Is Coconut Water Actually Healthy? Or Just Hyped Up?
In recent years, coconut water has become quite a fad. Many tout this refreshing and sweet beverage’s many health benefits, while others claim it is high in sugar and best avoided. The truth is, coconut water falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
It is absolutely true that the naturally occurring water from the coconut offers many impressive health benefits, and is an excellent, natural replacement for commercial sports beverages. However, coconut water surely should not replace normal, clean water in your diet, but can be a healthy addition.
What is Coconut Water, Exactly?
Coconut water comes from young, green coconuts and is a clear, sweet liquid. It generally comes from coconuts harvested with the highest water content, around 5-7 months. As coconuts mature, they become better for their meat content and contain less water. While coconut meat is a top source of healthy, medium chain fatty acids, the water is low in fat and high in other nutrients. It has been used among different cultures throughout history for its health promoting properties and incredible ability to rehydrate the body. In fact, it has even been used in place of IV solutions in emergencies, and is completely sterile if directly extracted from the coconut.
Nowadays, coconut water has become a popular beverage and can be purchased at most any health food store, and often even at a conventional grocery store. There are many different brands, and it is important to choose one that does not have added sugars and artificial ingredients (as many brands do, so be diligent about reading the nutrition labels).
What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Water?
Great Electrolyte Replenisher
In certain situations, you will need to replenish your electrolytes, and coconut water is a far superior option to commercial sports drinks such as gatorade or powerade. If you are an athlete (particularly one that does long distance cardio), and/or live in a very hot climate, or are sick with vomiting or diarrhea, coconut water can seriously help.
Primary electrolytes include sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium, all of which are found in coconut water. Furthermore, studies have shown that coconut water actually replenishes these important electrolytes post-exercise better than the top selling sports beverages (1), which are often packed with added sugars and artificial flavoring agents.
Supports Heart Health
Coconut water has also been shown to support heart health, mainly by reducing blood pressure. One study found that participants with previously high blood pressure who drank coconut water experienced major improvements to their systolic blood pressure (2). Potassium is the mineral that plays a primary role in regulating our blood pressure, and 8 ounces of coconut water offers 600 mg of potassium (3).
Protects Against Diabetes
You might be surprised to know that coconut water might even lower diabetic markers. While more studies are needed, one rat study found that diabetic markers were lowered (4), and another found that rats who were given coconut water experienced a significant improvement in oxidative stress. One reason that coconut water likely supports diabetic markers is that it is fairly high in fiber, and also can be a great way for diabetics or those with other metabolic conditions to satisfy sweet cravings without indulging on foods and drinks high in refined sugar.
Prevents Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are made up of primarily of calcium oxalates and uric acid, and occur when your urine is overloaded with these substances and does not have adequate fluid necessary to dilute them. For this reason, staying adequately hydrated is important for preventing kidney stones, and studies have found that coconut water might prevent stones from forming better than normal water (5).
Coconut water is also impressively high in certain nutrients, and 8 ounces contains calcium, sodium, magnesium, manganese and vitamin C, along with a myriad of free radical fighting antioxidants (6). One rat study found that participants with liver damage who were given coconut water experienced improvements in oxidative damage to their liver (7).
Are There Any Reasons I Shouldn’t Drink Coconut Water?
Coconut Water Does Contain Sugar
Coconut water does contain sugar, so you certainly don’t want to drink it in excess, nor can you use it for a replacement for normal water. One cup of coconut water contains about 6 grams of sugar (8), which is significant (but far less than sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices). Keep your intake to about 1, 8 ounce serving per day to make sure you’re not upping your sugar intake too much by drinking coconut water.
If You Have Low Blood Pressure
Since coconut water can lower blood pressure (a good thing for some people), discuss with your doctor if you have a history of low blood pressure, as you might need to avoid it.
So, What’s the Verdict? Super drink or ‘Fake Food’?
Coconut water certainly is not a fake food, and you could consider it a super drink. While it absolutely should not be a replacement for regular water (always drinking plenty of clean, filtered water throughout the day), coconut water can be a healthy and hydrating addition to your diet. Stick to about 8 ounces per day (unless you live in a very hot climate, have been sick with vomiting or diarrhea or are an endurance athlete needing to replenish electrolytes). Verdict is: coconut water is a delicious, refreshing and healthy natural beverage.