Is Coconut Water Actually Good For You? We Asked an RD

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Take a walk through your local Whole Foods – or any supermarket, for that matter – and you’re sure to find at least a shelf (if not two or three) stocked with bottles or boxes of coconut water. Clearly, the murky-colored liquid is no longer a new kid on the beverage block. But with so many different drinks hitting the market as of late (think: probiotic sodas, cannabis-infused seltzers), it can be hard to keep up with all the new hydration varieties. So much so, in fact, that you might still be unsure as to whether or not coconut water is truly worth the hype – never mind what it is, exactly.

So, first things first: Coconut water “is a fluid that comes from within the coconut in its early development,” says Samantha Ferguson, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian at Wellory and PIVOT Nutrition Coaching. “This differs from coconut milk, which is shredded coconut of mature coconuts that is pureed with water.”

Got that? Good. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at what coconut water is good for – if anything. Keep reading to learn more about coconut water’s nutrition, health benefits, and more, all according to nutrition experts.

Coconut Water’s Nutrition Facts

If you’re looking to sip on something sweet without downing lots of sugar, look no further than coconut water. Not only does the beverage boast less than 10 grams of sugar per eight-ounce cup, but it also only has 44 calories in each one-cup serving.

Coconut water also includes impressive amounts of the electrolyte potassium (404 mg per cup) and vitamin C (24 mg per cup), says Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, culinary and family nutritionist and founder of the blog Baby Led Bliss. “It also contains small amounts of thiamin, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.”

It’s important to note, however, that the exact nutrition facts of coconut water will vary depending on which brand and type you buy (such as sweetened vs. unsweetened) as well as the maturity of the coconut, according to research. The amount of vitamins and minerals is also slightly lower in bottled coconut water compared to fresh coconut water, Ferguson adds. Cold-pressed bottled coconut water is the best option if fresh coconut water is not available, she says.

Here’s an example of the basic coconut water nutrition facts for one cup of the unsweetened variety, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Coconut Water Nutrition Facts per 1 cup
Calories 44
Protein 0.54 g
Fat 0 g
Carbohydrate 10.4 g
Fiber 0 g
Sugar 9.6 g

Coconut Water’s Health Benefits

Aids in Hydration

First on the list of coconut water’s health benefits? Its impressive ability to hydrate. As mentioned above, coconut water is packed with the electrolyte potassium. But that’s only one of the many electrolytes you’ll find in the beverage; it’s also rich in sodium (64 mg per cup), magnesium (15 mg per cup), and calcium (17 mg per cup), McMordie says. Quick refresher: Electrolytes are minerals that play an important role in balancing the amount of water in your body, which is why they’re essential for hydration, according to the National Library of Medicine. Because you lose electrolytes via sweat and urine, replenishing those bad boys after, say, an intense workout session is key to rehydrating your body – something that coconut water can help with given its roster of electrolytes.

Prevents Kidney Stones

As their name implies, kidney stones are stone-like materials that can form in one or both of your kidneys; they typically develop when high levels of certain minerals (e.g., calcium, oxalate, phosphorus) are in your urine, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). While they can be pretty painful, they rarely cause permanent damage if treated by an expert, according to the NIDDK – plus, they’re fairly easy to prevent. “Staying hydrated is key to preventing kidney stones,” Ferguson says. And since coconut water can help you do just that, it might not be all that surprising to learn that the liquid has been shown to help keep kidney stones at bay. In fact, a 2018 study found that consumption of coconut water can increase the removal of potassium, chloride, and citrate in the urine of participants without kidney stones. This suggests that the liquid might help flush out the system and reduce the chances of developing stones.

Improve Blood Pressure

Not only can the potassium in coconut water help keep your body hydrated, but it can also help the kidneys excrete it (via urine) instead of retaining it, Ferguson explains. And this is a pretty big deal, because too much sodium can raise blood pressure, which, in turn, can up your chances of heart disease and stroke, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While preliminary findings – such as those from a 2005 study – back this up, more research is needed to determine how much coconut water can truly impact blood-pressure levels for the better.

That being said, if you’re on blood-pressure medication (including spironolactone, which is commonly prescribed for acne but is first and foremost used to treat high blood pressure), experts caution against chugging too much (if any) coconut water, because it could potentially lower your blood pressure too much, Ferguson says. As always, it’s best to discuss with your doctor before clearing out your local store of the potassium-rich stuff.

May Reduce Blood Sugar

Studies done on rats have shown coconut water can help reduce blood sugar and A1C in those with type II diabetes. “While the mechanism is unknown, the thought is that the antioxidants in coconut water play a role in reducing blood sugar and that the magnesium may help improve insulin sensitivity,” McMordie explains. The results have yet to be confirmed in humans, though.

May Stave Off Chronic Conditions

While research on humans is needed, animal studies suggest the antioxidants in coconut water (e.g., vitamin C) can help neutralize free radicals in the body, McMordie says. ICYDK, free radicals are unstable molecules that, in excess, can cause oxidative stress in the body, which can damage cells and increase the risk of chronic disease, such as various cancers. But by combating these potentially harmful molecules, antioxidants – such as those in coconut water – might be able to keep conditions at bay.

So, Is Coconut Water Good For You?

“It’s important to note that just like anything else, coconut water is not a magic bullet,” McMordie says. “You would probably have to consume a lot of coconut water to see noticeable differences in some of the above effects, so actual benefits may be minimal when drinking a normal amount of coconut water.”

That being said, both experts agree that coconut water can definitely have a place in an overall healthy diet. Just be sure to opt for products that are 100 percent coconut water, meaning that’s the sole ingredient, and free of added sugar, McMordie says. “Some brands may have added vitamin C to maintain freshness, which is no big deal, but otherwise, you want to steer clear of added ingredients when possible,” she adds.

“Overall, coconut water can be a great addition to your diet to aid in hydration or replenish some electrolytes after exercising,” Ferguson says. Keep in mind, though, that coconut water should not be a replacement for regular water. Instead, consider it a “great, natural alternative to sugary sodas or sports drinks that also offers extra nutrients for relatively low calories,” McMordie notes, or as a delicious addition to your smoothies or cocktails.

Related: These Easy Smoothie Recipes Are Full of Fresh Fruit and Fortifying Protein

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