Coconut Water Health Claims: Do they hold any water?

Coconut water

In some circles, coconut water is considered ‘nature’s tonic’, with marvelous claims that it can reverse ageing, aid weight loss, improve blood pressure, reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and ward off diabetes and heart disease. It’s also being touted as a cure for indigestion, constipation, bladder infections and kidney disease. Have I missed anything? Sounds pretty unbeatable, right? But what does the evidence suggest? Should you ditch plain old H20 for this ‘liquid gold’?

So here are the facts: Coconut water has a moderate sugar content, but it’s fat-free and high in potassium. However, bananas and potatoes are also high in potassium, yet nobody calls the humble spud a superfood. Coconut water also contains a small amount of calcium, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, B vitamins and magnesium. It is often dubbed “nature’s sports drink” due to its sugar and electrolyte content. In fact, it has a similar nutritional profile to commercially available sports drinks such as Gatorade.

Coconut water seems pretty impressive on paper. Water can’t boast a nutritional profile to match. Except, and here’s the bottom line, if your diet is healthy and varied, the additional electrolytes and minerals found in coconut water are unlikely to significantly benefit your health or overall wellbeing. Plus, unless you’re an elite athlete or exercise heavily, the additional sugar is not likely going to be beneficial for your waistline. Claims that it can boost weight loss are silly due to its moderate sugar content. Water has no sugar and it’s calorie-free.

Further, there is no scientific evidence to show that coconut water can slow down ageing, and little evidence to show that it can improve hydration any quicker than water. Plus, the small amount of evidence showing coconut water’s ability to improve blood pressure is not necessarily such a grand thing. Any food containing a moderate amount of potassium is likely to show similar findings. This is because potassium has an opposing effect to sodium and therefore helps to improve blood flow through the body’s arteries.     

What is clear though, is that water is the gold standard. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the stuff found in coconuts. However, if you still want coconut water, then go for it; just don’t think that it’s going to set you on the path of eternal health and beauty.

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