Health crazes come and go, but those ‘fads’ that stick around do so because there is truth behind their claims. Coconut water has become a popular drink alternative within the last decade and continues to grow in popularity because it offers what many water alternatives do not: natural health benefits. Whether you use it as a sports drink, a thirst quencher, or an ingredient in a favorite recipe, your use of it provides a healthy wealth of nutrition to your body.
There are a surprising amount of claims made surrounding coconut water, and this guide helps explain what you want to watch for to get the nutrition and benefits it has to offer. Coconut water benefits are definitely worth understanding in order to decide if this is a product you would like to regularly use, and how to best use it.
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What is Coconut Water?
Coconut water is the clear liquid taken from young coconuts. It serves as a suspension for the growth of tissues within the fruit as it matures. When a younger, greener coconut is harvested it contains an abundance of this water which can be tapped for use to drink as is, mixed with various other juices or even used as a liquid alternative in recipes.
What is in Coconut Water?
Unmixed, coconut water contains an abundance of nutrients considered helpful for body function. With about 46 calories in a 1 cup serving, these are not empty calories as so many other types of juices are, but are full of vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Of course, coconut water should not be drank like water as those calories and associated carbs and sugars can add up fast, but it makes it an excellent thirst quencher and sports drink alternative.
This is what you get in a 1 cup serving of water from a coconut (measurements are approximate):
|9 grams carbohydrates
6 grams sugar
2.5 grams fiber
0.5 grams fat
2 grams protein
6 mg Vitamin C
|0.1 mg Riboflavin
0.1 mg Thiamin
0.1 mg Vitamin B6
0.1 mg pantothenic acid
7 mcg Folate
|600 mg potassium
0.5 mg manganese
60 mg magnesium
58 mg Calcium
0.7 mg Iron
And small amounts of phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium amongst other trace nutrients.
So what does this mean exactly? Basically, this is not an ‘empty calorie’ drink that only provides fast sugars and calories with no other body benefit. The nutrients provided are also those that we quickly deplete when we sweat.
What Coconut Water Tastes Like
The taste of coconut water seems to bring a mixed bag of emotions to those who first start drinking it. Many people believe it will taste more like coconut milk, a creamier liquid made with pureed parts of the coconut flesh. The water has a coconut smell and slight coconut taste, but since its main purpose is to support the growth of the fruit, the substance is more reminiscent of the minerals it is providing- namely a slightly sweet, salty taste.
Without going into great detail, some people love it or acquire a taste of it, or absolutely despise it with some choice descriptive words of what it tastes like. Of course, I am describing the taste of unmixed water since many brands market the water actually mixed with other juices to sweeten it and make it more palatable.
The problem with this is you are adding in extra calories and sugars in the process and negating some of the positive benefits it claims. Of course, if you are just looking for a substitute to more sugary, empty drinks, such as soda, then these blends are still a healthier choice.
How to Use Coconut Water
Of course, as a liquid, this water is best used in its original form, or as a substitute for recipes that call for cooking in water for absorption. Of course, you can drink it as is as a quick way to rehydrate and replenish lost vitamins and minerals, or to simply quench your thirst. But if the flavor is not quite to your liking, and you want to know exactly what else is being served with it, try out a few of these ideas to take advantage of its benefits.
- Make homemade lemonade
- Mix with juice and make your own popsicles
- Use it to make rice, either on the stovetop or in a slow cooker
- Add to Ceviche
- Mix with honey and lime to make a salad dressing
- Brew ice tea using
- Use it for cocktails
- Mix it into smoothies
- Freeze it into ice cubes for mixed or blended drinks
- Use it in marinades
- Use as a replacement for any recipes calling for water- such as curry, pudding, or even coffee.
Concerns About Coconut Water
Although considered a safe product for both adults and children alike, care does need to be taken in certain situations. First, using it to replace the regular amounts of water you should be consuming each day is not a good idea. Those calories can add up fast and if you are thirsty it is still best to stick with plain water. It may also cause an upset stomach in some people, but this is very rare.
Potassium is found in abundance in the water, and so if you already have high potassium levels or have kidney problems, you may not want to imbibe often to keep from raising levels or putting stress on your kidney as they try to extract the nutrient.
Benefits of Coconut Water
Coconut water is not a solution to health problems, nor should it be used as some sort of holistic replacement for diagnosed issues, but the addition of it to your diet can be beneficial. There is nothing miraculous about it, yet the fact that it has natural nutrients and can serve as a replacement to other fluids (especially sugary, chemically created thirst quenchers) is well worth taking note of.
Dehydration Fluid Replacement
Whether you are sweating it all out through strenuous activities, or have lost vital nutrients due to an illness, the water contains the important macronutrients needed for proper body function. Potassium, magnesium, and sodium quickly move through your system and is dispelled as you sweat or use the restroom. These electrolytes are crucial for body function and if you are active enough to feel you need to reach for a sports drink for recovery, you might want to try this instead.
Regulate Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that potassium aids in lowering blood pressure, and systolic numbers tend to drop with regular use of the water. Other studies in conjunction with those surrounding blood pressure also show it has antithrombotic activity, meaning it helps prevent the formation of blood clots.
Antioxidants for Health
As your body metabolizes it creates free radicals or unstable molecules produced in your cells. The harder your body has to work to break these down, the more tired and worn down your body may become.
Your body naturally dispels these, but if you are stressed or injured as well, your body reacts by making more- increasing your risk of cell damage and disease. This water has shown to help modify free radicals to render them harmless and reduce body stress.
May Help Control Blood Sugars
For many people, this may not seem significant, but if you have been diagnosed with diabetes then you are already aware of your daily need to pay close attention to this topic. Many studies have shown it to be favorable in maintaining healthy sugar levels as well as lowering oxidative stress. The magnesium also works to increase insulin sensitivity.
May Help Prevent Kidney Stones
Drinking fluids is a good way to help keep your kidneys flushed to avoid kidney stones. Kidney stones form when an abundance of calcium and oxalate build up and are unable to be dispelled, thus forming crystals that adhere to the kidney causing stones. Coconut water has shown in studies to help reduce crystal formation, but even more importantly, help prevent the crystal from sticking to the kidneys to form the stone.
May Help Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels lower with use of the water, which reduces risk of heart disease. Of course, this requires regular drinking of the water, but studies indicate very favorable findings with more research ongoing.
A simple product, coconut water is an excellent addition to your regular diet when used as a substitute for other liquids, a hydration drink, or a simple thirst quencher. Packed full of good things, it has health benefits you can take advantage of and supports a healthy lifestyle.
It is important, however, that you use pure coconut water that is sold unmixed with sweeteners or other additives as you begin to negate the use when it is mixed. To keep track of what you are putting into your system, mix your own recipes with the water if you want to experiment with it in various ways.
We’d love to answer questions or hear your favorite ways to use coconut water in the comments below. And, as always, please share!