The latest new health and sports drink — coconut water — has been valued for centuries in the tropics. Here's what you should know about the health benefits of coconut water.
The latest new health and sports drink — coconut water — has been valued for centuries in the tropics. Coconuts are actually a fruit, not a nut. The juice in the center of a young, green coconut is called coconut water. Over about a year, the juice solidifies into coconut meat. Coconut milk is a combination of water and grated coconut meat.
At any corner market in India, Thailand, or Bali, you can drink the water out of the nut with a straw, and use a spoon to scoop up the meat. The health benefits of coconut water are generally backed only by studies with rats, but if the effects also apply to humans they’re impressive. Coconut water may help you manage your blood sugar levels, avoid kidney stones, reduce blood pressure and boost your heart, and replenish electrolytes after exercise.
Here’s the evidence on blood sugar levels: In one study, after rats fed a high-fructose diet were given coconut water, their blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin all decreased. Several other studies have found that coconut water helps diabetic rats maintain better blood sugar levels.
The evidence on kidney stones: Another rat study found that rats fed coconut water had fewer deposits of the crystals that form stones in their tissues and urine.
Can coconut water help you keep your heart healthy? In this study, rats who drank a large quantity of coconut milk got similar effects to a statin drug: their cholesterol and triglycerides plunged.
In a study with humans, 28 people with hypertension received either coconut water, bottled drinking water, another tropical drink, or a mixture of coconut and the other drink. After two weeks their blood pressure was re-measured. More than 70 percent of the coconut-milk drinkers saw a drop in their systolic blood pressure. Nearly 30 percent had a drop in their diastolic pressure.
Some research also suggests that coconut water does as good a job as a sports drink at restoring electrolytes after exercise.
An 8-ounce glass of coconut water contains about as much potassium as a banana, which is far more than most sports drinks offer. That potassium can help you ward off cramps after exercise.
Coconut water is also rich in amino acids — beating cow's milk. For example, it’s rich in arginine, an amino acid that helps us respond to stress, including the stress of an exercise workout.
Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist who founded GutBliss, grew up Jamaica, where she drank water from young, green coconuts, she told National Public Radio. She began suggesting coconut water to her patients, who often struggle to stay hydrated because they lack a colon or have diarrhea because of Crohn’s disease or gastroenteritis. She recommends coconut water over Gatorade because coconut water is natural and diluted.
September 27, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN