In the past few months, I have been noticing coconut water creating quite a buzz in the nutrition-world. I never really heard much about coconut water until I saw a few of my friends downing the drink after an intense workout. We aren’t stranded on a desert island, here…so why in the world are people drinking this stuff?
As it turns out, the drink has many proposed health benefits such as being an excellent source of hydration and electrolytes, and preventing kidney disease, heart disease, and aging. Hm, are these claims about coconut water valid, or is it just another hyped-up marketing scheme?
What is Coconut Water?
Coconut water is the clear liquid from the inside of immature or green coconuts. This is not to be confused with fatty coconut milk, which is squeezed from the grated meat on the inside of a coconut. In general, coconut water contains more potassium, less sodium, and less calories than sports drinks.
The PROS of Coconut Water
- Loaded with electrolytes – Coconut water is referred to as “mother nature’s sports drink” due to it’s electrolyte content. As you can see by the nutrition facts label below, it is loaded with potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. Electrolytes are especially beneficial after exercise and physical activity because many electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, are lost through sweat. The most abundant electrolyte in coconut water is potassium. Did you know that 1 cup of coconut water contains 600 mg of potassium…which is more than a banana or an avocado?!
- Hydration – Perfect for rehydrating post-workout and can even alleviate those horrible hangovers! Professional tennis player John Isner swears by coconut water during his famous 11-hour Wimbledon win. He states, “It is super hydrating and has kept me going in long matches and prevented me from cramping even in the hottest and most humid conditions”,
- Low in calories – Containing only 46 calories in a 1 cup serving, coconut water is much lower in calories compared to many other commercial sports drinks (which can contain up to 250-300 calories). Thus, coconut water may be a great option for individuals who need extra hydration for various health reasons, but don’t want to pack on the pounds with extra calories.
- Fat free and cholesterol free – Coconut water has NO cholesterol, NO fat, NO saturated fat, and NO trans fat…enough said.
- It’s natural – Coconut water comes strictly from nature with no chemical additives or added sugars. The 9 grams of carbohydrate in coconut water comes from simple, natural sugars…as opposed to refined and added sugars that are commonly found in processed foods and drinks.
The CONS of Coconut Water
- Price – Compared with commercial sports drinks, coconut water tends to be more expensive. Depending on the manufacturer and the brand, coconut water runs around 15-18 cents per ounce, whereas Gatorade runs around 5-8 cents per ounce.
- Quacky claims – Sorry, but downing gallons and gallons of coconut water is not going to cure you of diabetes, stave off cancer, make you look 20 years younger, or any of the other quacky claims you may see in the media.
- Taste – Some brands may vary in taste. Does coconut water taste as good as a sports drink? Well, that is strictly a subjective assessment. Because sports drinks offer a variety of sugary, artificial, and exotic flavors, the chances of consumers finding a sports drink they like may be more realistic than someone liking the single flavor of coconut water.
- May not be appropriate for ELITE athletes – Elite athletes or individuals who sweat profusely for over 3 hours lose a VAST amount of potassium and sodium. Esteemed sports nutritionist, Nancy Clark, MS, RD, suggests neither coconut water nor sports drinks contain enough sodium or carbs for someone who is sweating profusely. She states, “Supplement with a quick source of energy like a banana or some raisins and a handful of pretzels to provide nutrients to replenish your stores”.
What’s the bottom line?
If you’re an active person who doesn’t mind the taste or price of coconut water, it could definitely be worth it. Coconut water is completely natural and void of the added sugars and additives in many sports drinks. Coconut water is also high is potassium, low in sodium, and low in calories and fat.