Coconut water seems to be taking over the shelves of every supermarket, drugstore and bodega these days. This beverage has rapidly shot to health drink fame, claiming to be a superior source of hydration. But does this “life enhancing” drink live up to the hype (and the hefty price tag)? We break it down for you here.
What is coconut water, exactly?
Coconut water is the liquid that is found inside young coconuts before they mature, at which point the water solidifies to form the flesh of the coconut. Native to the tropics, coconut water can be drunk directly from freshly harvested fruit. The commercial coconut water that you find in the U.S., often sold in bottles and tetra packs, is pasteurized and may have added pulp.
What’s in it?
Nutrient content varies slightly from brand to brand, but coconut water is naturally low in calories and fat-free. A serving has about the same amount of potassium as a banana and it is low in sodium. It also has a small amount of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Brands that add ascorbic acid as a preservative provide a good source of vitamin C. Fruit-flavored coconut water is also available and these varieties have slightly more calories and sugar due to the added fruit.
Are there any health benefits?
The high potassium and low sodium content of coconut water has a nutrient profile shown to help lower high blood pressure. However, this drink alone isn’t going to do the trick. Broader diet and lifestyle changes are needed to curb hypertension. And getting your nutrients from whole foods is usually a better idea anyway, to make sure you get all their health-boosting fiber and antioxidants.
Is Coconut Water Better Than Sports Drinks After Exercising?
Some brands of coconut water are marketed as “sports drinks,” claiming to be a low-cal way to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat. While potassium and sodium do need to be replaced after heavy exercise, those of us who go to the gym for an hour or so won’t lose enough to require a special drink – regular tap water works just fine to rehydrate. And, some sports nutritionists say the sodium in coconut water isn’t enough for serious athletes.
Bottom Line, Drink Up
Coconut water can certainly be part of a healthy diet, and if you like the taste, then drink up. After all, it’s certainly better for you than sugary sodas. But for my money, I’ll stick with the water I’m lucky enough to have piped directly into my home.