On this island there’s surely no lack of fresh young coconuts for quenching one’s thirst on a hot, sweaty and humid day. If you’re a coconut lover like me, sightings of local fruit and coconut stands haphazardly erected along the side of the road is a big deal and definitely worth the ecstatic factor! For less than a dollar (US), one can enjoy this sweet hydrating and refreshing water straight from the source! And when you’re done sipping this delightful goodness, devouring the young “coconut jelly” too can be a real treat. Most likely you’ll get a make shift spoon from the coconut husk itself but I highly recommend bringing along your handy-dandy metal spoon to leave no coconut flesh unscooped!
Since there seem to be a lot of confusion in regards to coconut water and coconut milk, I would like to point out that coconut water is the clear liquid you find in the cavity of young green coconuts while coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of mature coconuts. As the coconut ages, the water inside the husk is slowly absorbed by the flesh of the coconut which in turn becomes thicker and harder overtime.
Coconut water’s claim to fame lies in its high potassium content. A typical serving contains 569 mg of potassium – twice as much as a banana.
Some of the health benefits may include:
- Nature’s perfect rehydrating drink to replenish body fluids and electrolytes after heavy workouts
- Low in calories (with a lot less sugar than most juices)
- Fat free and cholesterol free
- Helps increase good cholesterol levels due to its lauric acid content
- Maintain muscle and nerve functions
- Helps to regulate blood pressure by counteracting the stimulating effects of sodium
- High potassium content – helps prevent cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, strokes and heart attacks and promote heart health
- Diuretic properties – aids in flushing kidney stones
- Promotes alkalinity in the body – most of us are acidic which encourages dis-eases
- Antioxidant effects – A free amino acid L-arginine is shown to reduce free radicals
Bliss or myth?
While it goes without saying that there are numerous health benefits to drinking coconut water, there are still the few who tend to disagree, citing lack of scientific evidence for most health claims as well as a discrepancy in the electrolytes content. They may argue that “sports drinks contain more sodium, while coconut water contains more potassium, and since replenishing sodium is more important than potassium for athletes who are really losing a lot of sweat, we cannot look to coconut water as nature’s alternative sports drink.”
It is true that our bodies lose more sodium than potassium during an intensive workout, and while replenishing sodium intake after prolonged heavy sweating is important in preventing hyponatremia (a serious type of dehydration which symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, confusion, headache, seizures, unconsciousness and even coma), this condition is more likely to develop in novice marathoners who are not lean, run slowly, and who consume excess water before, during, or after an event (abstract).
Without a doubt, hyponatremia should be clearly avoided and therefore, sodium is important during prolonged endurance events! So how much sodium do you think coconut water contains? It all depends. If you take a look at Vita Coco Coconut Water, the most popular coconut water company out there in my opinion, the answer is 30 mg per 8.5 fl. oz., which unfortunately, is not enough.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) on sports nutrition recommends consumption of sports drinks containing 0.5 to 0.7 g/L of sodium (that’s 120-169 mg/cup) and 0.8 to 2.0 g/L of potassium (that’s 192-480 mg/cup), in addition to carbohydrates for athletes in endurance events lasting greater than 2 hours (abstract). So although the potassium content is ideal (515 mg per 8.5 fl. oz.), I would have to agree that as far as being an appropriate sole replacement sports drink for prolonged and/or intensive exercise, Vita Coco is not the ideal option.
Having said that however, I believe there are valid reasons why coconut water may still be a good choice for you after workouts. So if consuming coconut water have always been a part of your post workout regimen, or if you drink it simply because you just love the taste, then please tune into my next blog to hear why - Coconut Water Health Benefits – Bliss or Myth? (Part 2). After all, who doesn’t love a healthy splash of ”coconutty” information every now and then!
Til then, have a great one!
Martine ~ holistic nutritionista