Between coconut oil, coconut milk, and coconut water, it seems the world is going nuts for coconuts … and rightfully so! In general, coconut products are packed with powerful nutrients that benefit the body in many ways. As more and more research confirm their benefits, it seems more and more people are eager to stock up products made from this tropical fruit! Today, we’re going to focus on coconut water, a trendy and refreshing beverage you should definitely try.
So What The Heck Is Coconut Water?!
Coconut water is a clear liquid that’s found inside a young, green coconut. Typically, coconut water is taken from a coconut that’s around five-seven months old. The younger the coconut, the more water it contains.
As a coconut matures, the liquid inside of it is replaced with coconut “meat.” That matured meat is then squeezed to create creamy coconut milk, a dairy alternative that’s also gaining a lot of popularity.
While coconut milk and coconut water may sound similar, they are very different in texture, taste, and nutritional value. While coconut milk is loaded with healthy fats and protein, coconut water is fat-free and contains very little protein. Despite that, it still packs a powerful nutritional punch. It’s approximately 46-calories per cup, has 10 grams of natural sugar, and contains plenty of vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
People in tropical countries have been cutting open young coconuts and drinking their water for centuries. While the drink has been used to treat health-related ailments for quite some time, today, researchers are confirming the claims. Below are the top 10 ways your body benefits from coconut water!
1) Perfect For Athlete’s Needing To Rehydrate
Coconut water is often referred to as “nature’s perfect sports drink” and a “life enhancer.” This is mainly because it’s high in calcium, potassium, and sodium. All three of the nutrients I just mentioned are powerful electrolytes, which the body needs to function properly. Athletes lose electrolytes through their sweat. You can also lose electrolytes if you don’t drink enough fluid and become dehydrated. To keep your body balanced, you need to replenish those electrolytes as soon as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to sip on coconut water.
Coconut water’s rehydrating benefits have been proven so powerful that in certain emergency situations, coconut water has actually been used intravenously. People in remote areas of the world have reported great success from using coconut water as a short-term IV hydration fluid. *Note: You shouldn’t attempt this at home. Instead, stick to drinking the coconut water.
In one 2002 study, researchers compared the hydrating benefits of water, coconut water, and standard sports beverages. They had eight participants exercise in the heat and then drink one of the three beverages. They found no difference in sodium levels, urine output, or fluid balance. However, participants reported significantly less nausea after drinking the coconut water, which allowed them to drink more of it. For this reason, researchers call coconut water the best option!
Additionally, doctors point out that coconut water is a much better choice than many sports drinks on the market today because it’s not full of refined sugar. Sports drinks, on the other hand, are loaded with sugar and other chemicals that have been linked to various health issues.
2) Boosts Energy
Fatigue is one of the main signs of electrolyte imbalance. So if you find yourself sluggish by noon and don’t have time for a nap, try sipping on some coconut water. Just one serving of coconut water in the afternoon could help put that pep back in your step. That’s right, with coconut water there’s no need to chug down a sugary Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy shot! Plus, along with cutting back on sugar and other chemicals, coconut water won’t give you the jitters like energy drinks often do.
3) Reduces Muscle Tension
Coconut water is rich in both calcium and magnesium, two electrolytes that have been shown to relax muscles throughout the entire body. This is just another reason it’s the perfect beverage for athletes. Along with relaxing your leg muscles after a long run or arm muscles after an intense iron-pumping session, though, these nutrients can help soothe the muscles around your heart.
4) May Support Heart Health
We heart coconut water and coconut water loves our heart! Since this popular tropical drink is rich in electrolytes, it’s also been shown to support heart health. Researchers say one way it does this is by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cholesterol and Triglycerides
One group of researchers conducted multiple studies on rats. Once they found evidence that consuming coconut water could lower both cholesterol and triglycerides, they decided to do a longer study that compared the refreshing drink to powerful statin drugs. After 45 days of the rats eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol, the researchers found similar effects between coconut water and the drugs. For this reason, researchers say coconut water has lipid-lowering effects.
May Reduce Blood Pressure
In a 2005 study, researchers divided 28 people with hypertension into four groups. They were either given plain water, coconut water, mauby, or a combination of all three. At the end of the study, the group that saw the most significant decrease in blood pressure was the coconut water group. Their systolic blood pressure was 71 percent lower and their diastolic blood pressure was 29 percent lower than those who drank plain water. Researchers attribute this effect to the drink’s high potassium levels. According to the American Heart Association, potassium can help control blood pressure because it lessens the effects of sodium.
May Reduce Heart Attack Risk
Given the fact that coconut water can help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, you probably assumed that it could potentially decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. Researchers have done studies on rats and the findings are promising. Additionally, researchers say giving coconut water to rats recovering from a heart attack helps speed up the recovery process.
5) May Help Prevent Kidney Stones
If you’ve ever had kidney stones then you know how painful they can be. They can cause abdominal pain and serious discomfort when trying to urinate. Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and other compounds that stick together in concentrated urine. While drinking regular water can help pass kidney stones (and prevent future ones from forming), coconut water is said to be even more beneficial.
In one study, rats were divided into three groups and fed either a standard rat diet, regular water mixed with ethylene glycol, or coconut water. Researchers found the coconut water helped break up the kidney stones, reducing the number of crystals found in the rat’s urine.
6) May Help Fight Diabetes
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with diabetes then you may want to stock up on coconut water. While more research is needed, so far, studies on diabetic animals show the drink could improve blood sugar levels.
In several studies where diabetic rats were fed coconut water, researchers found they had an easier time managing their diabetes. In one study, researchers attributed this effect to L-arginine, an amino acid found in coconut water. L-arginine helps improve insulin sensitivity.
Additionally, coconut water is a good source of magnesium, which is also said to improve insulin sensitivity as well as lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
7) Helps Fight Free Radicals
Without getting too scientific, free radicals are molecules that form in the body during metabolism (when food is converted into energy). When there are too many free radicals, the body is put under oxidated stress. This can damage cells and lead to disease. One way to fight free radicals is by eating antioxidant-rich foods. That’s because antioxidants are molecules that can interact with free radicals and modify their reaction so they aren’t harmful. Since coconut water contains antioxidants, researchers say the tropical drink can even help keep your body functioning properly at the cellular level.
8) May Improve Digestion
One of the main causes of constipation is dehydration. If your body doesn’t have enough water then your stool will become hard and difficult to pass. Staying hydrated helps keep your intestines smooth and flexible. It also helps keep the food you eat moving through your intestines, and ultimately allows food waste to exit the body. While doctors say drinking 8-16 oz of regular water every two hours can help beat constipation, coconut water is another great option.
9) May Fight Migraines
Migraines are another sign of dehydration. Rather than reaching for regular water to rehydrate, though, sip on magnesium-rich coconut water. Magnesium has been known to fight headaches and migraines.
10) Helps Relieve Hangovers
While grabbing drinks with some friends can be fun, the next-day hangover certainly isn’t! To help relieve your pounding headache, reach for some coconut water. The electrolytes will quickly help to rehydrate your body. Plus, the antioxidants will help fight any oxidated stress caused by the alcohol.
How To Choose The Best Coconut Water
With the recent popularity of coconut water, bottles of the tropical drink are popping up in grocery stores around the world. In fact, you can find them in just about any health food store or regular grocery store. They’re even sold in Walmart and Target! With so many different options available to us, picking out the “healthiest” brand can be difficult. Here are a few tips to help you pick out the best one:
- Read the ingredient label carefully to make sure there aren’t any added sugars.
- Go organic
- Choose plain, unflavored coconut water (there will be a slightly nutty flavor as is)
- Make sure it has no more than 50 calories per serving
The Best Option
If you’re looking for convenience then bottled coconut water is just fine. However, if you really want to reap the health benefits (and feel like you’re on an island getaway), then opt for a fresh, green coconut! This will assure you are drinking coconut water with no added sugars or preservatives. Fresh coconut water also hasn’t been pasteurized, making it, hands down, the healthiest option. Many health food stores sell fresh coconuts in their refrigerated section. They usually keep for about 3-5 days.
How To Add Coconut Water To Your Diet
- Ice (make ice cubes from coconut water rather than regular H2O)
- Oatmeal (cook your morning oats in coconut water)
- Steam veggies in coconut water