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7 Shocking Things You Should Know about Coconut Water and Your Health
Coconut water (and coconut milk, however this article will only take on coconut water) are all the rage right now. Coconut water is naturally refreshing and has a sweet taste that many people just love. Coconut water is the clear liquid that in the center of young, green coconuts. It’s true that coconut water is easily digested, but is all those healthy claims about coconut water true or just a bunch of hype?
Coconut water has been enjoyed by humans for untold centuries, probably as long as there have been coconut palm trees!
Called “Mother Nature’s sports drink” by advertising companies, the demand for this liquid is going through the roof, and is being propelled further by athlete endorsements and celebrates. Marketers promise that coconut water will hydrate our bodies like nothing else and that it can help with a wide range of health problems, from kidney stones to hangovers to cancer.
How much of this is true and how much is hype? We will sort it all out for you right here. Keep reading about the top 7 things you should know about coconut water.
1. Claim: Terrific low fat health drink
True: Coconut water is natural beverage that contains nothing artificial, no added colors, and no added sugars. It is 99 percent fat free, has no cholesterol, is low in carbs, and has a low level of natural sugars. It does contain selenium, zinc, iodine, boon, manganese, and molybdenum. It has very low levels of B vitamins and ascorbic acid. All of these things are great reasons to enjoy coconut milk, especially when you compare them to sodas, diet sodas, or high calorie fruit juices. Read also about drinks you think are healthy but they are not better than sodas.
2. Claim: Better than a sports drink
True: Ounce for ounce, coconut water has only 5 calories, 1.3 grams of sugar, 61 milligrams of potassium, and only 5 grams of sodium. Although many sports drinks have many of the same ingredients, many have added sugars and artificial colors, not to mention flame retardants. Find out 7 “harmless” drinks you should avoid. Coconut water is a perfect way to restore lost electrolytes and potassium after exercise.
3. Claim: Coconut water in the can or bottle is the same as fresh.
False: Coconut water is naturally filtered water that takes almost nine months to filter one liter of water. Water travels through the fibers of the coconut, where it is purified, then stored inside the sterile coconut shell.
This cannot be said of canned or bottled coconut water. Once it reaches the air, coconut water very quickly begins to lose its vitamin content and can ferment quickly. Many canned and bottled coconut water is heated to avoid this, but this process removes the very nutrients you are drinking coconut water for!
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4. Claim: Coconut water can be used to give emergency plasma transfusions if necessary.
True: Coconut water is a natural isotonic drink, with the exact same electrolyte balance that our blood has. In fact, some people have gone so far as to call it the ‘fluid of life.” During the Pacific War of 1941 to 1945, both sides of this war used coconut water, siphoned directly from the coconut itself, as emergency transfusions. Plasma makes up about 55 percent of our blood, so it’s vital when it comes to saving lives. In 3rd world countries, coconut water has saved many people when it was used as an emergency IV.
5. Claim: Coconut water is a virtual fountain of youth and stops aging.
Sort Of: Although it’s true that coconut water is packed with plant hormones called cytokinins (hormones that control the development and aging of plants) it might be a bit far out there to say that it stops aging. The cytokinins in coconut water do support cell division and encourage rapid growth but they won’t put aging on hold. It can help to slow the effects of aging, however.
Research has suggested that when people consume diets rich in cytokinins, they have a lower risk of developing age related disease and degenerative issues. Coconut water is the richest natural source of cytokinins, so drinking it certainly won’t hurt but it won’t stop your next birthday from coming.
6. Claim: Coconut water can help you lose weight
Sort of: Although there have not been studies done, if you normally drink quite a few glasses of fruit juice or soda and you exchange those for coconut water, then you will be consuming fewer calories, which will cause you to lose weight.
However, having said that, there is nothing “magical” in coconut water that would cause to lose weight. If you continued to eat as you always have, exercised (or not) as you always have, adding coconut water to your diet will not cause you to magically drop pounds.
Coconut water does have many enzymes that will help your body digest your food properly, so you could substitute coconut water for plain water in your smoothies for some extra help in the digestion department.
7. Claim: Coconut water will cure everything from parasites to dysentery
False: There have been no studies to prove that any of these claims are true. Although coconut water has long been used in traditional medicine for bladder infections, diarrhea, stomach flu, and urinary tract infections but you will read some claims that say coconut water can kill cancer cells, cure diabetes and other chronic illnesses, as well as reverse kidney disease. In Jamaica it’s used as a heart tonic. None of these things have been proven to be fact.
There was a research study done in the Philippines that found that drinking coconut water at least 3 times per week appeared to reduce kidney stone size, but there is no proof coconut water has any miraculous compounds that will stop or reverse disease.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD; author, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
Lillian Cheung, DSc, RD, Harvard School of Public Health; coauthor,Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.
Ismail, I. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, July 2007; vol 38: pp 769-85.
Mohamed, S. JPA, 2002; vol 21: pp 93-104.
Idarraga, P. Medicine & Science in Sports & Medicine, May 2010; vol 42: p 575.