The Benefits of Coconut Water

Image Credit: Phú Thịnh Co / Flickr

Is coconut water good for you?

I have seen several health experts talk about the benefits of coconut water that comes straight from a young Thai coconut. However, I have read conflicting information about the coconut water one can get in packages (such as Vita CoCo)…These days, coconut water is hugely popular. Is it just another form of unhealthy empty calories marketed as something healthy?

scorpiomoon / Originally posted in The Dangers of Broccoli?

Answer:

Vita Coco just settled a $10 million class action lawsuit for claiming its coconut water was “super-hydrating” “nutrient-packed” “mega-electrolyte” “super-water,” yet independent testing showed that the actual electrolyte levels were a small fraction of what the label advertised. Earlier this year a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition compared coconut water to a manufactured sports drink and found no difference between the two in terms of hydration or exercise performance, and in fact those drinking the coconut water reported feeling more bloated and experienced greater stomach upset–and the study was funded by the Vita Coco!

Image credit: Phú Thịnh Co / Flickr

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


25 responses to “Is coconut water good for you?

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    1. I hope you do not mind me chiming in on this one, tete1. I’m not sure about the health benefits of Kefir, but I do know that it is more than sweet fermented water. Kefir is a fermented milk drink (see the Wikipedia on it). My guess is that since it is a dairy animal based product, it is best to avoid it like all other dairy products. Although, I have fond memories of drinking it as a kid.

        1. It looks like I have learned something new today. Before this post, I have never heard of “water kefir” before. Very interesting. I’d be interested to hear what the scientific research say about it, as well.

          1. I’ve learned a lot about it, and brew it nightly. I add hibiscus tea to the secondary fermentation…Well anyway, I would be interested to see what the studies conclude about consuming it.

          2. I assume they are talking about coconut water kefir. It is a strain of kefir that grows well in coconut water vs. milk. It lives on the sugars in the coconut water. There is no kefir that grows in plain water.

            1. It brews in sugar water, and the grains consume all of the sugar before we ingest it. It is refreshing and delicious, and is claimed to be a powerful probiotic. I brew it every day, flavoring with ginger and lime, or fruit. I, too, would like to know if there are benefits beyond being a nice few-calorie tasty substitute for other drinks. It does make me feel good!

            2. T
              he coconut water may be used for the second ferment of water kefir, in order to flavor it. sounds good – i think i’ll give it a try!

    2. Based on the science surrounding dairy products I would avoid them. There are many better options such as soy and almond milk although. You can view the over 90 video’s on the website which show the wide ranging effects of dairy

        1. I agree that these two need to have special attention paid to them. I advise patients to consume organic soy or organic corn only. There are some others as well and unfortunately the GMO’s are expanding into other foods. The best website I have found is the Institute for Responsible Technology which has a shopping guide which I find helpful at http://nongmoshoppingguide.com. Of course viewing Jeffery Smith’s DVD Genetic Roulette is sobering if not scary. Keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org as the science keeps coming.

        2. Anna: In addition to Dr. Forrester’s response, which I thought was quite good, I will also point out that traditional soy products, like non-GMO soy milk, tofu and tempeh in appropriate quantities have been shown to be quite healthful, including in fighting breast cancer. As Dr. Forrester pointed out, there are lots of videos on this site which highlight important studies on soy.
          http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=soy

          Eating organic soy would give you the best of both worlds – avoiding pesticides and GMOs (if that is important to you), while getting the advantages of consuming soy (if soy is something you want to eat). Personally, I have found that there are times that soy milk makes the best sauces and baked goods, because soy milk generally has a bit more fat than other non-dairy milks. And tofu can be made into a wonderful array of super-tasty dishes. So, I would never advise people to stay away from all soy. I would always be specific about what I recommend (and why) regarding soy.

          Something to think about.

  1. How about actually drinking the water that is from the inside of an actual coconut that you opened? I do that from time to time, with the good fortune of being able to spend time in Central America, and I can say that I personally feel very rejuvinated by it but don’t know much of the “why”.

  2. I recall a video on this site on coconut water where it is compared to blood plasma and could be used in an emergency transfusion. Yet it’s hard (or impossible to find this) in the search. No?

  3. thank you again,for all this info on natural health
    i live in costa rica, fruit is everywhere and all kinds
    we have mangosteen… is the fresh friut good for you?
    also coco palms all over, we call them pipa , orange or green
    sweet and fresh are they good, for ones health?¿

  4. I have read that kefir is like liquid yogurt, and that all fermented milk products made from grass-fed cows on organic farms is quite healthy compared with milk. The colon probiotic colonies are assisted by it.

    1. Anna: kefir is a liquid yogurt, but that doesn’t make it a healthful food. Yogurt is just concentrated dairy. And dairy is unhealthy regardless of how the cows were raised or what they eat. You can get healthy probiotics in more safe ways. There are plenty of videos on NutritionFacts on all of these topics if you want to learn more. Good luck.

  5. Coconut water is best gotten fresh from the tree, but failing that, it is up to us to find a good boxed source which is not tainted by some process or additive. I have read that the good stuff has about 50-60 calories per 8 ounces and has no more than 6 grams of sugar per 8 oz. It’s so refreshing that I can drink a liter in two hours on a hot day. In Oregon I found the cheapest liter to cost from $2 to $2.50, and it has 8 grams of sugar per cup of natural 100% pure water. I think that is still high sugar.

    1. Stay tuned, Christoph! I plan to update the coconut research ASAP. I’ll be posting it to my Ask the RD page. It would be good to see an update or a video by Dr. Greger on the flesh. I think rule a thumb is whole foods are best. If consuming coconut products I would suggest real coconut water (from the actual coconut) or the fresh coconut chucks (with flesh), careful about amount.

      Thanks,
      Joseph

    1. Coconut water appears to be a very reasonable drink, with some health benefits especially for those who are not eating enough veggies and fruits. But rather than get too excited consider it a low sugar, high potassium drink with a moderate calorie count… but low in sodium. Remember to make certain its coconut water, not coconut milk, a completely different product.

      http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/truth-about-coconut-water#3 Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger

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