Coconut water is a liquid extracted from very young coconuts. As coconuts mature, they produce coconut milk rather than coconut water.
In recent years, coconut water has gained popularity as a beverage. Some proponents suggest that drinking coconut water can provide a number of health benefits.
Coconut Water and Nutrition
Coconut water is rich in electrolytes, a class of minerals that carry an electric charge. Maintaining a balance of electrolytes is essential to staying hydrated. In addition, electrolytes affect your blood acidity and muscle action.
Coconut water is particularly high in potassium, an electrolyte that helps build muscle and regulate heart health.
Uses for Coconut Water
Coconut water is widely touted as a healthy way to rehydrate after exercise or excessive drinking. In fact, coconut water is sometimes marketed as a sports drink or hangover remedy.
Additionally, some proponents claim that coconut water can help treat health problems such as high cholesterol, kidney stones, and liver disorders. Coconut water is also said to promote weight loss, stimulate the immune system, improve circulation, and aid in detoxification.
Benefits of Coconut Water
To date, few scientific studies have tested coconut water's health effects. However, there's some evidence that drinking coconut water may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:
Sodium-enriched coconut water may help you rehydrate after exercise, according to a small study published in The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health in 2007.
The study involved 10 healthy males, each of whom ran for 90 minutes in a room with a temperature of nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit. After their exercise session, participants sipped plain water, a sports drink, coconut water, or sodium-enriched coconut water for two hours.
While all subjects were still somewhat dehydrated after the two-hour period, those who drank the sodium-enriched coconut water and the sports drink experienced a significantly greater degree of rehydration (compared to the other participants). In addition, the sodium-enriched coconut water caused less stomach upset than the sports drink did.
Preliminary research shows that coconut water holds promise for treatment of high cholesterol. In a 2008 study from Food and Chemical Toxicology, for instance, scientists gave either a coconut-water-enriched diet or lovastatin (a drug used for lowering cholesterol) to a group of rats with high cholesterol. After 45 days, both groups showed a significant reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol and an increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol.
Although the study's authors suggest that coconut water may have a cholesterol-lowering effect similar to that of lovastatin, there is currently a lack of studies testing coconut water's effects on high cholesterol in humans.
Where To Find Coconut Water
Coconut water can be found in most natural-foods stores and in many grocery stores and drugstores, as well as for purchase online.
When using coconut water for hydration, look for products that contain no added sugar.
Using Coconut Water for Health
It's too soon to recommend coconut water for any health purpose. What's more, using coconut water as a substitute for standard treatment of a chronic condition may have serious consequences.
Ismail I, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG. "Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration." Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2007 Jul;38(4):769-85.
National Institutes of Health. "Electrolytes: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". October 2011.
National Institutes of Health. "Potassium in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". October 2011.
Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, Nawawi M. "Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water." J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104.
Sandhya VG, Rajamohan T. "Comparative evaluation of the hypolipidemic effects of coconut water and lovastatin in rats fed fat-cholesterol enriched diet." Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3586-92.