Coconut water: it’s the cloudy magic remedy that has more hype than Goji berries. We drink it religiously thinking it’s the cure to the constant strain we put on our bodies every day. But is it really all that good for you?
We asked WH nutrition expert Kristen Beck to provide some insight.
“While this may sound healthy, it’s important to remember that potassium, and all of the other nutrients listed here are contained in plentiful supply in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” Beck says. “(They) contain more nutrients, slow-burning healthy carbohydrates and dietary fibre and are more important to the overall diet than coconut water could be.”
Fresh, young coconuts have a lot of the nutritional benefits that don’t necessarily remain in packaged coconut water you are buying in store, Beck adds.
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“Fresh, young coconut water contains enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and blood-pressure lowering properties…these effects cannot be confidently carried over to the coconut water you are buying in the bottles or tetra-packs you are purchasing.”
Athletes and health enthusiasts love it as an alternative to sports drink because of the relatively low amount of sugar and hydration benefits. Packed with minerals and vitamins, especially potassium, it sounds like the perfect drink. But should it be your post-workout drink?
“The water from fresh young coconuts may be beneficial if you have a gastro bug…. but most [studies] concluded that coconut water was ‘as good’ as plain water or sports drinks. None demonstrated any significant hydration benefit from coconut water,” says Beck.
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“The reality is that most of us simply don’t do enough exercise to warrant anything more than plain water as the ideal re-hydration fluid. Coconut water contains a high level of potassium, which, if not balanced correctly in the body with sodium (most Australian diets contain too much sodium so this is unlikely), may cause cardiovascular symptoms.
“Choose fresh coconuts if you can, as these are likely to retain the health benefits spruiked. If you are choosing a packaged one, avoid the fruit flavoured varieties.”
Looking for a healthy recipe? Beck says to try and add whole fresh fruit to fresh, young coconut.
The verdict: there’s no doubt coconut water is a healthy drink, but it’s certainly not a replacement for water. If you want to jump on the coconut water train, try sticking to fresh, young coconut water and avoid the drink if it’s mixed with fruity flavours.