Since time immemorial, coconuts have been utilized by people for different purposes. Tropical locations around the world such as Costa Rica, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, northern Peru, Caribbean islands, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Mexico have known for thousands of years about the coconut water’s hydration abilities. For years, ancient people such as warriors, hunters, and farmers in the tropics have been drinking coconut water. Hence, coconuts were primarily used for hydration and for cooking. Up until now, it is still used for the same purpose, however, coconuts have stepped into a variety of roles as it has grown in popularity over the past decade. Today, coconut, more specifically coconut water, is not anymore only used for hydration and for cooking, but it is also utilized as an ingredient in the latest beauty products and trends. Indeed, coconut water has skyrocketed in popularity especially in recent years. Hence, it is only logical to discuss what really makes coconut water special through presenting its science-based health benefits. So if you are curious what are these health benefits, you should definitely continue reading throughout this article. 

What is Coconut Water?

Coconut Water

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The clear liquid inside coconuts which is the fruit of coconut palm is known as coconut water. This is also less commonly known as coconut juice. In the early development of coconuts, specifically during the nuclear phase of development, this coconut water serves as a suspension for the endosperm of the coconut. As growth and development continues, the endosperm matures into its cellular phase and deposits into the rind of the coconut pulp. Most often, the liquid inside young coconuts is preferred by most people compared to the liquid of a ripened coconut.

Throughout the year, coconut palms are produced. The yield of coconut palms varies from season to season. A normal bearing coconut palm produces a single bunch at a time. With the proper conditions and environment, a coconut tree can produce up to 50 coconuts every year. It must be noted that fresh coconuts are usually harvested from the tree while they are still in their prime green color. In order to have an access to the coconut’s meat which is the liquid and the pulp, a hole may be bored into the fruit. In young coconuts, when the inner husk is first penetrated, the liquid and air may be under some pressure and may spray slightly. It is also good to note that coconuts that have fallen to the ground are more susceptible to rot and damage from insects or other animals.

As stated above, plain coconut water has long been a famous drink especially in tropical countries, where it is available fresh, canned, or bottled. Today, in most cases, coconuts for drinking are served chilled, fresh, or packaged. In tropical countries, coconut water is usually sold by street vendors who cut them open with machetes or other similar implements in front of their customers. For those coconut water sold in supermarkets or stores for retail, they are often found in ordinary aluminum cans, Tetra Paks, glass bottles or plastic bottles, or even sometimes with coconut pulp or coconut jelly included. It must be noted that coconut water can be fermented in order to make coconut vinegar. Furthermore,  it can also be utilized in order to make nata de coco which is a famous jelly-like food in countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines.

Nutritional Value of Coconut Water

Coconut Water

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It must be noted that coconut water has a salty-sweet taste that can be divisive to most people. However, it does provide fewer calories than most fruit juices, along with vitamin C plus carbohydrates and electrolytes that can be helpful especially when you are trying to recover after an exercise.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following nutrition is found for every for 1 cup (240g) of 100% coconut water: Calories of 44, 0g of Fat, 64mg of Sodium, 10.4g of Carbohydrates, 0g of fiber, 9.6g of Sugars, and 0.5g of Protein. To elaborate further, the table below shows the complete vitamins, nutrients, and minerals found for every 100g of 100% coconut water. 

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy79 kJ (19 kcal)
Carbohydrates3.71 g
Sugars2.61 g
Dietary fiber1.1 g
Fat0.20 g
Saturated0.176 g
Monounsaturated0.008 g
Polyunsaturated0.002 g
Protein0.72 g
Tryptophan0.008 g
Threonine0.026 g
Isoleucine0.028 g
Leucine0.053 g
Lysine0.032 g
Methionine0.013 g
Cystine0.014 g
Phenylalanine0.037 g
Tyrosine0.022 g
Valine0.044 g
Arginine0.118 g
Histidine0.017 g
Alanine0.037 g
Aspartic acid0.070 g
Glutamic acid0.165 g
Glycine0.034 g
Proline0.030 g
Serine0.037 g
VitaminsQuantity%DV
Thiamine (B1)3%0.030 mg
Riboflavin (B2)5%0.057 mg
Niacin (B3)1%0.080 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)1%0.043 mg
Vitamin B62%0.032 mg
Folate (B9)1%3 μg
Choline0%1.1 mg
Vitamin C3%2.4 mg
MineralsQuantity%DV
Calcium2%24 mg
Copper2%0.04 mg
Iron2%0.29 mg
Magnesium7%25 mg
Manganese7%0.142 mg
Phosphorus3%20 mg
Potassium5%250 mg
Selenium1%1 μg
Sodium7%105 mg
Zinc1%0.10 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water95 g

Carbohydrates 

Approximately 10 grams of carbohydrates are contained in every cup of serving of coconut water. In addition to that, about 9 grams of natural sugar are contained in 100% coconut water. With that, it is important to always check the label because some manufacturers add artificial sweeteners in their coconut water. 

Fats

Coconut water has little to no fat at all. If there is fat content, it is usually less than 1 gram, most of these fat containing coconut water are those manufactured and processed to be sold in the market. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Every cup of coconut water, there is approximately 24 mg of vitamin C. With this, it is an excellent source of this vitamin because that is about 27% of the recommended dietary allowance for men and 32% for women. In addition to that, coconut water is also a good source of vitamin B, or thiamin. It contains approximately 8% of the daily recommended dietary allowance. Furthermore, there are also a number of minerals that are found in every cup of coconut water. These minerals include potassium which is about 404mg or 16% of daily requirement for women and 12% for men, and  manganese which is approximately 0.5mg or 28% of daily requirement for women and 22% for men. Lastly, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and copper are also observed to be present in small amounts in every cup of coconut water. 

Coconut Water Vs Normal Water and Other Drinks

Coconut Water

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In recent years, there is an increasing number of people who are getting more interested in drinking coconut water. This may be due to the growing marketing advertisements of multiple companies and brands that coconut water is better than plain or regular water in hydrating and providing essential vitamins and minerals. Many marketers are advertising that coconut water is healthier and more beneficial compared to regular water. However, until today there is still lacking evidence in such claims. It must be noted that it is true that coconut water is low in calories, rich in potassium, and fat and cholesterol free, but this does not automatically mean it is better than plain water. It is also good to note that there are debatable studies that show that coconut water may potentially be better at keeping athletes hydrated than a sports drink or water. Moreover, coconut water replaced body fluids as good as a typical sports drink, and somewhat better than regular water. However, most of the athletes preferred the taste of the sports drink instead. Also, there are studies that show that drinking coconut water with added sodium is as good as a typical sports drink for rehydration after exercise. In the end, these findings are still subjective and are a debate in Medicine and Sports and Exercise Science.

Furthermore, coconut water  has fewer calories, less sodium, but higher amounts of potassium compared to the usual sports drinks sold in groceries and supermarkets. Furthermore, while coconut water typically has less sugar than sports drinks, it also has much less sugar than regular sodas or fruit juices. 

If you are looking for a drink that is less sweeter than your typical soda and juice, then coconut water can be an ideal beverage for you. However, it must be noted that just like drinking other sweetened drinks, drinking coconut water should also be in moderation because it still has calories. In fact, studies show that 11 ounce of coconut water can contain approximately 60 calories. With that, we highly suggest that you choose plain or 100% coconut water, and not those with added sweeteners or sugar because it is essentially just equivalent to drinking juice, soda, or other sugary beverages. 

Health Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconuts grow on large palm trees. The coconut is botanically considered a fruit rather than a nut despite its name. The juice found in the center of a young, green coconut is known as coconut water. This water aids in the growth and development of the fruit. As the coconut matures, some of the juice remains in liquid form while the rest ripens into the solid white flesh known as coconut meat. Furthermore, coconuts usually take about 10 to 12 months in order to fully mature. Coconut water usually comes from young coconuts about 6 to 7 months of age, though it is also found in mature fruit. An average green coconut provides about 0.5–1 cups of coconut water. 

As stated above, coconut water has been consumed for thousands of years, especially those who live in tropical regions around the world. Traditionally, coconut water was used in order to aid people who had problems in digestion, urination, and reproduction. It was also used as a ceremonial gift throughout the tropics in the ancient years. In addition to that, in earlier times, specifically in World War, coconut water was believed to be used to treat dehydration of soldiers who did not have access to plain water. Ancient people, and even people up until today, still believe that coconut water does have several health benefits. Known for its concentrations of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals, coconut water definitely has a wide range of health benefits. With that, here are some of the most important and striking health benefits of coconut water.

  1. Excellent Source Of Different Nutrients
Coconut Water

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Natural component of the coconut fruit, coconut water is composed of 94% water and very small amount of fat. Coconut water is far different from coconut milk which is usually produced through the addition of water to a grated coconut meat. Furthermore, coconut milk typically contains approximately 50% water and also has a very high content of coconut fat. As stated above, one cup, about 240 ml, of coconut water usually contains 46 calories, 9 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber,  2 grams of protein, 10% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin C, 15% of the RDI of Magnesium, 17% of the RDI of Manganese, 17% of the RDI of Potassium, 11% of the RDI of Sodium, and 6% of the RDI of Calcium. With that, coconut water is indeed an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and many other vital nutrients and minerals.

Other than supporting the development of  strong bones and teeth, Calcium is also an important nutrient so that the muscles can contract and perform its work properly. Furthermore, the muscles of the body slowly pull up the bones and slightly break them down during exercise. Your bones utilizes calcium in order to get stronger and to repair the bones as your body recovers from the exercise. On the other hand, Magnesium aids in  transporting calcium and potassium into muscles in order to help in contraction and relaxation. Furthemore, Magnesium also aids in production of energy and also supports organ function. Muscle cramps, restless muscles, and spasms usually occur after an intensive workout because most of the magnesium in the body are depleted. With that, coconut water can help replenish these lost minerals. However, it must be noted that coconut water does not have a concentrated source of either mineral even if it contains more calcium and magnesium than other sports drinks or fruit juices. 

  1. Packed With Antioxidants

Free radicals can cause a wide range of oxidative stress to different cells of the body which results in various effects such as aging and diseases. Too much accumulation of these unstable molecules can significantly damage your cells and increase your risk for acute and chronic health conditions. Free radicals are often produced during metabolism. In addition, when stress and injury occurs, free radical production also increases.  

Studies have shown that coconut water contains a number of different antioxidants. In fact, research has proven that animals exposed to toxins and given coconut water neutralizes the free radicals in their body, which weakens its activity so it is not able to produce cellular damage. In addition to that, improvement in liver function has been observed in animals with liver damage that were treated with coconut water. Evidence in animal studies point out that coconut water has an ability to reduce free radical activity, however, up until this date, no studies have still been conducted in order to assess the antioxidant activity of coconut water in humans. 

  1. Loaded With Amino Acids and Cytokinins 

Amino acids are vital in the body because they partake a very important role in stimulating growth and development, repairing damage tissue, and regulating biochemical processes for they are considered as the primary components of proteins.  Studies have shown that coconut water contains alanine, arginine, cysteine, and serine. In addition to that, high levels of the amino acid arginine have been observed in coconut water. This amino acid is responsible for allowing the body to respond to stress. It is also important in maintaining good cardiovascular health. On the other hand, Cytokinins are also observed to be abundant in coconut water. Cytokinins are hormones responsible for stimulating the growth of plants. Studies have long established that cytokinins have antiaging and cancer-fighting properties. Due to the high cytokinin content, coconut water can therefore be beneficial to people. However, it is important to note that major studies still have to be conducted in order to fully establish the anticancer properties of coconut water in humans. 

  1. Have Anti-Diabetic Properties
Coconut Water

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In animal studies, coconut water has shown anti-diabetic potential for it has the ability to lower blood sugar levels, while also being able to improve other vital health markers in diabetic animals. Studies have shown that diabetic induced laboratory animals that were treated with coconut water had better and lower blood sugar levels compared to those animals that were not treated. In addition to that, studies have shown that these diabetic induced animals that were treated with coconut water had lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, which signifies that they have better long-term blood sugar control. Furthermore, studies have proven that animals with diabetes treated with coconut water had improved blood sugar levels and reduced oxidative stress markers. But, just like the other studies stated above, these human controlled studies are still needed in order to confirm these effects of coconut water in humans. Nevertheless, it is good to note that coconut water can be easily incorporated into the diet plan of people dealing with diabetes because it has only 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of carbohydrates in every 240 ml cup of 100%  coconut water. Other than that, it is also an excellent source of magnesium. Studies have shown that people dealing with insulin insensitivity can benefit from magnesium for it helps increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. In addition to that, magnesium also has been proven to decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. 

  1. Natural Sports Drink
Coconut Water sports drink

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Coconut water has an abundant amount of electrolytes which can be beneficial to athletes and other fitness enthusiasts because it can serve as a natural sports drink. Furthermore, what makes it so much better compared to other traditional sports drinks is that coconut water does not have added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other added synthetic ingredients. This makes coconut water an effective yet still healthy performance drink. Some athletes utilize coconut water in order to replace fluids during or after exercise in order to improve their performance during follow-up exercise. Studies have shown that coconut water can perform just as well as the traditional sport’s drink sold in the market. Coconut water has the ability to keep you hydrated, while also helping replenish lost fluids after an intensive physical activity. However, it must be noted that coconut water has less sodium and fewer carbohydrates compared to your usual sport’s drinks. With that, coconut water might not give you the substantial energy for intensive and lengthy exercises. However, it is still a good source of hydration after the physical activity. Lastly, studies have shown that compared to water or traditional sports drinks, coconut water is easier to drink because it does not cause nausea or an upset stomach after an intensive physical activity. So if you are planning to use coconut water as a natural sports drink, it is best to refrain from drinking coconut water with added sugars because they prevent proper hydration and even add extra calories.

In the end, because electrolytes are usually lost after exercise or intensive physical activity. Coconut water may be the perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing these lost minerals, especially that it has potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. 

  1. Reduces The Formation of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones usually form when calcium, oxalate and other compounds combine to form crystals in your urine. After such time, these can then form stones. However, it must be noted that not all people are stone formers. Genetics play a significant role in making other people more susceptible to developing kidney stones than others. Increased hydration is one of the most effective ways in order to reduce the risk of kidney stone formation. Drinking plain water is enough to prevent the formation of kidney stones. However, there are some studies that claim that coconut water may be even better in reducing such risk. According to animal studies, rats with kidney stones treated with coconut water prevented the crystals from attaching to the kidney and other parts of the urinary tract. Evidence also shows that rats treated with coconut water had a significant reduction in the number of crystals formed in the urine. Researchers hypothesize that this ability of coconut water may be linked to its ability to reduce free radical production which usually happens in response to high oxalate levels in the urine. Further studies should still be conducted in order to fully prove such claims. However, this field of study in coconut water looks promising. 

  1. Aids in Losing Weight

Proper hydration is vital in order to maintain biochemical function and processes in every cell in the body and also in order to optimize the body’s metabolic rate. Studies have shown that most people tend to overeat which result in gaining weight because they usually mistake thirst for hunger. Coconut water is relatively lower in calories compared to other beverages such as soda and juice. However, it must be noted coconut water has more calories than plain water. If you have a habit of drinking soda and fruit juice, coconut water can be a good alternative and help you significantly lose weight after such time because you have lower caloric intake in total. 

  1. Good For Cardiovascular Health
Coconut Water

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Studies have shown that drinking coconut water may actually be helpful in promoting good cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of heart disease. In animal studies, researchers have observed that animals treated with coconut water had significant reduction in their blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which are considered as major contributors to development of cardiovascular disease. In addition to that, substantial reduction in liver fat was also observed in these coconut water treated animals. Also, in animal studies, coconut water has been observed to have some antithrombotic activity, which means it may prevent and reduce the formation of blood clots. Furthermore, Months of controlled studies in rats have proven that coconut water has reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, the same as cholesterol lowering drug statins. However, the downside of these studies was that most of these animals were treated with high levels of coconut water which if translated in human terms can be considered as too much for daily consumption. Nevertheless, these finding are very impressive and should be further investigated because coconut water can be utilized in the future as an effective cholesterol lowering agent.

  1. Helps Control Blood Pressure 

Recent studies have shown that coconut water has the ability to control and regulate blood pressure. In studies in people dealing with hypertension, coconut water has been observed to improve systolic blood pressure in a statistically significant number of people. Most researchers link this blood pressure lowering ability of coconut water because of its high content of potassium, which is about 600 mg in every 240 ml of 100% coconut water. Studies have shown that potassium can lower and control blood pressure in people with high or normal blood pressure.

  1. Promote Healthy Skin
Coconut Water beauty

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Dry, tight, and aged skin is usually caused by lack of proper hydration. In most cases, plain water can be effective enough in promoting good skin hydration. However, if you want a delicious yet still a good source of hydration, coconut water can be of help. It can contribute to your daily hydration needs which then promotes good circulation and healthy skin. In addition to that, there are also manufacturers of coconut water that fortify their drinks with vitamin C which is a well known antioxidant that can naturally induce the production of collagen which is a vital component in keeping your skin firm, youthful, and healthy. 

Coconut Water Side Effects and Safety 

Now that you know the great health benefits coconut water can offer, it is only important to highlight the side effects and safety in drinking coconut water. In most adults and children, coconut water is most likely safe. In some people and in rare cases, it might cause fullness or an upset stomach. Furthermore, studies have observed that in very significant amounts of coconut water, it may cause potassium-related problems, because potassium levels may become too high in the blood in excessive coconut water drinking. This increased potassium level might result in kidney problems and irregular heartbeat.

Here are the special precautions and warnings that must be remembered when drinking coconut water: 

  • People with Increased Potassium Levels in the Blood – Because coconut water contains high levels of potassium, it is usually advised that people with increased levels of potassium in the blood refrain from drinking coconut water. 
  • People with Low Blood Pressure – Studies have shown that coconut water has the ability to lower blood pressure. With that, researchers usually advise that people dealing with low blood pressure avoid drinking coconut water. 
  • People with Kidney Problems – Normally, potassium is excreted in the urine if the blood levels of the mineral is high. But with people with kidney problems, they are not able to excrete the excess potassium. With that, it is usually advised that people with kidney problems refrain from drinking coconut water because coconut water contains high levels of potassium. 
  • Pregnant and Breast-Feeding Mothers – there are still no established studies that show drinking coconut water during pregnancy and breast-feeding is safe. With that, it is highly suggested to avoid drinking just to be safe. 
  • Surgical Patients – Because coconut water can interfere with blood pressure, it is usually best not to drink coconut water at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery, and post-surgery. 
  • Cystic Fibrosis Patient Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that can cause sodium levels in the body to be significantly low. With that, most patients need to take fluids or pills in order to increase their salt levels. Studies have shown that coconut water is not an ideal fluid to take in order to sodium levels in people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. This is because coconut water contains less sodium and high potassium, which can then be harmful to patients with cystic fibrosis.  So if you have cystic fibrosis, it is usually advised not to use coconut water as a way to increase sodium levels.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, coconut water is a delicious, healthy, and natural beverage that can offer a wide range of health benefits. It can benefit your heart, blood sugar, kidney, skin, physical performance, and many more. Although many of these studies are conducted in animals, the findings and results of such studies are exciting and encouraging. Today, there are ongoing studies on the effect of coconut water in humans, and we hope to hear about their findings soon. 

If you are already motivated in drinking more coconut water, it is important to remember that it is always best to avoid coconut water products that have added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Always seek out for the fresh and unprocessed coconut water in order to get the most of its health benefits, and of course the genuine flavor of the islands. 

References: 

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