You love it in your smoothies and as a post-workout hydration boost, but is coconut water healthy? And how do you know which bottle to reach for at the grocery store? We looked and the science and consulted with a dietitian and a nutritionist to get the full scoop. (Spoiler: Coconut water is the real deal.)
Is Coconut Water Healthy? Here’s What the Experts Have to Say
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Meet the Experts:
Is Coconut Water Healthy?
Good news, friends—pure coconut water is a very healthy beverage (more on that later). That said, Richter emphasizes that not all store-bought coconut water is created equal, so if you’re not actually drinking the stuff straight out of a fresh coconut, your best bet is to read the label carefully and steer clear of products that contain added sugar. But it’s not always possible to inspect each and every bottle at the store, so which one should you go for if you’re in a rush? Dr. Gioffre’s favorite coconut water is Harmless Harvest, which has zero added sugars and comes in a lovely shade of millennial pink. Per the expert, the color occurs because this coco water uses microfiltering which preserves the antioxidants that turn pink when the coconut water reacts with elements like light. Find out more about these antioxidants and the health benefits of coconut water below.
1. It’s an excellent source of nutrients
Richter tells us that coconut water is a good source of several nutrients—most notably potassium and vitamin C, but also sodium, calcium and magnesium in smaller amounts—and the USDA agrees. Here’s what one eight ounce cup of unsweetened coconut water provides:
- Calories: 44
- Carbs: 10.4 grams
- Sugar: 9.6 grams
- Potassium: 404 mg (9% DV)
- Vitamin C: 24.3 mg (27% DV)
- Sodium: 63.7 mg (3% DV)
- Calcium: 17.2 mg (1% DV)
- Magnesium: 14.7 mg (4% DV)
2. It provides electrolytes
In case you missed it, electrolytes are essential minerals (like potassium, sodium and calcium) that regulate key functions in our body. Anything that dehydrates the body, like heavy sweating during exercise, can deplete electrolyte levels. Fortunately, Richter tells us that “coconut water is an easy way to replenish electrolytes after a workout,” which should come as no surprise, given the nutritional data above. That said, she notes that coconut water contains less sodium than most other electrolyte drinks, so you might want to consider adding ⅛ tsp of salt to the stuff before you drink it down post-sweat sesh.
3. It may help lower blood sugar
Research conducted on animals, like this 2015 study published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, suggest that coconut water has antidiabetic properties and can even help reduce blood sugar levels. However, the research conducted on human subjects is still too limited and coconut water does contain carbohydrates, so people suffering from diabetes should consult their doctor before making it their beverage of choice.
4. It may help prevent kidney stones
Again, more research is needed, but a 2018 study published in BioMed Research International found that coconut water was more effective than tap water at flushing out the compounds that contribute to kidney stones. Yet another study, this one conducted on rats with kidney stones, concluded that coconut water reduced the number of crystals formed by said compounds and prevented the ones that did form from sticking to the kidneys and urinary tract. If you suffer from kidney stones, staying hydrated is the best treatment plan, and coconut water can help you accomplish that (and possibly do even more for your urinary health).
5. It provides low-calorie hydration
As previously mentioned, coconut water can aid hydration—namely because it’s composed of roughly 95 percent water. It’s also much lower in calories than most juices, sugary sports drinks and sodas. Needless to say, staying adequately hydrated is critical for countless reasons, and if you struggle to meet the recommended daily fluid intake (that would be 15.5 cups for men, and 11.5 for women, as determined by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine) with plain water and food alone, then coconut water might help you get there. Plus, it’s pretty darn tasty, too.
6. It may boast skin-boosting antioxidant properties
Aside from the fact that hydration alone is key to maintaining healthy skin, early research suggests that coconut water might have additional properties that help protect the skin from damage. This 2015 study published in the International Journal of Biochemistry Research & Review found that coconut water has an antioxidant effect that helps prevent damage from free radicals (i.e., the kind that results in visible signs of aging). A 2017 study that focused on the potential of coconut water for promoting oral health found that the stuff has antimicrobial properties, which means there’s a possibility that it might also help prevent acne and promote healing when applied topically. More research is needed but adding a little coconut water to your routine certainly can’t hurt.