Coconut water is everywhere nowadays, from supermarket aisles to retail checkout fridges. It claims to be hydrating, with more potassium than four bananas. The packaging often says that it’s low cal, low fat, and cholesterol free. Some advertise themselves as “Mother Nature’s sports drink”. It is even said to have medicinal properties, to stave off everything from kidney stones to hangovers to cancer. So what is coconut water? This is the liquid found inside the center of a young, green coconut. It is not to be confused with coconut oil, milk, or cream. Coconut water tastes like regular water, but with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It is refreshing and easy to digest. But is coconut water really that healthy for you? According to WebMD, “It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.”
This could be a good alternative to sugary drinks such as sports drinks and soda. But don’t drink too much of it. Lillian Cheung, DSc, RD says, “One 11-ounce container has 60 calories and if you drink several in one day, the calories can add up quickly.” She hails from the Harvard School of Public Health and is co-author of the book Savor Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. She says it can be a good choice when selecting the varieties with no sugar added. Recent studies have shown that coconut water may replace fluids lost through exercise as well as or even better than many sports drinks on the market. Trouble is lots of athletes don’t like the taste. Though it is good after exercise, it may not be good for prolonged exertion, say running a marathon. Anytime you are exercising for over three hours, you need to replace nutrients as well as fluids. Add in some raisons, pretzels, or a banana. Drink water when getting this kind of exercise. But according to many health experts, using coconut water to replace a sugary or chemical-laden sports drink afterwards may not be such a bad idea.