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The Humble Beginnings of the Coconut Water Popularity

This clear liquid inside ‘young’ coconuts has long been a popular drink in the tropics.  Residents can just walk out their doors, shake a coconut to make sure it contains liquid, carve a hole at the end of the coconut, place a straw and sip away on this virtually free beverage.  Although this ‘natural’ beverage has been around for a long time, it seems that it is gaining popularity, in packaged form, and is being marketed as a ‘natural’ energy or sports drink and is certainly not free.

The Pros and Cons of Coconut Water Nutrition

According to the USDA Nutrient database, here is a summary of coconut water’s nutritional components.  It can be considered low in calories at 46 calories per 8 ounces, low in sugar (equivalent to 1 ½ teaspoons), cholesterol free and virtually fat-free.   Due to its high potassium content (600 mg per cup), coconut water can be used as part of a low sodium diet to help lower high blood pressure (make sure to check with your physician first if you have kidney issues).  Also, this hydrating beverage can be used as an electrolyte replacement beverage after exercise.   In fact, studies showed that ingesting sodium-enriched coconut water was as good as ingesting a commercial sports drink for whole body rehydration after exercise-induced dehydration.  Take note that the coconut water was ‘sodium-enriched’ in the study since it is naturally low in sodium and sodium is a crucial electrolyte to replace after strenuous exercise. Also, from this sports nutrition standpoint, carbohydrate replacement is crucial before, during and following endurance events and coconut water doesn’t compare with sports drinks.

With so many brands on the market, a price comparison shows a range of $2-3 per 11 ounces container.  Use the following table to compare potassium content in other nutritious, most likely less pricey foods:

Food mg Potassium per 1 cup serving*
Beet greens 1309
Winter squash, cooked 896
Spinach,cooked 839
Sweet Potato 796
Raisins 796
Lentils 700
Carrot Juice, fresh 680
Cabbage, Chinese 600
Beans 600
Artichoke 595
Banana 537
Beets 520
Potato, Baked 500
Brussel Sprouts 500
Orange juice, fresh 475

*average amounts according to USDA food composition database

While coconut water is refreshing and an easy way to add some nutrition to your diet, don’t believe all the hype that it is a cure for diabetes or cancer, and that it prevents aging—at least not until the science shows proof.

Written by Sabrina Zaslov MS, RD, CDE

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