Cracking the Nut:
Is Coconut Water the Ultimate Elixir?
There is no denying that coconut is certainly having a moment. Coconut water, in particular, has really taken off in the last few years. This isn’t all that surprising – it is delicious, refreshing, and many articles boast about its health benefits.
If you were to stop to think about it, though, there isn’t too much else that you know about this drink. Now, considering how new health fads can be hyped up quite a bit, you may want to get an unvarnished version of the beverage.
Well, that is exactly what this guide will do for you. Here, you can discover all the information you need to know about coconut water. At the end, you will learn everything from its origins to coconut water nutrition facts. Let’s get started.
What is Coconut Water
The first thing you need to understand about coconut water is what it actually is. Coconut water is created by the drupe itself. The liquid is found within the center cavity of young, green drupes. The surrounding shell has to be drilled or broken to get to the coconut water.
In this way, coconut water is different from coconut milk. Coconut milk is made from the grated flesh of mature coconuts. As such, coconut water and milk have different structures and nutrient profiles as well.
The Origin Story
Now let’s take a look at where coconut water originated from. Although the Western craze isn’t that old, coconut water has been used for centuries in other parts of the world. For instance, if you have ever been on holiday to a tropical country, you may have found that coconut water is freely available.
Scientists, however, have been able to narrow down the origins of coconut water a little more accurately. According to coconut “DNA”, the drupe (and its water) was naturally grown in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
Of course, there is the trade to consider as well. Once these routes opened up, coconuts made their way up to the coastal areas of Africa, certain parts of Central America, the West Indies, and Brazil. This is why, to this day, you will find people in these countries drinking coconut water as part of their diet.
As coconut water made its way around the world, here are all the interesting ways it was used:
- For medicinal purposes
- To provide fetuses with strength and vitality
- Removing wrinkles
- Used for plasma transfusions during World War II
- Mixed with sandalwood paste to use while bathing
The Rise of Coconut Water
Coconut water is an excellent example of a physical product that went viral. Within the span of five years, the drink went from being virtually unknown to a 30 million dollar industry! It is estimated to be worth billions of dollars by 2023.
So, how did coconut water skyrocket to fame so quickly? Well, there are two main explanations for this:
First, it was all down to marketing. The companies that initially invested in coconut water really pushed the idea of how good and nutritious it was. Along with a slew of celebrity endorsements, the legend of coconut water grew.
At the same time, the demand for healthier, natural alternatives was growing as well. Since coconut water appeared to meet all the necessary criteria, it began flying off shelves. To do this day, the drink continues to hold its position in the global industry.
The Nutrient Content
Now, you know that coconut water is supposed to be good for you. However, are you aware of the actual coconut water nutrition content? Probably not. So, here is a breakdown of all the components found in this drink, per cup:
Total lipid (fat)
Carbohydrate, by difference
Fiber, total dietary
Sugars, total including NLEA
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
As mentioned, these values are based on a cup of coconut water. The USDA estimates that there is a little less in the average coconut.
It should also be noted that the exact values will depend on the age of the coconut as well as the commercial brand you are buying.
The Health Benefits of Coconut Water
Of course, what you really want to know is coconut water healthy? The simple answer to this question is yes, coconut water is good for you.
Here are some of the advantages you may experience when you drink this beverage.
Coconut Water Offers Tasty Rehydration
Nevertheless, there is one of the benefits of coconut water that really stand out: hydration.
See, when you perspire a great deal – such as on a hot day or when you exercise – you lose more than just water.
You are also sweating out important minerals. Since the coconut water potassium, sodium, and other electrolyte content is rather high, it helps you to rehydrate more quickly.
Of course, coconut water works well for a moderate amount of exercise, in a cooler setting. If you are really working up a sweat or working out in very hot weather, then you are going to need a drink with higher sodium content.
Interestingly enough, though, sodium-enriched coconut water boasts similar results to commercial sports drinks. Not only is coconut water healthier, but it also lacks the sheer number of calories found in sports drinks.
There is a caveat, however. If you are a serious athlete or work out for long periods of time, a sports drink may have the sodium, sugar, and caloric content you need.
May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Animal studies show that there is a chance for coconut water to beneficial for individuals diagnosed with diabetes.
One of the main issues with diabetes, of course, is the difficulty in maintaining an appropriate blood sugar level.
Diabetic rats who were given coconut water showed improved blood glucose maintenance. Furthermore, these results were found to have a long-term impact as well.
This could mean that coconut water could potentially help individuals for a longer period of time.
To truly understand the impact of coconut water for diabetic individuals, such a trial would need to be conducted with humans.
May Have Antioxidant Properties
You have undoubtedly heard quite a bit about antioxidants and why they are useful for you.
In short, antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress which is responsible for cell damage and an increase in the risk of diseases.
Now, there have been several studies conducted in rats to determine if coconut water can act as an antioxidant within the body.
One experiment showed that coconut water was effective in combating oxidative stress and even having a protective effect on the liver.
The other study indicated that the coconut water could mitigate oxidative stress and reverse high blood pressure due to an upregulation of antioxidant status in the body.
It should be noted that these clinical trials weren’t replicated with humans.
Could Boost Heart Health
Heart disease is a troubling issue for the current population. Some of the reasons for an increased risk of this condition are high levels of cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body.
Rats that were fed coconut water on a regular basis showed lower levels of both cholesterols and triglycerides.
What is most interesting is that this effect was comparable to statin drugs prescribed to individuals at risk of heart disease.
The only caveat here is the amounts of coconut water necessary to prodcuce this result.
Technically, a person of average weight will need to consume several liters of coconut water to experience this positive impact.
Could Prevent Kidney Stones
There are two main reasons that kidney stones could form.
The first could be because there are more crystal forming substances – calcium, oxalate, and uric acid – than actual fluid.
The second could be because your urine doesn’t contain the right substances to stop the crystals from forming.
Now, in most instances, doctors will encourage you to drink more water to prevent kidney stones from forming.
Nevertheless, there is some evidence to show that coconut water may be better equipped for such a situation.
Rats with kidney stones were given coconut water for several weeks. At the end of this period, it was deduced that coconut water helped to prevent the crystal deposition in the renal tissue.
Furthermore, it also worked to reduce the number of crystals in the urine.
It should be noted that this is a preliminary study conducted on rats. There will need to be more research conducted to truly understand the impact of coconut water on kidney stones, particularly in humans.
Can Coconut Water Be a Substitute for Water?
So, it is clear that coconut water is great for hydration. Does this mean that it can replace water completely? In this case, the answer would be no.
Much of the human body is made up of water. While coconut water does have a high water content, it obviously isn’t the same as regular water. So, in terms of hydration, it doesn’t really match up to the ultimate drink. However, when drunk in moderation, coconut water can be a delicious form of hydration.
What You Should Know About Drinking Coconut Water
- Coconut water can cause stomach upsets in certain individuals.
- The high levels of potassium make coconut water unsuitable for those with kidney problems and high potassium blood levels.
- It shouldn’t be used to increase salt levels for people with cystic fibrosis.
How to Use Coconut Water
Let’s now take a look at how you can use coconut water in your diet:
A Low-Calorie Alternative to Juices
Coconut water has a much lower calorie content than most juices. In fact, it contains less sugar as well. So, if you are looking for something to substitute your juice addiction with, coconut water is a good drink to opt for. Keep in mind that it still has calories, so avoid drinking too much of it.
Hydration in Certain Instances
The research on coconut water after exercising unearthed something rather interesting. On average, people who drank coconut water during exercise were less likely to feel full or nauseous. So, if drinking water or sports drinks caused these issues for you, coconut water may be a good alternative. However, this should only be attempted for moderate exercise.
An Occasional Alternative to Water
Some people have trouble drinking as much water as they should. This is often because they find the lack of taste dull. So, if you want to occasionally spice up your water drinking schedule, coconut water is a healthy and natural way to do so. Once again, though, it shouldn’t replace the water in your diet.
The Top Tips for Selecting Coconut Water
If you are someone who drinks coconut water straight from the coconut, then there isn’t too much to worry about. However, most people will buy pre-packaged coconut water. As such, there are several things that you need to keep an eye out for:
Opt for Original, Natural Coconut Water
You will be surprised to learn that not all types of coconut water are the same. Some are diluted versions, while others have been treated to extend their shelf-life. Stay away from these as they may not provide you with the benefits you are looking for.
Instead, look for all-natural, 100 percent coconut water. This often means doing a little research and reading labels. Nonetheless, it will be well worth your effort.
Speaking of labels, always make it a point to look at the ingredients included with any coconut water brand. Whenever possible, stay away from any kind of additives, even if they seem healthy. In particular, though, you should avoid coconut water with added flavors or sugars. This can add calories and take away from the health benefits of the drink.
Avoid Addition of Other Coconut Elements
There are some companies that will add coconut flesh to the drink as well. Now, while this may seem like a healthy addition, this isn’t the case. Understand, the oils in coconut are high in saturated fat. Not to mention, these coconut pieces will also increase the overall caloric content of the drink.
So there you have it – the full story on coconut water. As you can see, coconut water is quite nutritional and can be beneficial. At the same time, it isn’t quite the miracle drink that everyone has been making it out to be.
Riya Borah is a nutritionist educator and her job involves guiding people towards a healthier lifestyle. Growing up in India, Riya was aware of just how much coconut was used on a daily basis. This encouraged her to research the properties of this versatile drupe. It opened her eyes to both the limitation and possibilities of coconut. Her aim is to now educate as many people as possible about the best ways to utilize coconut in their own lives.
An Important Disclaimer
The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you wish to consume any form of coconut regularly for the purpose of treating any condition or illness.