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The Truth About Coconut Water, According to Experts

open coconut and a glass of coconut milk on a woven placemat
12 Health Benefits of Coconut WaterHubei territory Network Technology Co., Ltd/ 500px - Getty Images

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Maybe you have happy fantasies about sitting on a beach, sipping coconut water directly out of the fruit’s giant green husk. I do too.

But in the meantime, there is always the deli cooler for when you’re in the mood for a delicious and nutrient-filled refreshing sip. To be clear, coconut milk has a creamy white hue and incorporates the actual coconut flesh. Here, I’m talking about the clear liquid from inside a coconut.

Because coconut water is so full of electrolytes (minerals and salts that help regulate nerve function, hydrate, maintain fluid balance in your cells), some people call it “nature’s sports as it's great for post-workout hydration. You can also use it as a base for a bunch of healthy smoothie recipes. I like it because it’s not overly sweet, but still has that nice tropical taste.

But it doesn't just taste good, check out this master list of health benefits of coconut water, as well as some things to look out for if you drink it every day.

Coconut water health and nutrition benefits

1. It provides a good source of nutrients and electrolytes

Coconut water fits into both low calorie and low sugar diets since it only has about 45 calories per cup and around 11 grams of sugar. Plus, it's naturally loaded with electrolytes including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and more. Although nutrition facts can vary slightly based on where the coconut is sourced, as well as the maturity of the coconut, an average 8-ounce glass of coconut water has:

  • Calories: 45

  • Total Fat: 0g

  • Cholesterol: 0mg

  • Sodium: 25mg

  • Potassium: 470mg

  • Total Carbohydrate: 11g

  • Total Sugars: 11g

  • Protein: 0g

  • Calcium: 4% DV

  • Magnesium: 4% DV

  • Phosphorus: 2% DV

2. May aid in post-workout recovery

Coconut water is abundant in several electrolytes including potassium, sodium and magnesium. If you're working up a sweat, especially in the summer months, coconut water may prove to be very useful.

Chicago-based registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk says that the electrolytes in coconut water can help to regulate fluid balance, prevent dehydration and even ensure proper muscle function. Of course, you'll want to make sure you refuel with enough carbohydrates and protein post-workout as well.

3. May reduce blood pressure and stroke risk

Bananas are notorious for their high potassium counts, but just one cup of coconut water contains more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Research suggests that potassium-rich diets can help support heart health by reducing blood pressure and even protecting against stroke. Complimenting coconut water with other potassium-rich foods in your diet is ideal when it comes to supporting a healthy heart.

4. Can promote healthy skin

Lack of proper hydration can lead to dry, tight and even flaky skin. Drinking coconut water can contribute to your daily hydration needs, which promotes circulation and radiant skin. Certain varieties of coconut water are fortified with vitamin C, which has a slew of antioxidant properties and naturally stimulates collagen synthesis, and can help keep your skin firm and youthful-looking.

5. May reduce added sugar intake

chilled coconut water in a glass with a pink straw on a pink plate next to pink sunglasses
Irina Marwan - Getty Images

Skip the sugary juices and sodas and instead reach for coconut water when you're in the mood for something other than the tap, says Michalczyk. Unlike sugar sweetened beverages, coconut water usually has little to no added sugar (in unflavored varieties). This makes it a great choice for diabetics or individuals looking to reduce their consumption of added sugar. Look for 100% coconut water not made from concentrate and opt for plain unflavored varieties for a no added sugar solution.

6. Can help rehydrate when you're sick

If you're under the weather, the body can lose a tremendous amount of fluid from vomiting and diarrhea. Michalcyzk notes that coconut water can help with hydration status and balance electrolytes better than regular water in this scenario. Some brands even fortify their coconut water with vitamins C and D which can provide even better immune support.

7. May assist with weight management

You may be wondering if coconut water is good for weight loss. Well, we know that proper hydration is essential for nourishing every cell in the body and optimizing your metabolic rate. And even though coconut water has more calories than plain water, it is substantially lower in calories than other beverages like soda and juice. This simple swap can help you cut back on calories over the course of the week.

8. May help cure a hangover

If a little too much wine at happy hour left you feeling dehydrated and foggy the next day, Michalczyk offers a pro-tip to keep coconut water stocked in your fridge. She says it will help to replenish those electrolytes that drinking may have depleted, and can be a great thirst quencher.

Other possible benefits

  • It supports bone health: Women, especially over age 50, need all the calcium they can get (1000 mg for women 19-50, 1200mg after that). Unless you eat a lot of dairy, it can be hard to meet your numbers through food alone. Why do we need so much? Calcium is essential to help keep bones strong, and your muscles and nerves also need it to function properly. One cup of coconut water has around 17 mg of calcium, which helps you get to your daily recommended amount.

  • It's a good source of magnesium: Magnesium is essential for healthy muscles, nerves, bones and blood sugar levels, and not getting enough over time may put you at a higher risk for various health problems, such as diabetes and stroke. One cup contains 14% of what you need in a day. Keeping it in the fridge as a grab-and-go if you have teenagers at home is a good idea—teens are most likely to have low intakes of magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health.

  • Coconut may (keyword: may!) help with kidney stones: The research is very preliminary, but one small study found that coconut water helped participants pee out more citrate, potassium and chloride, which indicates that the beverage may help loosen stones or prevent them from forming in the first place. Most kidney stones are calcium, and citrate helps prevent its crystallization. More research is needed, however, and please note that if you have other kidney problems, too much potassium (coconut water has quite a bit) is not advised.

FAQs

Are there any side effects from drinking coconut water?

glass of iced coconut water with a cracked coconut shell behind it on a outside patio table by a swimming pool part of a series
Bill Boch - Getty Images

You may be wondering whether or not it is good to drink coconut water every day. For the general population, coconut water is generally considered safe to consume and provides a delicious source of natural electrolytes. But there are a few exceptions to be aware of: If you have renal failure, you'll want to be careful with drinking coconut water, as it is high in potassium. Although this nutrient is normally healthy for the body, when kidneys fail, they can no longer remove excess potassium and monitoring your intake is important. Coconut water may provide an unexpected but major source of potassium if consumed regularly, resulting in hyperkalemia which indicates too much potassium in the blood.

How can I choose the best coconut water?

Ideally, coconut water should have only one ingredient. We recommend opting for varieties that are 100% coconut water without any added sugar, flavorings or additives. If you don't love the taste of coconut water on its own, try incorporating it into smoothies or mixed with sparkling water or a little juice.

Coconut water can be a great way to rehydrate and provide the body a slew of nutrients and electrolytes. Chose plain varieties when possible that are not made from concentrate to stay hydrated throughout the day.

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