Taking a closer look at the health benefits of coconut water
Alternatives to plain water are trending—but that doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon for every new “health beverage” craze. You’ve probably heard of mineral water and alkaline water, and now, coconut water is gaining popularity. But is coconut water good for you? Here’s what science says so far about the benefits of coconut water.
What is coconut water?
Coconut water is the clear liquid found in green coconut fruit centres, according to Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center and professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. As the coconut ages and turns brown, the water solidifies, turning into coconut meat. This coconut meat could become coconut milk, NPR reports. No matter your water of choice, this is how much you should drink to stay hydrated.
Is coconut water good for you?
Asking, “is coconut water good for you” is a misnomer or kind of a trick question. Coconut water does have two main science-backed health benefits—it provides electrolytes like potassium and sodium, and it’s good for rehydration after physical activity or after illnesses that cause vomiting or diarrhea, says Ali Webster, PhD, RD, the Associate Director of Nutrition Communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation. Still, there is very little human research on the benefits of coconut water over plain, run-of-the-mill H20. One study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that coconut water replaced bodily fluids as efficiently as sports drinks and only slightly better than water. The athletes, however, preferred the taste of sports drinks—meaning you have to like the taste of coconut water to reap the benefits.
Although it’s an acquired taste, if you do want something healthier than a sports drink, coconut water could still be a good albeit unnecessary option. Most people aren’t professional athletes and don’t exercise long or intensely enough to really need the extra electrolytes from coconut water, Webster says. That’s why Dr. Apovian says it doesn’t replace her regular water intake because she doesn’t want the extra calories. Even though coconut water has less sugar than regular soda or juices, the calories still add up, Dr. Apovian says. (Check out 30 more painless ways to cut 100 calories.) As for the benefits, there’s also plenty of other ways to get potassium from foods such as potatoes, bananas, beans, spinach and legumes, Webster says. “These foods provide other beneficial nutrients that coconut water doesn’t, like fibre and other vitamins and minerals,” she says. This is how much fibre you should eat to prevent disease.
How to drink coconut water?
Is coconut water good for you? It could be a healthier alternative to other non-water beverages. For example, Dr. Apovian doesn’t drink alcohol and instead uses coconut water to make tasty mocktails. “When I’m looking to relax on my own or with friends, I like to mix coconut water, pomegranate juice, or small amounts of tart cherry juice, and something fizzy like sparkling water,” she says. So feel free to dip your toes into this trend, and note that there are only a few potential benefits of coconut water.
Next, find out six surprising health benefits of staying hydrated.