Nutrition-wise blog

What's behind the buzz about coconut water?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. March 6, 2012

Coconut water, in case you haven't heard, is the new "it" beverage. Sales are skyrocketing. It's promoted as "super hydrating" and marketed as both a sports drink and a casual beverage. Personally, I find the name a bit confusing. Just what is coconut water? I looked into it and here's what I came up with.

Is it water or juice?

Coconut water is not water with coconut flavor added. It's the fluid inside the coconut, not to be confused with coconut milk, which is an emulsion of coconut water and fresh grated coconut. So coconut water is a type of juice.

Compared to other juices, coconut water has similar or fewer carbohydrates and calories in an 8-ounce serving. However, coconut water has more potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium than most juices.

Is it a sports drink?

The answer is probably no, at least for vigorous exercise — when you're working hard and really sweating for longer than an hour. In that case, coconut water falls short in terms of carbohydrates and protein, according to sports nutrition standards. Both are essential to recovery and replenishing your muscles.

Is it a good casual beverage?

Possibly. Here are a few things to consider. Do you need the 45-60 calories an 8-ounce serving of coconut water provides? If these calories put you over your daily calorie needs, you could easily gain 5-6 pounds in a year. If you aren't active enough to fend off the pounds, plain water might be a better bet.

One of coconut water's claims to fame is its high potassium. Americans usually fall short of their daily requirement of potassium, mainly because they don't eat enough fruits and veggies. However, coconut water also contains sodium. Just how much depends on the brand. That might be a concern if you, like most Americans, already have too much sodium in your diet.

If you've tried coconut water, what do you think? Did you feel super hydrated and replenished, as fans claim? Will you continue to drink it?

To your health,


March 06, 2012