Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is the juice found inside a coconut, and is made of mostly water along with some nutrients and electrolytes. On the other hand, coconut milk "is made by blending coconut meat with water," says Serena Poon, CN, a chef, certified nutritionist, and Reiki master. "This mixture is of a much thicker consistency and contains much more fat and calories."
Thanks to its explosion in popularity in recent years, coconut water is relatively affordable, unlike its other wellness-y drink counterparts. (Cough, CBD soda, cough.) You can easily find it for just a few dollars at many stores.
Need more reasons to stock up on coconut water? Keep reading for its top benefits, plus tips on how to add a tropical (and ultra-hydrating) twist to your daily routine.
What are the benefits of coconut water?
1. Coconut water is very hydrating
Hydration is one of coconut water's most well-known benefits, thanks to its electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Electrolytes are great for everyday consumption—they help regulate your pH, keep you hydrated, and control muscle contractions—but they're especially helpful in certain situations. "Coconut water could be a good choice for rehydration after a long or intense workout, an illness during which you experience vomiting or diarrhea, or after a day out in the sun," Poon says.
In fact, coconut water's hydration powers make it excellent for when you're sick, according to Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. "If you’re making a lot of trips to the bathroom or suffering from a fever, chances are you’re losing a lot of fluids. Drinking water will help, but you may continue to feel dehydrated until your electrolytes are fully replenished," she previously told Well+Good in a recent episode of You Versus Food. That's why she's all about coconut water, which naturally contains more electrolytes than regular water.
These are some other great things to eat and drink when you're sick, according to Beckerman:
2. It supports healthy digestion
Chugging your recommended eight glasses of water a day keeps everything moving along just dandy in your digestive system and allows nutrients to absorb into the bloodstream. Coconut water, though, takes things to the next level thanks to its fiber an magnesium content. (Surprised?) "Fiber is a crucial component of healthy digestion as it helps move waste through your system," Poon says. "Magnesium helps to relax your muscles and is often taken in supplement form to help relieve conditions like constipation," says Poon. (ICYWW, coconut water has around 25 milligrams of magnesium and 1.1 gram of fiber per 100 grams.)
3. It supports healthy skin.
Keeping our bodies nice and hydrated not only supports healthy organ function, but it also supports optimal skin health. Regular H20 provides the same benefit, but with coconut water, you also get a small dose of skin-enhancing vitamin C—around 10 milligrams per 100 grams.
"Vitamin C has been shown to support collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," Poon says. "Coconut water isn't going to be the magic bullet towards beautiful skin, but it certainly can help you cultivate beauty from the inside out."
Okay, so it's really good for me. How much of it should I drink?
Clearly, coconut water makes a great companion to your regular water consumption. Like with most things, though, it is absolutely possible to have too much of a good thing. Poon points out that coconut water has about 50-60 calories per 8-ounce serving, so chugging it like you would good ol' H20 all day long isn't recommended. It also naturally contains some sugar, and some brands add even more to theirs, making it definitely not equivalent to drinking water. Thus, Poon suggests sticking to one to two cups of coconut water per day at most.
Can I make coconut water at home? Or do I *have* to buy it?
One of the many beauties of coconut water is how ridiculously easy it is to make it at home. All you need is a coconut (duh), a sharp knife, and a straw. Poon recommends creating a small opening using your knife at the weak point on the underside of the coconut to pop it open. Then, just stick in a reusable straw, sip, and enjoy.
"Most of the coconuts available in America are imported from the Asian countries of Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand," Poon says. "You can find these coconuts at some marketplaces and on some delivery services."
That said, if you can't get your hands on any fresh coconuts, you can always grab some pre-packaged at your local grocery store. Poon recommends opting for 100-percent pure coconut water when possible. Options that fit the bill include Naked Pure Coconut Water ($27 for 12), Zico Natural 100 Percent Coconut Water ($19 for 12), and C20 Pure Coconut Water ($20 for eight).
How to incorporate coconut water into your daily routine
The other benefit of coconut water: It can be easily incorporated into a variety of healthy recipes. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing, so to speak:
1. Drink it straight up
If regular water feels too dull and you have a hard time hitting your daily hydration goal, consider switching things up with coconut water. "Coconut water has a delicious, almost sweet flavor," Poon says. In other words, it makes hydration a bit more fun (and taste a bit better, too).
2. Add it to your smoothies
Are you tired of adding almond milk to your morning smoothies or acai bowls? Poon suggests giving coconut water a try for a boost of flavor and nutrients. It also makes a good swap for plant-based milks in coconut chia seed pudding.
3. Make popsicles
When the temperature starts to spike during the summer months, cool off with some coconut water popsicles. "Blend coconut water and fresh fruit and freeze [the mixture] to make natural and nutritious popsicles," Poon says.
4. Turn it into ice cubes
If you're feeling fancy, Poon suggests swapping your regular ice cubes and making your own out of coconut water. Then pop them into your favorite cocktail or mocktail for a refreshing twist. Tropical coconut sangria, anyone?
5. Mix it into your salad dressing
Yes, you can add coconut water to jazz up your salads, too. "Mix it with oil and spices to create a tropical-flavored salad dressing," Poon says. Yum.
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