Long maligned by nutrition professionals for its high saturated fat content, coconut has grown tremendously trendy in the past few years. It’s particularly popular as an ingredient in beverages, where it outpaces oats and almonds combined, according to a FoodNavigator report.
Coconut water, the clear liquid found inside a fresh green coconut, has been marketed as a thirst-quenching beverage because of its high concentration of natural electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, according to the Mayo Clinic. Coconut water has the consistency of water, is low in calories, and has just a hint of coconut flavor. When blended with coconut flesh, it makes a much richer and more calorie-dense product: coconut milk.
While coconut water has long been sipped in tropical locales, it began gaining popularity in the United States as a natural alternative to sports drinks, embraced by athletes for its hydrating properties.
Good hydration plays a key role in overall health for everyone, regardless of your level of athleticism. It helps regulate body temperature, sleep, brain function, and even mood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise that women get 2.7 liters (L) of fluid per day and men get about 3.7 L per day. About 20 percent of those amounts comes from the food you eat, which means women should aim to drink about 2.2 L (nine 8-ounce [oz] cups) of water per day, and men should aim for 3.0 L (13 8-oz cups). Of course, a number of factors affect fluid needs, including activity, stage of life, and diet. For a more personalized recommendation, use a hydration calculator.
How true are the claims that coconut water is an excellent natural hydrator? And how does it compare with water when it comes to your daily goals for fluid intake? Read on to find out.
Water vs. Coconut Water: How Do They Compare?
While nothing beats pure H2O when it comes to hydration, coconut water is 95 percent water, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which means it’s pretty close. In addition to its high water volume, coconut water also contains valuable nutrients such as fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. And while most coconut products are infamous for their high saturated fat content, coconut water contains very little of this unhealthy fat. It is important to note that coconut water does contain a fair amount of sodium (252 milligrams) [mg] per cup). In contrast, water is a sodium- and calorie-free food which makes it a healthier choice for anyone trying to limit their sodium intake (which almost everyone should). The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 mg and, preferably, 1,500 mg or less per day. One cup of coconut water would account for 17 percent of the latter recommendation.
Coconut Water Nutrition Facts
Since coconut water contains so much water, it is fairly low in calories (although it doesn’t quite meet the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 40-calorie cutoff to qualify as a low-calorie food). According to the USDA, 1 cup of coconut water contains 46 calories, 2 grams (g) protein, 0.5 g fat (0.4 g from saturated fat), 9 g carbs, 2.6 g fiber, 6.3 g sugar, 58 mg calcium, 0.7 mg iron, 60 mg magnesium (making it a good source), 600 mg potassium (a good source), and 252 mg sodium.
What Makes Coconut Water Hydrating?
In addition to its high water content, coconut water also contains electrolytes, which help keep your body functioning at its best and can even help you stay better hydrated, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You hear a lot about electrolytes in sports drink advertisements because you lose them when you sweat. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes (minerals including sodium, calcium, and potassium), that help maintain fluid balance at the cellular level.
Coconut Water vs. Sports Drinks: Which Is More Hydrating?
Much like coconut water, the numerous brightly colored sports drinks on the market contain water and electrolytes. What sets coconut water apart is the fact that it is free of added sugars. While you will find 6.3 g of natural sugars in 1 cup of coconut water, you can expect 13 g of sugar (all added) from the same serving of a sports drink, per the USDA.
Types of Coconut Water: How Hydrating Are They?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in a tropical paradise where fresh coconuts are readily available and, even if you are able to get your hands on one, be prepared for a laborious process to get it open (hint: you’ll need a hammer). Lots of companies now offer coconut water in a bottle or carton. This means that coconut water is now readily available to most people who would like to give it a try. When choosing a coconut water brand, be sure to check the ingredients list. The best coconut water is minimally processed and contains no added sugars.
Health Benefits of Coconut Water Beyond Hydration
Enjoyed in moderation, coconut water has many benefits. It’s a good source of magnesium, which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states is essential for a number of processes in the body, including protein synthesis, blood pressure regulation, and even blood sugar control. Coconut water is also a good source of potassium, which is vital for kidney health, nerve function, and muscle contractions (including the heart), according to the NIH.
Tips for Enjoying Coconut Water to Maximize the Perks
Coconut water contains several valuable nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. Serve it cold for the best flavor. Enjoy it in moderation, because it does contain sodium and calories, which can add up quickly.
Should You Drink Coconut Water to Stay Hydrated?
If you’re keeping a close eye on your sodium intake, regular water would be a healthier choice to help you meet your hydration needs. The benefits of coconut water can make it a worthwhile addition for anyone else. Without a doubt, coconut water counts toward your fluid intake and, as a bonus, it offers valuable nutrients.