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Coo-Coo for Coconut Water? | January 16, 2012

By SeAnne Safaii, PhD, RD, and Rachelle Ausman, UI Dietetics student

Every New Year brings a plethora of new trends in nutrition, but a few 2012 trends are still hanging around and one in particular seems to be continuing on its demand trajectory – coconut water.  What exactly is coconut water?

Coconut water is the liquid found inside a young green coconut, while coconut milk comes from the meat of the mature brown coconuts.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, coconut water is not only low in calories, but is also a good source of potassium.

Potassium is involved with several functions in the body including sustaining the body’s water balance, maintaining nerves, and controlling muscles as well as blood pressure.  Studies have even shown that diets high in potassium could lower blood pressure and decrease heart disease risks.  For those lacking potassium in their diets, coconut water could be a great supplement to add to the diet, but potassium can also be found in a variety of foods including bananas, cooked dark leafy greens, white beans, dried apricots, and baked potatoes with the skin on.

Coconut water is being marked by celebrities and being promoted to the fitness community as the next best thing to sport drinks, but according to Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS< RD< coconut water “Is not exactly what athletes need when exercising rigorously.”  This is due to the low carbohydrate and sodium levels in coconut water, which is vital for athletes.  Also, Marjorie Nolan, RD and media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, “for those doing light to moderate exercise, extra electrolytes are not needed if enough fluids and a balanced diet is being consumed throughout the day.”

Other claims about coconut water include slowing down aging as well as speeding up metabolisms, but research has not proven either of these.  However, research does show that a well-hydrated body will help you look and feel better.  Coconut water does have less sugar than many sports drinks, sodas, and fruit juices.  One 11-ounce container has 60 calories.  The best beverage for hydration is the free, zero-calorie beverage known as water.  The best thing for boosting metabolism is exercise and getting enough sleep, oddly enough.

So, if one of your 2013 goals is to drink more coconut water, then pure coconut water can be used in moderation as a healthy beverage, as well as a supplement for potassium.  But remember, water will always be the best choice.