Coconut water - dubbed "Mother Nature’s sports drink" by marketers, has demand that is still on the rise, with celebrities and athletes endorsing and promising to hydrate the body and help with a whole host of conditions, from hangovers to cancer and kidney stones.
But does coconut water actually deliver all of these promises, or just like every fad out there - is it hype?
What is coconut water?
It is the sterile fluid, with no bacteria inside a young, green coconut (as long as the shell hasn't been cracked). You can drink fresh coconut water straight from the green immature coconut. But since it's gotten so popular in recent years, everywhere you look in supermarkets, health food stores and corner-stores, you will found bottled coconut water. They come in plain and flavoured varieties.
So, why has it gotten this lime-light of being the 'ultra-hydrating' drink? Read on...
What's in coconut water?
As seen from the nutrient profile below, coconut water has an average of 16 calories per 100ml, so it's not bad for a drink that's not water.
There is basically no protein or fat, and there is very little sodium at 5mg/100g, which is three quarters less sodium than sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade)
Fibre is not found in it, but there are traces of minerals like: potassium, copper, calcium and riboflavin - but only very little vitamins or other minerals.
Last but not least - coconut water is actually 4 - 5% sugar, which, yes, is less than sports drinks (which account to about 5 - 6%) and around half of soft drink or juice. Most of the sugar is found from glucose, but there's fructose and sucrose there too.
So, what's the verdict?
Now yes, coconut water does have slightly less sugar than sports drinks, but for athletes, it does not provide the same affect of re-fuelling and re-hydration as a sports drinks do. The balance of carbohydrates, sodium, and other vitamins and minerals found in sports drinks have been scientifically proven to re-fuel and re-hydrate elite athlete sufficiently. Coconut water does not have the same ability.
In comparison to plain water, coconut water has way more sugar. Something not many people are aware of! This is why I advice to add plain water when making mixed drinks like smoothies - because this is a very easy way to cut out some sugar from the diet.
On another note, coconut water comes in many different fruit flavours too - as some people don't find plain coconut water palatable. These flavoured varieties usually are 5 - 10% puree or fruit juice. There's also often sugar, food acid and flavour added. Another good reason why these varieties should be avoided if you're watching your sugar intake!
The bottom line...
Coconut water is really not much of a 'superfood' as marketers make it out to be. It doesn't really hydrate you more than water, and definitely not more than sports drinks for athletes.
Nothing about coconut water makes you 'revived' any better than other similar drinks. If you work out daily to keep fit and need hydration, all you need is plain water. Otherwise, if you're just looking for the best hydrating drink for day to day life - again, just go for plain water.
Plain water is highly accessible, very environmentally friendly (as long as you don't buy heaps of plastic bottles) and free!!! (free of money and sugar, that is.)
Hope that clarifies things a little!
Until next time,
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.