I’ve sipped from my fair share of coconuts. While travelling in Southeast Asia, I didn’t need to look far to find a cart with someone who was happy to hack the top off a coconut with a machete and pass it to me with a straw and a smile.
Here in BC, our vending machines don’t (yet?) dispense whole coconuts, but prepackaged coconut water has become a common option. Here are the facts on this popular not so local drink.
What is coconut water?
Coconut water is the liquid found in the centre of a young coconut. Coconut milk is different: it’s extracted from the ‘meat’ of a coconut.
Is coconut water a good beverage to quench thirst?
Water is your best choice to satisfy thirst. Coconut water contains natural sugar, which can add up if you’re drinking it regularly.
Some brands have added sugar or fruit juice and can have as little as 10% coconut water. These products can have the same amount of sugar as other sugary drinks. If you enjoy coconut water, read the ingredient list to ensure there’s no added sugar.
Is coconut water a good rehydration beverage?
Coconut water has been marketed as a rehydration beverage for exercise as it naturally contains carbohydrate (sugar), sodium and potassium.
Coconut water typically has less carbohydrate and sodium and more potassium than sports drinks. Because of these differences, coconut water may not be suitable for rehydration with prolonged exercise. With intense prolonged exercise, people typically need more carbohydrate and sodium to make up their losses than what coconut water provides.
If you (like most of us) perform moderate activity for an hour or less a day, rehydration drinks, including sports drinks or coconut water usually aren’t needed and will contribute added sugar to your diet. Stick with water as your go-to hydration drink.
What about the health claims of coconut water?
The health benefits that are cited for coconut water are often related to potassium. Coconut water is a source of potassium, but eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit will give you the potassium you need and also provide fibre.
What’s the take home message?
Water is the best beverage for most people to satisfy thirst and stay hydrated. If you enjoy coconut water occasionally, choose a product with no added sugar. Or if you’re travelling, find a cart with a man smiling beside a stack of fresh young coconuts.