Staying hydrated is important when you are living in the tropics. With the sun shining down directly all day long, high temperatures, and near-persistent perspiration, you’re going to lose a lot of water through the day. Under these circumstances, staying hydrated is not an option, it’s a must. There’s a real risk of suffering from dehydration if you go long stretches without drinking water.
But let’s face it, sipping water all day long can get really boring. That bottle of chilled soda that’s so easily available everywhere looks so much more tempting – it’s cool, refreshing, and so much more delicious than water. The problem is it is also saturated with sugar, which will play havoc with your health in the long run.
Enter tender coconut water – a low-calorie drink that’s refreshing, delicious, super hydrating, and easily available. Yes, it ticks all the boxes when you’re looking for a tastier and healthier alternative to water.
But first, let me clarify. I’m not talking about coconut water that’s processed and packed into tetra packs. In tropical countries, there’s no need to drink packed coconut water. Why choose the packaged stuff when you can drink this delicious water straight from the fruit itself!
One of the more interesting sights you’ll come across in almost all tropical countries is intact coconuts being sold everywhere. In most countries the coconuts complete with their light green husks are stacked onto mobile carts or sold at roadside stalls. In a few countries you may find them sold without the outermost husk. Both are essentially the same – just presented differently.
What Exactly is Tender Coconut Water?
This is the clear liquid that forms inside a hard shell at the core of a young, green coconut. This hard shell is then surrounded by the outer light green husk.
When the coconut is very tender, the innermost core is full of liquid and there’s no kernel. At this stage, the husk and shell are also still tender and soft. To get to the tender coconut water at the center, the vendor simply chops off one end of the husk, makes an opening in the relatively soft shell, puts a straw into the opening, and hands it over to you to drink.
If you’ve never tasted tender coconut water directly from the fruit before, you’re in for a treat. The first sip will come as a delightful surprise – it tastes nothing like the packaged beverage. This all-natural, fresh tender coconut water has a mildly sweet, nutty taste with not a hint of preservatives. Equally surprising is the fact that it is refreshingly cool despite lying out unrefrigerated in the hot sun.
The quantity and taste of this liquid depends on the maturity of the coconut. When the coconut is very tender, the core is full of liquid with little to no kernel. As the coconut matures, this liquid slowly thickens and gradually solidifies to form the kernel.
During the midway stage, the amount of water reduces and sweetens while a soft, sweet kernel starts to form. This kernel hardens and the water reduces further as the coconuts matures fully.
Locals can identify how tender a coconut is by looking at the color of the husk. A very tender coconut that’s full of water and no kernel will have a light green outer husk. A more mature coconut with less water and more kernel will have a dark green to brown outer husk.
After you’ve finished the water, ask the vendor to break open the coconut so you can enjoy the soft, creamy kernel that’s formed inside. The amount of kernel you’ll get will depend on the maturity stage of that particular coconut.
In many countries this creamy kernel is regarded as a delicacy, especially when the kernel is just forming and it has an almost jelly-like consistency. This shouldn’t be confused with a type of sterile coconut called macapuno in which the fluid inside the coconut turns into a translucent jelly and is regarded as even more of a delicacy.
The macapuno coconuts are grown for this soft flesh, rather than for the coconut water, which is used in cooking and for desserts. It’s especially popular in the Philippines where it is known as makapuno and Indonesia where it is known as kelapa puan.
It can also be found in some other Southeast Asian countries (in Thailand it’s known as maprao kathi, in Cambodia as dong kathi) and occasionally in India where it’s called thairu tengai, and in Sri Lanka (dikiri pol). Some of the tropical islands in the Pacific have grown it too and they call it pia there.
When locals buying a tender coconut for drinking discover they have a macapuno coconut instead (usually the vendors won’t know until the top is cut off) they will regard it as a big bonus. But often the vendor will take it back and replace it with another because a macapuno coconut is worth more.
The Health Benefits of Tender Coconut Water
Replenishes electrolytes and keeps you hydrated
Tender coconut water is rich in electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and magnesium, which makes it especially beneficial while you’re out and about in the sun. Staying out in the sun, which is unavoidable in the tropics, tends to deplete your electrolytes, leaving you feeling fatigued and dehydrated.
Electrolyte-rich tender coconut water helps to replenish these lost electrolytes, leaving you feeling refreshed, re-energized and hydrated. When you feel your energy flagging during the day, stopping by to get a drink of tender coconut water is a good move.
Supports a healthy digestive system
For one thing, its mild taste and texture can feel extremely soothing if you have indigestion or an ulcer or you have a burning sensation in your stomach after eating a spicy meal. In addition, its fiber and magnesium content make tender coconut water a great digestive aid.
Low in calories, sugar, and cholesterol
Refreshing, delicious, AND low in calories, sugar, and cholesterol? Very few other beverages can lay claim to these properties. Grab an aerated drink and you’re filling yourself with empty calories. A carton of fresh juice may feel refreshing but you know it has added sugars and flavors. Fresh fruit drinks may be a healthier alternative to sodas and packed juices but they still have sugars and carbs. With tender coconut water, you get all the benefits without the downsides.
When you get a tender coconut water from a local store or vendor, you don’t have to worry about expiration dates and neither do you have to check the nutrition label. This is as natural, hygienic, and preservative-free as it gets.
How Much Tender Coconut Water Can You Drink in a Day?
While tender coconut water is safe and healthy, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.
You can drink tender coconut water any time of the day, on an empty stomach, with a meal or after a meal without worrying about any adverse effects. However, drinking too much of it can cause digestive issues because of its fiber content. For this reason, it’s best to limit your intake to no more than two tender coconuts a day.
Avoid this drink if you have any medical condition requires you to limit your potassium or magnesium intake.