Does Coconut Water Live Up To Its Reputation

Does Coconut Water Live Up To Its Reputation - Dr. David Samadi

The buzz over coconut water may have calmed down recently yet many people still perceive it as a miracle beverage wearing a health halo with claims of “super hydrating,”  “nutrient packed” or “mega-electrolyte.”  Declarations ranging from being able to cure hangovers to heart disease to obesity have all been made in the name of coconut water.  Where does the truth lie once the facts have been sorted out and does it live up to its reputation on all the pledges it makes or is it overhyped?

What exactly is coconut water?

Coconut water, considered the juice of a coconut, is the clear liquid found inside a young, green coconut which is harvested at 5-7 months of age.  The taste for some is found to be refreshing with a sweet, nutty flavor while others may find the taste to be more unpleasant.  Coconut water is not to be confused with coconut milk which is an emulsion of coconut water and fresh grated coconut.

As a comparison to an 8-ounce serving of other juices, coconut water has either similar or fewer carbohydrates (8 grams) and calories (45).  It can also boast of a higher content of potassium (600 milligrams), magnesium (60 milligrams), and calcium (58 milligrams), all found within that same 8 ounces than what most other juices provide. 

For those with high blood pressure, an 8 ounce serving of coconut water contains 252 milligrams of sodium which could be a concern for some.

Should it be considered a sports drink?

Probably not since coconut water is low in sugar and calories and is not considered an ideal sports drink.  For the average light-to-moderate exerciser who probably is not breaking out in much of a sweat causing excessive electrolyte loss, water will suffice just fine by keeping them adequately hydrated.

For workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes with the person maintaining a moderate to intense workout, coconut water may help with hydration but a sports drink will better meet their needs of supplying more calories, sodium and potassium lost through sweat.  Some athletes though swear by coconut water stating it is super-hydrating and prevents muscle cramps in hot and humid conditions.

Can coconut water make you look younger?

There have been claims of coconut water providing anti-aging properties but this is a myth.  Bottom line, being well-hydrated, whether with water or coconut water, can retain moisture in the skin giving a person a more youthful appearance.  How a person ages is often dictated by genetics and other lifestyle habits of adequate exercise and sleep, healthy food choices, avoiding too much sun and not smoking.

Is coconut water a healthier choice than fruit juice?

If you choose unflavored coconut water, then yes, it is a better choice than high-calorie, high-sugar fruit juices.  Fruit juices will often have double the calories that could contribute to weight gain and a high carbohydrate content possibly spiking blood sugar levels in those with diabetes.  Coconut water also has a much higher potassium content which for some individuals is beneficial as they may be coming up short on potassium in their diet.

Can coconut water speed up metabolism aiding in weight loss?

Some allegations have been made that coconut water enhances metabolism helping to burn more calories.  Anytime we eat or drink there is a temporary boost to our metabolism since the body has to kick into gear to digest the food.  But it’s not a permanent boost.  The best boost for increasing metabolism long-term or the amount of calories we burn even at rest is exercise and building muscle mass.  Food and beverages don’t do this. 

What about claims of coconut water preventing strokes and heart attacks?

Because of coconut water’s high potassium content it has been touted as a heart-healthy beverage.  Potassium helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt.  In theory, coconut water may possibly help prevent heart disease.  However, other foods rich in potassium such as bananas, avocados, milk, and dark leafy greens can also be helpful for preventing heart disease. Our body does not differentiate between potassium from a banana or potassium from coconut water. 

The verdict on coconut water

If a person likes the taste of coconut water and realizes it will not miraculously cure them of anything in particular, it can be enjoyed as a beverage on occasion. It should not be substituted for water since every 8 ounces contains approximately 45 calories whereas water has zero calories.  In addition, water will be far cheaper than the more expensive coconut water. 

Also, don’t depend on coconut water supplying all the potassium you need when eating more fruits and veggies can do the same plus they will provide far more fiber along with other nutrients and phytochemicals than what coconut water contains.