Celebrities go nuts for latest drink craze

Tue, Nov 9, 2010, 00:00

SMALL PRINT:GO TO any celebrity interview these days and the rock/film star will most likely be knocking back coconut water. In years past, it would be Russian vodka or Mexican beer but once the dieticians and nutritionists were called in, there was a switch to sedate cups of herbal tea. A few years back it was wall-to-wall Kabbalah Water, which was supposed to have “spiritual qualities to heal and protect the soul” but cost a small fortune while still tasting exactly like tap water. Now though it’s just lashings of coconut water.

Previously only popular in the West among immigrant Caribbean communities, it’s has swiftly become the hip (and hydrating) drink du jour. Madonna, who’s never one to let a trend pass her by, has just become a major investor in the Vita Coco company – one of the leading brands – pumping in a reported $1.5 million. Other investors include Demi Moore and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. More significantly perhaps, both Coca Cola and Pepsi have been reported as investing heavily in coconut water companies for future “with added coconut water” soft drink lines.

It is so “on trend” it hurts. It’s the only thing to be seen carrying at your Pilates class (with label facing outwards so everyone can see how zeitgeist you are) and has even spread into trendy bars with the vodka/coconut water cocktail the perfect accessory. And you can’t flick through a gossip magazine these days without seeing a celeb with a carton of it in their hands.

And it does sound like a miracle drink. Or at least that’s how it appears. It’s not just a sugar-free, low calorie super-hydrating drink, it is claimed it can also help prevent heart disease, strengthen the immune system, burn fat and generally make you a better person.

Whatever about the bolder miracle claims, small-scale studies claim (don’t take your sceptic-goggles off just yet) that coconut water is more hydrating than water and as hydrating as “isotonic” sports drinks but without the caffeine and colourings. Hence the nickname, “nature’s Lucozade”.

Coconut water is rich in potassium and has, in the past, being used as an intravenous hydration fluid during medical emergencies. It has also been used to rehydrate people suffering from dysentery.

Now, it is a marketing phenomenon, with sales up 800 per cent in the past few months, and it has certainly benefited from its trendy status.

The independent nutrition website nutritionunplugged.com – a site which delights in debunking “miracle food and drink” myths – says that yes, being a natural drink, it is lower in calories than soft drinks and juices, but you should not expect coconut water to help you lose weight, give you smoother skin, boost your immune system, etc. The site is waiting for more rigorous studies before it comments on the drink’s putative “super-hydration” qualities.

Available in health food shops in Ireland, it is – and you can predict the next bit – expensive. A 330ml container of coconut water costs around €2.25 while a litre costs around €5.50. If you’re the DIY type you can extract the water from a coconut yourself – but you can only use the young, green variety, not the older, hairier ones available in supermarkets here. Expect to get around a maximum of 200 ml of water from each coconut. While the studies on the super-hydrating benefits of coconut water are ongoing, one thing is definite: it tastes great in a rum and coke.