Is Too Much Coconut Water Bad for You?


When it comes to good nutrition, the key thing to remember is keeping everything balanced. Too much of one nutrient will cause an imbalance in the body, triggering a wide variety of different negative health effects. A good example is the well-known benefits of vitamin C. When consumed in moderation it’s a fantastic way to improve your immune system, it’s a strong antioxidant and it’s also a very common cold remedy.

However, consume too much vitamin C and you could experience diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia or even abdominal cramps that could severely affect your lifestyle. This is why vitamin bottles always give you a recommended dosage amount–because overdosing on these vitamins can cause serious health problems that could be difficult to remedy.

We feel that it’s important to also talk about coconut water and the potential dangers of consuming too much. As with everything in life, it’s vital that you take everything in moderation even if you absolutely love the taste of coconut water and would love to drink it every day.


High potassium levels from drinking too much coconut water

One of the biggest concerns with drinking too much coconut water is taking in too much potassium. Although an essential macromineral, the human body can’t take too much of it or else you’ll start to experience some adverse health effects.

Potassium primarily focuses on regulating your fluid balance and controlling the electrical activity of your heart and other muscles around the body. Most adults should be consuming around 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium each day, but despite this, a very low percentage of people in the world actually consume enough potassium. In the US alone, this figure is said to be less than 2% of the entire population.

Coconut water is a fantastic source of potassium. In fact, one serving (around 240ml) contains around 600 mg of potassium which is around 13% of the recommended dietary allowance according to the RDA guidelines. This means that a few servings of coconut water per day and some other potassium sources (such as spinach, bananas or mushrooms) is enough for you to reach that recommended dietary allowance.

However, it’s very easy to overestimate how much potassium you’re actually getting especially if you love eating potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocado and spinach.

A serving of spinach can contain up to 600 mg of potassium and tomatoes contain around 240 mg per 100g. This means that if you’re already eating a relatively healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, you could already be reaching your recommended dietary allowance of potassium and anything above could be overkill.

This can lead to a condition known as hyperkalemia which essentially means you have too much potassium in your blood. If you’re regularly eating fresh fruits and vegetables but also consume many glasses of coconut water, then it could lead to dangerous changes in your heart rhythm and issues with the muscles in your body.

If you combine this with regular exercise and existing kidney issues, then your body might be overloaded with potassium which could lead to life-threatening heart conditions.

In short, coconut water is an excellent source of potassium but you need to make sure that you’re not already consuming enough potassium from your regular diet. If you suffer from kidney issues, then it could make getting rid of potassium very difficult, meaning that your body will hold a lot more potassium than it’s capable of.

Due to bodily differences from person to person, it’s difficult to judge how much potassium it would take to cause hyperkalemia so it might be worth visiting your physician to ensure you are not taking in too much potassium.


High caloric intake from coconut water

Per serving, coconut water is only around 46 calories. However, it’s important to check that there are no additives such as sugar that raise the calorie count to that of a regular fruit juice or soda.

In fact, many sugary coconut water drinks can contain just as many calories as fruit juice or other sugary drinks, meaning it’s not actually a very healthy choice and could end up becoming a concerning source of high calories.

There’s also the concern of flavoured coconut water that adds even more additives, and some even add dairy such as milk to create different tastes. Not only do these additives strip coconut water of its natural minerals and nutrients, it adds unwanted fats, sugars and carbs that do a poor job of promoting the supposed health benefits of coconut water.

The best way to ensure that you’re drinking pure coconut water is to take a look at the ingredients. It should show at most two ingredients; water and coconut water. If there are extra preservatives or additives then you may want to switch to a different brand that does not contain all the added extras.

Another concern is that you should be watching for the amount of carbohydrates in coconut water. In most cases, only a small amount comes from sugar but you’d be surprised at how much extra sugar some beverage companies add in order to make the coconut water sweeter or more palatable.

Check the sugar content especially if it’s a flavoured variety of coconut water to ensure that nothing extra is added which could increase the calorie count.

As long as you remember that a serving (which is 240 ml) of coconut water is 46 calories, you’ll easily be able to fit it into your diet without taking in too many calories. It’s a good idea to compare the nutritional content of natural coconut water to your favourite brand to see if there are any hidden additives and extras that are being used to enhance the flavour or its properties.

If you find that you can’t drink coconut water without these additives, then you will need to drastically reduce your intake to ensure it fits within your dietary guidelines.


The supposed link between too much coconut water and dangerous health issues

In September 2018, an article was posted on the website University Health News that spoke about a man that experienced dangerously high potassium levels and abnormal heart rhythms after drinking a large amount of coconut water.

The patient was 42 years old and had been playing tennis outdoors on a hot day with temperatures up to 32°C He reportedly drank eight 11-ounce (312.5 ml) bottles of coconut water throughout the day and experienced increased body temperature, lightheadedness, brief losses of consciousness and also muscle weakness.

This is over 10 servings of coconut water, meaning that the man consumed well over the recommended dietary allowance of potassium. It also means that he consumed around 63 g of sugar (depending on the brand) and 2,520 mg of sodium.

These are both levels that are well above what’s recommended, meaning that it could have caused his conditions in addition to his excessive exercise in the hot temperatures.

Although the article paints coconut water in a bad light, this is a good example of how a lack of attention to guidelines can cause adverse health effects. As explained, the man consumed more coconut water than what is advised, potentially increasing his potassium and sodium levels well above what is recommended and this is just from the coconut water alone.

In addition, it does not talk about any of the pre-existing conditions that the man could have suffered from such as kidney problems that could make it difficult for his body to process and flush out the potassium.

There are many variables that could have caused the man to suffer from abnormally high levels of potassium and it’s likely that the coconut water is not to blame at all.

Instead, it’s more likely that a combination of his pre-existing health conditions, a lack of awareness of the nutritional content of coconut water and his lifestyle caused him to faint and suffer from abnormal heart rhythms.

Luckily, the main recovered in hospital after a few days and was able to return to his regular lifestyle, albeit being recommended to avoid coconut water in the future as well as excessive amounts of exercise in extreme heat.

The original study was published in February 2014 and was titled “Death by Coconut”. The content itself spoke about celebrity endorsements and marketing as the primary reasons for coconut water’s popularity across the world, but it failed to mention that coconut water has been consumed in tropical countries for decades as a refreshing beverage.

It has also helped countless athletes train in those hot environments and it continues to be a go-to choice for professionals that work in high-temperature environments.

The overall tone of the original study pointed fingers at coconut water as being the culprit, but the reality is that the patient consumed too much coconut water and his body could not process the amount of potassium it contained.

This is simply a case of failing to consume something in moderation and due to the small single-person sample size, we can’t reach the conclusion that coconut water is bad for you.

However, we can use common sense and nutritional data to determine that drinking too much coconut water can be a bad thing, especially if it’s not consumed in moderation.

So to conclude, there is no link between coconut water and dangerous health issues. Rather, the issue lies in a lack of understanding of coconut water, its nutritional content and also the conditions in which the beverage is consumed.


The conclusion

To conclude, coconut water can be bad for you if you consume too much of it. This is because the levels of sodium, potassium and sugar can reach incredibly high levels if you drink it in place of water.

The proper way to enjoy coconut water would be to consume it in moderation much like any other fruit juice or soda that you would normally drink. Just because it has the word “water” in the name, it does no mean that you should replace regular water with coconut water. Instead, consider it a replacement for unhealthy drinks that you would normally consume or a sports drink.

If you love the taste of coconut water and want to drink it more often, then here are a couple of key points to remember:

  • When looking for brands of coconut water, pick ones that contain less sugar, less sodium and fewer calories. If it’s pure coconut water then you should expect it to contain no more than 46 calories per serving, which is around 240 ml. Anything more and you can expect it to contain flavourings and other extras that do not add nutritional value to the coconut water. Take a look at the nutritional data of regular coconut water that is fresh from a young coconut and compare it to the brands that you drink. If the nutritional value is completely off, then it’s likely there are hidden additives and preservatives lurking in your favourite brand of coconut water.
  • If you love drinking coconut water you should be careful not to exceed 8 servings per day. Doing so could raise your potassium and sodium levels past the RDA, resulting in a range of issues that may result in hyperkalemia. If you believe that you’ve consumed too much potassium then it’s worth speaking to your physician to have your levels checked.

As long as you follow these key points, you should be able to enjoy coconut water without worrying about consuming too much. Just remember that you should consume everything in moderation and that you should always make sure you balance your nutrition to maintain a healthy body. If you fail to balance your body, you’ll experience some adverse side effects and health issues that can be difficult to overcome without professional advice from your physician.

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