If you’ve been in any health food store or health food aisle in a supermarket, you’ve most likely seen coconut water on the shelf. The popularity of coconut water has been skyrocketing over the past few years as you can see below in the graph from Google searches for ‘coconut water’:
But the question remains: is coconut water healthier than normal water or energy drinks? Or is it just marketing that is selling the idea of a better way to hydrate? Do the health benefits of coconut water make it worth using?
What is Coconut Water?
Lets quickly look at what coconut water is. Often mistaken for the high-fat coconut milk, which is actually a product of the ‘meat’ of the coconut, the coconut water is the natural liquid found in the hollow center of the young coconuts. The best water comes from young, green coconuts aged about 5-7 months before being harvested.
Coconut water has been used for centuries in tropical countries where it could be found fresh. It has even been used as an intravenous when saline wasn’t available. While doctors now don’t recommend this practice, it has been used across much of south Asia, as well as during World War 2.
What is in Coconut Water?
When you look at the nutritional value of coconut water, you can see why people have claimed it was equal or superior to water or energy drinks.
In one cup of coconut water you’ll be getting:
- 43 Calories
- 252mg of Sodium
- 9g of Carbohydrates (6g from sugar)
- 2g Protein
- 5.8mg Vitamin C
- 60mg Magnesium
- 600mg Potassium
That is a good bunch of nutrients in one cup. And the list does go on, but these are the predominant measurements we’re concerned with. Overall, not a bad mix of nutrients. The biggest things to take from this is the low calories and high amounts of sodium (11% DV) and potassium (17% DV), which are what give you the electrolytes needed for a ‘energy beverage’.
Electrolytes are ions that make your body function (basically speaking). They help control everything from fluid levels to muscle action to temperature control. Electrolytes are made of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium, so you can see from the above list that coconut water provides much of the needed elements.
How does coconut water help your body?
Here are a number of the ways drinking coconut water can help your health:
- Rehydrates the body.
Because of the electrolytes in the water, it is known to rejuvenate your body, like sports drinks are made to do. But because its natural, many see coconut water as a better way to rehydrate after sports, working out, or a day in the sun.
- Helps balance your pH levels.
Out-of-wack pH levels can cause many issues such as osteoporosis (1) and is caused by our modern diet and the sugars and sodium levels now in a lot of foods. The alkaline properties found in coconut water, due to the electrolytes, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, help balance out the pH in our diets. Some claim that coconut water helps alkalize the pH levels caused by stomach acid that results in heartburn.
- Helps prevent/fight kidney stones.
If kidney stones are an issue for you, turning to coconut water may help. In research(2), people found that coconut water (and the potassium in it) helps break down the crystals in urine that can cause kidney stones. Drinking simple water can help this as well, but the nutrients in coconut water seem to help more.
How to best use coconut water?
The obvious best way to drink coconut water is fresh, and you can even find decently fresh coconuts at most markets but when fresh coconuts are not available nearby (which is the case for most people), canned or boxed water is a good alternative. While there are a lot of fake coconut water products (ones with additives, that use old coconuts or add water to increase the volume), some exist that are pure, High Pressure Processing (HPP), and are very healthy. Look for ones that say they’re organic, use HPP or are known to be the most pure (yes, sorry, you have to read the labels!).
Drinking daily is great for your health, but as in most cases, don’t over do it. Don’t make it the only thing you drink. Coconut water is a known diuretic, which means although it helps hydrate you, it also promotes urination (similar to coffee), and could actually have the reverse effect on you, causing you to become dehydrated.
Which coconut waters should I buy?
If you can’t get fresh coconuts, check out two of the best brands to buy below (and check your local health food store to see if they carry these, or recommend their own brand!
One of the most talked about ‘raw’ coconut waters, Harmless Harvest uses cold pressure to make the water, as opposed to heating the coconuts which hurt the nutrient values. It is organic and may actually come pink, which they say happens with pure coconut water due to the antioxidants in it.It has a 60 day shelf life, since there are no preservatives in it and actually comes packed in ice when ordered online.
100% USDA certified organic, raw/never heated coconut water made from Thai coconuts.
Ships frozen and they suggest thawing when you’re ready to drink it. Not packaged the best, but going for quality over shelf appearance.
As Harmless Harvest above, their water turns pink.
Please share this post if you know someone who loves coconut water, or to people who rely on unnatural sports drinks every day!
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