Coconut water (sometimes known as coconut juice) is the clear liquid that’s found inside the coconut fruit. You may have seen coconut water drinks pop up around health food stores and even make their way into local supermarkets, and this is because of its recent explosion in popularity as a healthy drink that is full of electrolytes, good vitamins and minerals, and also ability to quench thirst very effectively.
Coconut water has been consumed for a long time in tropical countries where you can pluck them off the coconut palm tree and bore a hole into the fruit to drink it fresh.
However, even in cities and villages, it’s available in canned or even bottled varieties too, and there are many street food vendors that will happily crack one open for you at their stall and even give you a spoon to scoop out the flesh and eat it once you’re done with the juice.
What exactly is coconut water?
Coconut water is the clear liquid that you find inside of specifically green and immature coconuts and not so much the mature coconuts.
This is because a young green coconut doesn’t have a hard husk and the water hasn’t solidified into the white coconut flesh that we usually consume. Instead, a young green coconut still has a lot of its liquid content inside of the fruit, hence why it’s harvested for the juice and less so the flesh.
Coconut water is around 95% water, 4% carbohydrates and 1% protein and fat. Typically, unflavoured coconut water will contain (ounce per ounce) around 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams of sugar, 61 milligrams of potassium and 5.45 milligrams of sodium.
This means it contains a lot less sugar than many sports drinks and also a lot less sugar than mix-in drinks and fruit juices.
Potassium is an essential component of a healthy heart and also promotes good skeletal and muscular function.
It’s not a large amount compared to other potassium-rich foods such as a banana, but it’s good to know that coconut water does contain some nutritional benefits that aren’t found in typical everyday drinks. Since it’s very low in calories as well, it can serve as an effective replacement for sugary drinks that you may be used to.
Reasons to drink coconut water
So now that you know what coconut water is and what it’s made from, let’s take a look at a couple of reasons on why you should drink coconut water as a replacement for common fruit juices, energy drinks and sodas.
1. Coconut water is great at hydrating you
Water will usually be the go-to choice for hydration, but coconut water is actually a fantastic alternative especially if you’re doing a vigorous workout or playing sports.
This is because it contains sugar and sodium which are both important at helping you enhance performance and promotes fluid retention during your exercises. It’s like a natural sports drink that will help you perform better while also keeping you hydrated naturally instead of an engineered drink.
Because of the added nutrients and minerals, coconut water can actually be more effective at rehydrating you than plain regular water because the salt is necessary to help us retain water.
This means we’re less susceptible to the effects of dehydration and it’s one of the biggest reasons why coconut water is so adored in tropical environments where the temperatures can quickly soar to unbearable levels throughout the day.
2. Coconut water contains good nutrients
We mentioned before that coconut water can contain good levels of potassium that help to promote healthy heart, skeletal and muscular function.
However, that’s not the only nutrient that you’ll find in coconut water. A cup of coconut water contains around 46 calories which is made up of the carbs, fat and protein. Most of the carbohydrates is sugar which gives coconut water its nutty and slightly sweet taste.
However, coconut water also contains a lot of vitamins and minerals.
- Fiber: 2.6 g, 11% RDI
- Carbs: 8.9 g, 3% RDI
- Protein: 1.7 g, 3% RDI
- Vitamin C: 5.8 mg, 10% RDI
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg, 5% RDI
- Riboflavin: 0.1 mg, 8% RDI
- Niacin: 0.2 mg, 1% RDI
- Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg, 4% RDI
- Folate: 7.2 mcg, 2% RDI
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.1 mg, 1% RDI
- Choline: 2.6 mg
- Calcium: 57.6 mg, 6% RDI
- Iron: 0.7 mg, 4% RDI
- Magnesium: 60.0 mg, 15% RDI
- Phosphorus: 48.0 mg, 5% RDI
- Potassium: 600 mg, 17% RDI
- Sodium: 252 mg, 11% RDI
- Zinc: 0.2 mg, 2% RDI
- Copper: 0.1 mg, 5% RDI
- Manganese: 0.3 mg, 17% RDI
- Selenium: 2.5 mcg, 3% RDI
In short, coconut water contains a wide variety of different vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are required for our body to function efficiently.
3. Coconut water is low in calories
As a replacement for sugary drinks, juice and other high-calorie beverages, coconut water is surprisingly low in calories for what it offers.
Because it only contains 46 calories per cup, it’s lower in calories and sugars than fruit juice and other drinks that are considered healthy by most of the general public.
In addition to being lower in calories, it contains a surprising amount of good nutrients (listed above) which can help our body function correctly. This means that, together with water, coconut water is a brilliant low-calorie drink that can satiate, provide nutrients, tastes fantastic and is refreshing.
This is everything you could ask for in a drink and it’s perfect in your diet when paired with plain water to help flush your system, provide nutrients and be healthy enough for you to drink on a regular basis.
4. Coconut water helps after exercise
Coconut water is one of the best beverages to consume after exercising for long periods of time. This is because the nutrients and minerals found in coconut water can actually help to restore hydration and maintain electrolytes that you would normally lose during exercise.
This means you’ll maintain a good balance of fluids in your body and get all the nutrients you need.
In fact, several studies point towards coconut water being able to restore your hydration just as well as high-electrolyte sports drinks and better than plain water.
Some studies have even shown that coconut water can help after intense exercises where you might feel nauseous or even experience discomfort in your stomach. This means that it can serve as an excellent drink to consume before, during and after your exercise sessions.
5. Coconut water could support heart health
There are studies that show that coconut water could actually be helpful in reducing your risk of developing heart disease. One study found that rats that consumed coconut water had lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat that is found in your blood. Both of these factors contribute to a healthy heart, resulting in fewer heart issues in the future. It was discovered that the rats in this study also experienced a decrease in fat in the liver.
In a similar study, the same group of researches fed rats with a diet supplemented with coconut water. The results were similar, with the coconut water group of rats experiencing reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to the control group.
This points to the idea that coconut water could be just as effective as the effects of other drugs that are used to lower cholesterol.
It should be noted that these studies were carried out with very high doses of coconut water. In comparison, it would require you consume anywhere from 2.5 to 3 litres of coconut water just to experience the same dose that the rats did.
However, it’s great news that coconut water is almost as effective as other drugs at lowering your cholesterol and it has prompted further investigation into this link.
6. Coconut water contains antioxidant properties
According to studies, coconut water is a good source of antioxidants which are great for clearing out unstable molecules that are produced in your body.
These free radicals flood the body when you experience stress or injury and they can cause oxidative stress which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body.
Although oxidation is a normal process in your body, oxidative stress can make it difficult for your body to fight off pathogens which can cause infections.
The free radicals will be left to roam without antioxidants balancing them out, and they can start causing damage to your fatty tissue, proteins in the body and even your DNA. This can lead to ageing, diabetes, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart disease or even cancer.
Coconut water has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in rats when compared to a control group that wasn’t given coconut water.
One study even showed that rats on a high-fructose diet (essentially a high-sugar diet) experienced reduced free radical activity, lowered blood pressure, lowered triglyceride levels and lowered insulin levels when treated with coconut water. In short, coconut water contains antioxidants which are essential at protecting your cell and preventing the damage done by free radicals in the body.
7. Coconut water could have benefits against diabetes
Some research has shown that coconut water could be used to lower blood sugar levels in diabetic animals. Diabetic rats were treated with coconut water and they were able to maintain better blood sugar levels than control groups that were not.
When researchers performed the haemoglobin A1c test on the rats, they found that their blood sugar levels were stable and did not indicate abnormalities that could point towards the condition worsening.
Since coconut water does not contain many carbs or sugars (especially when taken from green coconuts that are younger) it’s a great option for diabetics and can easily fit into a meal plan. Since much of the water sugar content is actually glucose, it’s metabolic and can be consumed even be diabetics as long as you don’t drink it too often.
Coconut water is better than fruit juice for diabetics and since research has shown that it has a positive effect of improving the blood sugar levels of animals, it’s likely (but not yet proven with controlled tests) that it can also help in humans.
Just make sure that you’re consuming pure coconut water that has not been bottled or mixed with preservatives or chemicals. It should ideally be fresh from a young green coconut or produced locally to ensure it does not have additives that could affect the nutrients it contains.
Some final words
To finish off this article, let’s summarize the main points:
- Coconut water can be consumed from the fruit itself or in bottles, making it a convenient and inexpensive drink to enjoy
- It contains nutrients and minerals that are great at helping to hydrate you and replenish your electrolytes
- It’s a fantastic drink to consume during light and heavy workouts
- It’s lower in calories than fruit juices, sodas and other sweetened drinks
- Studies suggest that it could support heart health, help control blood sugar levels and also contains antioxidants
When consuming coconut water, make sure you do so in moderation. Although a single serving of coconut water is definitely lower in calories than fruit juice, it cannot serve as a replacement for pure water and it’s a good idea to enjoy coconut water as a replacement to sugary juice, sodas and other drinks that are loaded with sugars and additives. Make sure you read the labels and nutritional information to ensure that it does not contain extra unwanted sugars.