Wishing you could be on a tropical island right now? Open up some coconut water. Each subtly sweet sip will give you major vacay vibes while helping you stay hydrated.
But not all coconut water is the same. There are a few things to consider when shopping for and drinking coconut water.
Coconut water, known as Noelani or “dew from the heavens” in Hawaii, is a liquid that’s collected from whole coconuts. People have been using coconut trees for their nutrients since ancient times. But more recently, coconut water has become the drink of choice for health-conscious peeps looking for a tasty drink without added sugars.
Coconut water is mostly water, but it contains some nutrients as well.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for 1 cup of coconut water:
- Calories: 60
- Carbs: 15 grams
- Sugars: 8 grams
- Calcium: 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Magnesium: 4% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 2% of the DV
- Potassium: 15% of the DV
- Sodium: 2% of the DV
It contains some carbs, plus it’s a good source of vitamin C and electrolytes (like magnesium, chloride, and sodium).
Can coconut water really live up to all the hype? We took a closer look at the science to find out what perks it could really have to offer.
1. Could be used to rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes
Coconut water is mostly water which helps to hydrate you. But it also contains the electrolytes you deplete through sweating. Electrolytes are natural components of body fluid. You need them for critical functions like muscle contraction, nerve cell function, maintaining fluid balance, and more.
So it’s like a natural sports recovery drink. But can it work as well as a specially designed formula? Maybe. A very small 2012 study showed that coconut water was as effective for promoting rehydration after exercise and supporting exercise performance as a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink.
However, this study was funded by Vitacoco, which was the brand of coconut water used in the study. This could have impacted study results. Plus, the men reported increased bloating and stomach discomfort when drinking the coconut water.
There’s not a lot of evidence that coconut water helps you rehydrate after physical activity. And there’s no evidence that it’s more effective than sports drinks or plain old water.
FYI: Unless you’re participating in strenuous prolonged activity, there’s usually no need to rehydrate with a drink that contains sugar and electrolytes (like coconut water).
2. Contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds
Along with nutrients like magnesium and potassium, coconut water is a solid source of certain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Some studies have shown that coconut water is a source of compounds that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including phenolic compounds like caffeic acid. Plus, it contains some vitamin C, which acts as a powerful antioxidant in the bod.
These antioxidant compounds could help protect against cellular damage. However, there’s no evidence that drinking coconut water has any significant antioxidant or anti-inflammatory effects in humans.
So, don’t go replacing your fruits and veggies with coconut water.
3. May have benefits for blood sugar control
Some animal studies suggest that coconut water may have the potential to reduce blood sugar levels and eye damage caused by high blood sugar levels.
But there’s no human studies backing up these findings so it’s unclear if coconut water is a good choice for those who experience diabetes.
Peeps with diabetes or prediabetes should consider that, even though 100 percent coconut water doesn’t contain any added sugar, it does contain naturally occurring sugars.
This means that coconut water does impact your blood sugar levels. Based on the lack of human evidence and the fact that coconut water can raise blood sugar, it’s not a good idea to overdo it on coconut water.
4. It’s a good source of some nutrients
Coconut water provides a good source of some nutrients, especially potassium. Potassium’s a mineral that’s needed for normal cellular function as well as maintaining proper fluid balance in your bod.
Most peeps in the U.S. don’t consume enough potassium, but drinking coconut water could help improve potassium intake. However, so could eating more foods that contain potassium, like fruits and vegetables.
The same goes for the other vitamins and minerals found in coconut water like vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium.
In general, it’s best to focus on food sources of vitamins and minerals rather than relying on a specific beverage like coconut water to help you get the nutrients you need on a regular basis.
Even though some peeps think that coconut water is super healthy and has a ton of benefits, the truth is that there’s not a lot of evidence that coconut is all that special.
Sure, it contains some nutrients and beneficial compounds, but many other foods and beverages are much more nutritious and have solid research to back up their health benefits.
It could be helpful after an intense workout
Peeps participating in prolonged, strenuous activity like long distance running, biking, or hiking need to replenish with a drink that contains some carbs and electrolytes. In these situations, coconut water could be used. But again, there’s no evidence that it’s more effective than other drinks that contain carbs and electrolytes.
However, if you’ve just worked out for 30 minutes or gone for a leisurely walk or jog, rehydrating with plain old water should do the trick.
Coconut water could also be used in moderation to rehydrate after illness, like when you’re dehydrated from a fever or diarrhea, but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first. They can make sure it’s a good idea for your specific health needs.
Remember that it’s not the same as water
Even though coconut water is mostly water, it is not the same thing as plain water. It contains calories and carbs and does raise blood sugar.
Pure coconut water contains about 60 calories per cup and 15 grams of carbs. And some coconut water products contain added sugar and can pack a significant amount of calories and carbs per serving.
So, if you’re chugging coconut water all day, you’re going to be ingesting quite a few calories and a good amount of carbs, which could lead to weight gain if you’re not adjusting your calorie intake.
If you like coconut water, then drink it. But just be sure to stick to 100 percent pure coconut water that doesn’t contain added sugars and limit your intake to a cup or 2 per day, especially if you have high blood sugar levels. You should also be aware that it could cause GI discomfort in some peeps.
Pro tip: When shopping for coconut water, it’s a good idea to choose brands that only contain 100 percent coconut water and to stay away from sugar-sweetened coconut water and coconut-flavored beverages.
Coconut water is a naturally sweet beverage that’s a good source of certain nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
Even though it could be used as a way to stay hydrated and may be a good choice for replenishing electrolytes and water loss after strenuous activity, there’s not a whole lot of evidence on the health effects of coconut water, especially in humans.
So, if you like coconut water, then enjoy it from time to time. But there’s no need to start drinking coconut water to support health.
Instead, follow a nutrient-dense diet that’s high in foods that are known to support overall health and lower disease risk like fruits, vegetables, fish, and beans.