Coconut water is a delicious, electrolyte-filled, natural beverage that may benefit your heart, moderate your blood sugar, help improve kidney health and keep you refreshed and hydrated after a workout. Although more controlled studies involving humans are needed to confirm many of these qualities, the research to date is encouraging. If you want to start sipping this tropical drink, there should be an array of brands on the shelves of your local grocery store — just be sure to avoid products with added sugar
1. Good source of several nutrients
Coconuts grow in tropical climates on trees scientifically known as Cocos nucifera and are botanically considered a fruit. Coconut water is the liquid found in the center of a young, green coconut. It helps nourish the fruit. As the coconut matures, which takes around 10–12 months, some of the liquid remains while the rest ripens into the solid white flesh known as coconut meat. Coconut water typically comes from young coconuts about 6–7 months of age, though it’s also found in mature fruit. An average green coconut provides about 1/2–1 cup of coconut water.
2. May have antioxidant properties
Free radicals are unstable molecules produced in your cells during metabolism. Their production increases in response to stress or injury. When there are too many free radicals, your body enters a state of oxidative stress, which can damage your cells and increase disease risk. Research on animals has shown that coconut water contains antioxidants that may help modify free radicals so they no longer cause harm. A study from 2014 found that damaged rat livers showed significant improvement in oxidative stress when treated with coconut water compared with livers that received no treatment. Another study from 2016 highlighted the benefits of coconut water extract on rats fed a high-fat diet. Not only did the coconut water help decrease cholesterol markers, but it also showed “antioxidant potency.
3. May help lower blood sugar for people living with diabetes
Research has shown that coconut water can lower blood sugar levels and improve other health markers in animals with diabetes. In a study from 2015, rats with diabetes that were treated with coconut water maintained better blood sugar levels than the control group. The same study also found that the rats given coconut water had lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, indicating better long-term blood sugar control. A more recent study from 2021 involving rats with diabetes also found that coconut water reduced blood glucose. More studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans. However, another added blood sugar benefit of coconut water is that it’s a good source of magnesium, which may increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. With all this in mind, it’s important to note that coconut water contains carbs (which are broken down into sugars in the body), so if you are living with diabetes or prediabetes, talk with your doctor or a dietitian before adding it to your diet.
4. May help prevent kidney stones
Drinking enough fluids is important for kidney stone prevention. Although plain water is a good choice, two small studies suggest that coconut water might be even better. Kidney stonesare created when calcium, oxalate, and other compounds combine to form crystals in your urine. These crystals can then form tiny stones. While some people are more susceptible than others, kidney stones affect about 12% of the world’s population.In a 2013 study in rats with kidney stones, coconut water prevented crystals from sticking to the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. It also reduced the number of crystals formed in the urine.In a study from 2018 that involved eight people, researchers found that coconut water increased the urination of potassium, chloride, and citrate in individuals without kidney stones, meaning coconut water might help flush out the system and keep the likelihood of stones low.Because one study involved animals and the other is so small, much more research needs to be done concerning the benefits of coconut water in reducing the possibility of kidney stones.
5. May support heart health
Drinking coconut water may help reduce heart disease risk. In an older study from 2008, researchers fed rats a diet rich in fats and cholesterol. They also fed one group high doses of coconut water (4 ml per 100 grams of body weight). After 45 days, the coconut water group had a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels similar to the effects of a statin drug used to lower cholesterol. Keep in mind that this was a very high dose. In human terms, it would be equivalent to a 150-pound (68-kg) person consuming 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of coconut water per day. A 2005 study suggests that coconut water may also be beneficial for lowering blood pressure in individuals living with high blood pressure, but more research needs to be done in that area. One of the reasons coconut water may be connected to lowered blood pressure is its impressive potassium content (500mg of potassium in 8 ounces). Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with high or normal blood pressure.
6. Beneficial after prolonged exercise
Coconut water may be the perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise. Electrolytes are minerals that play several important roles in your body, including maintaining proper fluid balance. A few vital electrolytes include potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. Because coconut water contains electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, several studies have found that it may be more beneficial than water for rehydration after exercise. In fact, one small 2014 study out of Brazil found that coconut water improved exercise capacity better than water or a sports drink during a very hot day.
7. Delicious source of hydration
Natural coconut water is slightly sweet with a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s also fairly low in calories and carbs. It’s freshest directly out of the fruit, but if you aren’t able to fill your fridge with fresh coconuts, there are many brands of coconut water on the shelves today. Just be sure to read the ingredients to verify you’re getting 100% coconut water. Some bottled brands can contain added sugar or flavoring agents. You can use this tropical liquid as a base for smoothies, chia seed pudding, vinaigrette dressing, or substituted for plain water whenever you want a bit of natural sweetness.
Coconut water may also aid in the fight against acne due to its antimicrobial properties. Research also shows that consuming coconut water may help your antioxidant system by neutralizing the effects of free radicals. Lack of proper hydration can lead to dry, tight, and even flaky skin. Drinking coconut water can contribute to your daily hydration needs which promote circulation and radiant skin. Certain varieties of coconut water are fortified with vitamin C which has a slew of antioxidant properties and naturally stimulates collagen synthesis, which can help keep your skin firm and youthful-looking.
9. Reduce blood pressure and stroke risk
Bananas are notorious for their high potassium counts, but just one cup of coconut water contains more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Research suggests that potassium-rich diets can help support heart health by reducing blood pressure and even protecting against stroke. Most people don’t get enough potassium in their diet. The mineral helps remove extra sodium from your body through your urine. Preliminary research indicates that coconut water may lower blood pressure in those with high blood pressure. However, if you are on blood pressure medication, it may be best to avoid coconut water as it could lower it too much. It’s best to discuss this with your doctor. It’s also recommended that you shouldn’t drink coconut water two weeks before any surgery as it can affect your blood pressure due to its high levels of potassium.
10. May help you lose weight
Proper hydration is essential for nourishing every cell in the body and optimizing your metabolic rate. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, prompting them to over-eat which can lead to weight gain. And even though coconut water has more calories than plain water, it is substantially lower in calories than other beverages like soda and juice. This simple swap can help you cut back on calories over the course of the week. Coconut water is 94% water and is fat-free and cholesterol-free.