Healthy Drinks

7 Major Benefits of Sipping Coconut Water Besides All the Tropical Vibes

Photo: Stocksy/Bowery Image Group
Ah, coconut water. It's refreshing, delicious, super hydrating, and makes for a spa-worthy coconut cucumber cocktail or healthy sports drink alternative. Coconut water also provides some prime health benefits.

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is the juice found inside a coconut. It's 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."

Here's the nutrition you'll find in a 1-cup serving of coconut water:

  • Calories: 49
  • Carbohydrates: 12 g
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Calcium: 60 g
  • Potassium: 559 mg
  • Sodium: 34 mg

Thanks to its explosion in popularity in recent years, coconut water is relatively affordable. You can easily find it for just a few dollars at many stores.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of coconut water, with tips for adding a tropical (and ultra-hydrating) twist to your daily routine.

7 reasons to try coconut water

1. Coconut water is 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," says Poon.

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 FoodThat's why she's all about coconut water, which naturally contains more electrolytes than regular water.

In addition to coconut water, here's what else you should eat and drink when you're sick, according to a registered dietitian:

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," says Poon. "Magnesium helps to relax your muscles and is often taken in supplement form to help relieve conditions like constipation."

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."

4. Coconut water is good for your heart

By now you know that coconut water is a great source of potassium. That's not only good news in terms of hydration, it also directly benefits the cardiovascular system. Scientific evidence links regular potassium consumption with lowered risk for stroke and coronary heart disease. Considering that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., that's a very good reason for drinking coconut water on the reg.

5. It could help lower cholesterol

Another reason why coconut water is good for cardiovascular health is that it may help keep cholesterol levels in check. One scientific study found this to be the case—at least in rats. More research needs to be done in order to confirm the connection in human health, but the results are promising.

6. It contributes to bone health

The calcium in coconut water is directly linked to helping keep teeth and bones strong; up to 99 percent of calcium is stored in our bones. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 mg of calcium of day. One serving of coconut water has 60 milligrams, which isn't a ton, but every little bit counts.

7. Drinking coconut water helps prevent chronic inflammation

When the body experiences high levels of inflammation for a prolonged amount of time, it can lead to chronic disease and cognitive decline. Eating foods high in antioxidants helps mitigate this risk and you can add coconut water to your anti-inflammatory shopping list.

How much coconut water 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.

Are there any negatives to drinking coconut water?

While it's true that coconut water is full of nutritional benefits, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Over-consuming potassium can cause some digestive issues including diarrhea—not fun. For this reason, it's best to keep your coconut water-drinking to under two cups a day, as Poon has already advised.

When buying coconut water, be sure to read the label to make sure there isn't additional sugar included. There's really no need for that anyway; coconut water is sweet enough on its own. Below are a few coconut water brands that don't add cane sugar or other additives ensuring the coconut water is as nutritionally beneficial as possible.

The best coconut water to buy

vita coco water
Photo: Vita Coco
Vita Coco Coconut Water (12-pack) — $24.00

Vita Coco is one of the most well-known coconut water brands. The only ingredient listed on the label is the coconut water itself, plain and simple. (There is less than one percent of added sugar and vitamin C.)

100 coconuts water
Photo: 100 Coconuts
100 Coconuts Pure Coconut Water (12-pack) — $24.00

Similar to Vita Coco, this pick is pure coconut water. It’s also certified Non-GMO Project certified.

harmless harvest coconut water
Photo: Harmless Harvest
Harmless Harvest Organic Coconut Water (12-pack) — $50.00

Harmless Harvest is another well-known coconut water brand, known for using organic coconuts sourced from Thailand. Like the others on this list, there is no sugar added to the drinks.

taste nirvana coconut water
Taste Nirvana Coconut Water (12-pack) — $33.00

Taste Nirvana is a family-owned business that sources its coconuts from Thailand. Special attention is taken to ensure the coconuts are sourced as sustainably as possible. The coconut water is also Non-GMO Project certified.

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," says Poon. "You can find these coconuts at some marketplaces and on some delivery services."

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," says Poon.

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," says Poon. Yum.

As you can see, there are many benefits to incorporating coconut water into your diet and there's no shortage of ways to do so. That's sweet on so many levels.

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