Is coconut water really good for you? Experts explain its benefits

When the ever-shifting wellness spotlight hit coconut water, the liquid collected from the insides of coconuts, you probably wondered like many of us: Is coconut water really healthy? So many dietary trends are overhyped, but nutritionists say this one carries some weight. In other words, the health benefits of coconut water are plentiful.

Below, we break down the research-backed benefits of Nature’s sports drink—just so you know if you plan on picking up any, Jennifer Christman, RDN, LDN, CPT, director of clinical nutrition at Optavia recommends checking nutrition labels first. Stick to options that are 100 percent coconut water and free of unnecessary additives, like sugars, she says.

Benefits of coconut water

Coconut water is best known for its ability to match Gatorades electrolytes (which we’ll review later), but that’s not its only benefit:

It is rich in key nutrients

Depending on the brand, 8 oz. Some store-bought coconut water contains about 500 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 30 to 40 mg of sodium, and 4 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium and calcium, explains Joanna Gregg, RD, a registered dietitian on MyFitnessPal. If your diet is deficient in any of these nutrients, coconut water may be helpful in meeting your daily needs.

It is a natural source of electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals not found in water that help maintain various important bodily functions including hydration, muscle function and a balanced blood pH, according to the National Library of Medicine. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and while sports drinks can help you replenish them after a good workout, they often contain unnecessary added sugar. Pure coconut water, on the other hand, doesn’t, and one cup contains more than double the amount of electrolytes as the same yield from a traditional sports drink.

It is rich in potassium

Nutritional immunology and science communication expert Megan Meyer, Ph.D., places particular emphasis on the potassium content of coconut waters, an electrolyte that supports muscle function, among other processes. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans have identified potassium as one of four nutrients of concern for Americans, she explains. Not enough potassium intake can elevate blood pressure, deplete calcium in bones, and increase the risk of kidney stones. As mentioned above, one cup of coconut water provides 500mg of nutrients.

May support heart health

As for potassium, getting more via coconut water can benefit your heart health. That’s because potassium can help relax blood vessels in order to promote healthy blood flow and regulate blood pressure levels, says Sarah Olszewski, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant at The Cure. This is especially true if you go overboard with sodium, which tends to raise blood pressure. A dose of potassium can counter these effects, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

It is low in calories

It’s natural to wonder if coconut water is a good weight loss drink, and since it’s a tasty drink with fewer calories than alternatives like juice and soda, the experts give it a thumbs up. However, it will never be as good for losing weight as plain calorie-free water.

Replacing high-calorie drinks with coconut water may be a healthier choice for people trying to manage their weight, Olszewski says. However, some packaged coconut water products may contain added sugars and higher calorie content, which may not be conducive to weight loss. It’s crucial to read labels and opt for pure, unsweetened coconut water whenever possible.

It is ultra hydrating

Drinking enough water every day is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, Meyer notes that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends women and men drink about nine and 13 cups a day, respectively. Coconut water can help people meet their hydration needs, as it’s about 95 percent water, she adds.

It could be a powerful antioxidant

Coconut water contains antioxidants that can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and protect cells from oxidative stress, Olszewski explains. Animal studies have explored this theory with positive results, but more research in humans is needed to determine how powerful its preventative effects really are.

Is it good to drink coconut water every day?

Drinking coconut water every day can be part of a healthy diet, especially for those who live in particularly hot climates and exercise a lot, says Olszewski. However, some people with specific health conditions like kidney disease should pay attention to how much coconut water they consume, he adds. That’s because the potassium in coconut water can place undue stress on vulnerable kidneys, according to the AHA.

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Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer reporting on all things health and nutrition related to men’s health, women’s health and prevention. Her hobbies include sipping perpetual coffee and pretending to be a chopped competitor while cooking.

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