Health Benefits of Coconut Water
This trendy beverage isn't magic, but it can help keep you hydrated.
When it comes to trendy health foods and beverages, it's always best to proceed with caution. Oftentimes, brands make hefty claims about the supposed benefits of their products but don't have the science to back it up. In some cases, though, these products do actually boast some legit, evidence-based nutrition perks.
Take coconut water, for instance. While it certainly isn't the magical elixir that certain marketers and influencers make it out to be, it does contain nutrients that can boost hydration and overall health. Here's what you need to know.
Pictured Recipe: Mango-Coconut Green Smoothie
5 Reasons to Try Coconut Water
Coconut water is lower in sugar than fruit juice.
Coconut water is the fluid found inside young coconuts. It has a sweet, slightly funky flavor and is cloudy-clear in color. It's much lower in sugar than other fruit juices, and therefore also lower in calories. For example, a cup of orange juice has 112 calories and 21 grams of sugar, while a cup of coconut water has 46 calories and 6 grams of sugar. The coconut water also provides 2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of fiber, all of which slow digestion and help prevent your blood sugar from spiking
Related: The Health Benefits of Coconut
Coconut water contains electrolytes.
Similar to sports drinks like Gatorade, coconut water contains "sodium, potassium and even small amounts of calcium and magnesium depending on the brand," says Aja Gyimah, M.H.Sc., RD, owner of Compete Nutrition in Toronto. All of these are electrolytes, or charged minerals that are essential in so many bodily functions. Having the proper balance of electrolytes is key to keeping you hydrated and feeling your best. One cup of coconut water provides:
- Magnesium: 14% Daily Value
- Potassium: 13% DV
- Sodium: 11% DV
- Calcium: 4% DV
Now, it's important to note that there are plenty of other ways to get these electrolytes—they're found in many of the foods we eat. And if you're healthy, your body does a great job of regulating your electrolyte levels. But for someone who is significantly dehydrated, sipping on coconut water or another electrolyte beverage may help.
Pictured Recipe: Creamsicle Breakfast Smoothie
Coconut water is rich in manganese.
A trace mineral that must be obtained through diet (your body can't produce it on its own), manganese has several important roles in the body. It is involved in the metabolism of carbs, protein and cholesterol, and it is essential to bone formation and proper immune response. A cup of coconut water delivers 15% of the DV for manganese.
The carbs in coconut water can help fuel workouts and recovery.
Coconut water can also help during or after a workout. "Drinking coconut water after exercise can help athletes rehydrate and replenish electrolytes lost from sweating," Gyimah says.
Coconut water's calories come primarily from sugar, a carbohydrate, which helps athletes refuel their energy stores and recover a little bit faster, Gyimah says. "Coconut water can also provide energy from carbohydrates and fluids during a workout to prevent fatigue and dehydration."
Coconut water is hydrating—but so is water.
All of this said, you don't need to drink coconut water to be healthy, or to hydrate. As we've already discussed, the electrolytes present in coconut water are found in plenty of other foods. And, you can stay adequately hydrated just by drinking plain old water.
But coconut water can be a fun alternative. "If you're somebody who really likes the taste of coconut water, you might be encouraged to drink more fluids during or after your workout" by keeping it around, Gyimah says.
There is such a thing as too much.
"[As] with any fluid, you never want to drink too much during exercise," Gyimah says. "It can weigh you down and make you feel sick." She recommends taking a few sips at a time, as opposed to guzzling half the bottle. It's also important not to completely replace water with coconut water. Although everyone's fluid needs are different, the average woman needs about 91 ounces a day, or about 11.5 cups. That much coconut water contains 530 calories and 70 grams of sugar. Needless to say, your best bet is to limit your consumption of coconut water to one or two servings a day, or less.