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Coconut Water: Hype or Hope?

by ADMIN on MARCH 28, 2012

Coconut water is a hot item right now. Marketed as an all natural sports drink as well as one of the best ways to ‘hydrate yourself’, dozens of new products are popping up just about every day. But is coconut water worth $2-3 per 11 ounce carton?


*Summary: Coconut water has plenty of potassium that will help lower your blood pressure if you also reduce your sodium intake. {Though you can get plenty of potassium from eating a variety of fruits and veggies}. But when it comes daily hydration, it does not hydrate better than water. As a sports drink, coconut water is seriously lacking in sodium – the most important electrolyte. So if you’re working out for longer than 75 minutes, go for a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade… or make your own. But if you just want to drink it because it tastes good, then go for it!

Read on for the details!


What is it?

Coconut water is the liquid found inside a young, green coconut, and has been a staple fluid consumed by Southeast Asian nations for quite a long time. In 2006, this beverage made it’s entrance into the US market – and now profits are booming.


What’s in it?

Coconut water has a good amount of potassium (515 – 660 mg in 1 cup; about 17-20% of our daily needs), an electrolyte that helps send electrical impulses in our muscles (along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium). These impulses help our muscles, including the heart, contract.

Potassium is also important in the regulation of our blood pressure. In fact, a study called the DASH Diet (Dietary Attempts to Stop Hypertension) has shown that in addition to lowering sodium, the addition of potassium and other nutrients is key to helping lower blood pressure via the diet.

  • Potassium in 1 cup orange juice: 473 mg (110 calories)

  • Potassium in 1 medium banana: 422 mg (100 calories)

  • Potassium in 1 cup skim milk: 419 mg (91 calories)

  • Potassium in 1 cup chopped tomatoes: 353 mg (27 calories)

Coconut Water Nutrition Facts per 1 cup (8oz): 45 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 g cholesterol, 252 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 2 g protein. (Source: Nutritiondata.com)


What about Hydration?

Definition of ‘Hydrate’: To supply water to (a person, for example) in order to restore or maintain fluid balance. *source


Water is one of the most important nutrients our bodies need. It regulates our body temperature; lubricates joint; protects our organs and tissues; carries oxygen and nutrients to our cells; lessens the burden on the kidneys and liver by helping flush out waste products; and dissolves minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to our body.


Many Americans do not drink enough fluids, and as much as half the population walks around with mild chronic dehydration. Even with as slight as a 1 or 2 percent dehydration, our performance decreases and we may experience fatigue, mood swings, and even difficulty concentrating.


During daily activities (exercise not included), water is the best fluid for hydration. We maintain our fluid balance by drinking water, juice, milk, tea and other beverages; as well as by eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, and soup. They all hydrate the same amount {In fact, a recent study showed that drinking coffee adds to your daily fluid needs as well. It doesn’t necessary dehydrate you, it simply makes you pee sooner, rather than more!}.


Verdict: Having extra potassium in a fluid, such as that in Coconut Water, doesn’t make it better at ‘hydrating’ you; fluid is not absorbed better when this nutrient is present. So drinking coconut water in place of regular water – or any other beverage for that matter – will not keep you better hydrated. It will hydrate you just the same.


Everyday Hydration: With water at $0 per 11 ounces, and coconut water at around $3 per 11 ounces; and both hydrating you the same… which do you prefer?


A Better Sports Beverage?

During exercise, our bodies use electrolytes – sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium – to create the muscle contractions necessary to work out hard. For any exercise under 60 minutes, we have enough electrolytes to do the job. In this case, water is the best to drink for hydration.


However, if you’re planning on working out intensely for longer than 60 minutes, or if it’s very hot out, then a sports drink with the appropriate amount of electrolytes is important. Although potassium is necessary, sodium is the most important of all the electrolytes as it is lost in the greatest amount (along with chloride) in our sweat. It is also used by the body to help regulate our blood volume to prevent dehydration.


{In other words: The body helps prevent dehydration by having the kidneys reabsorb sodium, which aids in keeping more fluid in the body. Water and sodium are like magnets, where sodium goes water follows. This is why we retain so much water after a salty meal!}


Average electrolyte amounts lost in sweat (some people have saltier sweat than others):

  • Sodium: 900 – 2600 mg per Liter sweat

  • Chloride: 900 – 1900 mg/L

  • Potassium: 100 – 200 mg/L

  • Magnesium: 60 – 260 mg/L

  • Calcium: 50 – 100 mg/L

Most sports drinks have about 110 mg of sodium per 8 ounces and 93 mg or chloride, along with other electrolytes and carbohydrates. The amount of nutrients in the drinks are specific and added in response to thorough investigations on athletes needs during intense exercise.

Verdict: Although coconut water is touted as a great sports drink, and does have plenty of potassium, it does not have enough sodium (Vita Coco: 35 mg per 11 ounces; Zico: 60mg per 11 ounces) to help maintain an appropriate electrolyte balance, and therefore adequate hydration, during endurance events (>60 minutes) or hot weather.


Just for the Taste of it?

Go for it! Coconut water is a great alternative to drinking soda and most sugar-packed juices. It has less calories and less sugar. If, however, you’re trying to lose weight, I’d suggest sticking with calorie-free water (Coconut water does have about 50 calories per 11 oz container, which can add up if you drink more than one per day).


To make water taste more appealing: Add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange. Add an ounce of juice for taste. Stick a few herbal tea bags in a pitcher of water and brew some tasty cold unsweetened goodness (Raspberry and other berry teas work well!).

Drink up and Hydrate well!


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