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How Healthy Is Coconut Water?

fresh cut green coconut with water splash on white

How Healthy Is Coconut Water?

Coconuts grow in tropical climates such as Africa, Asia, South America, southern and central Florida, and the Caribbean islands.  They are a member of the Arecaceae family of palm trees.  Their Latin name is Cocos nucifera.  Their flavour varies depending on the climate, the saline substance in the soil, and if they are growing far away from the shore.  Coconut water is a refreshing drink, with a subtle nutty taste.  It is extremely hydrating so it is suitable for athletes after a workout.  It contains more potassium than four bananas.  Unlike coconut milk, coconut water is low in fat, and cholesterol free.   Coconut water contains less sugar than most sports drinks, soft drinks and fruit drinks.

While it is beneficial for your health, it is important not to consume too much of it.  Lillian Cheung DSc, RD, of Harvard School of Public Health says “One 11-ounce container has 60 calories and if you drink several in one day, the calories can add up quickly”. Lillian Cheung is the co-author of Savor Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, and she advises being mindful of what you eat and drink.  She suggests you read food and beverage labels before consuming them.

Professional tennis player John Isner always drinks coconut water during his Wimbledon tournaments.  He says “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.” The night before a game, John drinks a combination of water and coconut water.  During the match he mixes sea salt into the coconut water to rehydrate.  After the game he mixes protein powder into the coconut water.

A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise showed that although coconut water rehydrates the body better than most sports drinks and even water, athletes still preferred the taste of sports drinks.   A study conducted in 2007 reported that when sodium was added to coconut water it was as beneficial as drinking a sports drink for post exercise rehydration.  A different study discovered that when coconut water was consumed in large amounts it was easier to tolerate than other drinks, which resulted in less upset stomachs and fullness.

Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD and author of Nancy Clarks Sports Nutrition Guidebook says “Whether you choose a sports drink, coconut water, or plain water, they all work to keep your body hydrated.

The challenge is when you exercise strenuously for more than three hours in the heat and lose lots of body fluids, you need easily absorbed carbs for quick energy and to replace lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium” “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”.

The health benefits of Coconut water

It contains natural sugars, electrolytes and minerals to replenish dehydration

It has anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic and anti-thrombotic (anti-clot) effects.

It is beneficial to rehydrate the body after a bout of diarrhea.

It contains amino acids, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and B vitamins,

It has bioactive enzymes which aid the digestion and metabolism

It is low in sodium but high in natural sugar and amino acids

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