Coconut water is the clear juice inside a coconut. According to the Mayo Clinic, compared to traditional fruit juices, coconut water contains half as many calories. But is there such a thing as too much coconut water?
Drinking coconut water can help with rehydration. However, if you drink too much coconut water, you could cause electrolyte imbalances and diarrhea.
Coconut Water Nutrition
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of coconut water contains 46 calories, less than half a gram of fat, 1.73 grams of protein, 8.9 grams of carbohydrates (6.26 of which come from sugar), 2.6 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of fat.
Coconut water provides an excellent source of electrolytes. It provides 600 milligrams of potassium, 252 milligrams of sodium, 60 milligrams of magnesium, 58 milligrams of calcium and 48 milligrams of phosphorus.
There's a common misconception that coconut water provides better hydration than plain water, but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.
In fact, because of the wide variances between brands, you may not be getting all the nutrients you think. Certain varieties contain more sugar and one brand may have more vitamins and minerals than another. It's also important to note that the Mayo Clinic also says the amount of electrolytes can vary as the coconut ages, due to changes as a result of the maturation process.
Though many Americans don't get enough potassium in their regular diet, the majority do get plenty of sodium. If you're watching your sodium intake, it is wise to stick with plain water.
Coconut Water Health Benefits
Since becoming mainstream, coconut water health benefits have been all over the media. While many don't have science to support them or have been greatly exaggerated, there are some benefits to consider.
According to a June 2013 study in Journal of Surgical and Clinical Research, coconut water helps lower blood pressure because of the sodium and potassium content. It can also be used as a sports drink in athletes. When studied, it increased urination, suggesting it may act as a diuretic.
The study indicated that because of the rise in serum potassium levels, people suffering from diarrhea or kidney disease should not use coconut water. It also indicated the need for further research to support coconut water's therapeutic effects.
An April 2012 animal study in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine showed that tender coconut water not only reduced free radical activity, but also decreased insulin levels, triglycerides and blood pressure. More research needs to be done to determine if these effects also apply in humans.
Coconut Water Disadvantages
Though there are coconut water health benefits, too much coconut water can be a bad thing. Drinking it along with other drinks high in potassium or sodium may lead to an electrolyte imbalance.
One of the biggest coconut water disadvantages is the potential to act as a laxative. According to the Mayo Clinic, sodium phosphate is a type of laxative that rapidly empties the lower intestine. Drinking too much coconut water can provide enough sodium phosphate to cause diarrhea. It may also cause general digestive upset.
In addition to the possibility of electrolyte issues, compared to plain water, you're increasing your caloric intake. Since there is no evidence to say coconut water offers superior hydration, there's really no reason to consume those extra calories. If you're drinking 20 ounces of coconut water after a workout, that's almost 150 calories.
If you're allergic to tree nuts, drinking coconut water is risky. Because coconut is a tree nut, even consuming the water from the fruit could be enough to trigger an allergic reaction.
In order to reap the benefits and avoid coconut water disadvantages, it's best to make it a casual drink in your diet. Instead of drinking it every day, aim to drink it once a week as a treat.
- Mayo Clinic: "What is Coconut Water and What's Behind the Hype?"
- USDA Nutrient Database: "Nuts, Coconut Water"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Coconut Water: Is It What Its Cracked Up to Be"
- Journal of Surgical and Clinical Research: "Therapeutic Use of Coconut Water"
- Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine: "Therapeutic Effects of Tender Coconut Water On Oxidative Stress In Fructose Fed Insulin Resistant Hypertensive Rats"
- Mayo Clinic: "Laxative (Oral Route)"