Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coconut Water Chatter

Coconut water is one of the hottest food trends. Is it all hype, or is coconut water worth trying?

Coconut water is the thin liquid found inside young green coconuts. A freshly opened young coconut is a refreshing drink when you’re under the hot tropical sun. If you’re far away from the tropics, pasteurized coconut water can be found at your local grocery or health food store.

Pure coconut water has no cholesterol, is very low in fat and calories, and naturally contains the essential electrolytes potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium.

An 11 ounce serving of coconut water has about 60 calories and 700 milligrams of potassium, more than a banana. Potassium helps regulate fluid and mineral balance, controls normal blood pressure and helps your muscles contract. Coconut water is considered isotonic, which means that the electrolyte balance is similar to our blood. Fresh coconut water was used for emergency plasma transfusions during World War II.

A Substitute for Sports Drinks?

Many consider coconut water a natural sports drink. Traditional sports drinks are formulated with the right balance of electrolytes and carbohydrates for athletes and others who exercise vigorously. Sports drinks are recommended if you exercise 60 minutes or longer or when you’re exercising in extreme heat. Water is effective for light to moderate exercise. Some experts say that coconut water doesn’t contain enough sodium or carbohydrates to effectively replace sweat or fuel energy during strenuous exercise. Since sodium is the primary electrolyte that’s lost in sweat, an adequate amount is needed for rehydration. However, there are a few studies that have tested coconut water and found it to rehydrate just as well as traditional sports drinks. Coconut water definitely shows potential, but there needs to be further scientific research before any conclusions are made.

The Jury is Still Out

Coconut water can be pricey, but it’s a healthy replacement for sugary, high calorie drinks and may help rehydrate during illness and after exercise. More scientific research is needed to fully recommend using it during and after exercise, though. I have encountered several athletes who believe coconut water works just as well or better than sports drinks. They say coconut water doesn’t cause nausea or bloating and replenishes their bodies efficiently after exercise. People with kidney disease should discuss using coconut with their doctor or dietitian first, since the potassium content is high. Just a note: flavored coconut water may contain added sugar and be higher in calories.

Quick and Easy Ways to Add Coconut Water to Your Diet

- Make your oatmeal with coconut water for an added boost of potassium.

- Add cold coconut water to your fruit smoothies after a workout.

- Freeze a tetra pack of coconut water for 30 minutes for a refreshing slush.

- Use coconut water instead of regular water to make rice. It will boost nutrients and add a little flavor.

Images: gameanna /

Am J Emerg Med. 2000 Jan;18(1):108-11.
J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104.


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