test, where I did not know which brands I was tasting until after the taste test.  My disclaimer is that my test was subjective, and individual tastes do vary.  There is also some natural variability in the product, from coconut to coconut and between geographical areas where they’re grown, so I might get different results with new samples.  I found all of the coconut waters to be more similar than different in taste, however Taste Nirvana was unmistakably the sweetest and was my personal favorite.  Zico was the second sweetest, which doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider that it’s reconstituted from concentrate.  Vita Coco, which has the highest sugar content when comparing ingredient labels, did not taste as sweet as Nirvana or Zico.  I did not sample the other fruit flavored varieties of these brands.