Coconut Water Is Not a Health Drink

November 6, 2017 at 11:00 am 2 comments

Coconut water is a trending drink in the United States. Two common health claims are that coconut water is more hydrating than sports drinks and that it contains large amounts of potassium (which isn’t especially helpful to athletes—more on that later!). Modern research is beginning to prove otherwise, however, and it turns out that coconut water is basically just sweetened water.

Coconut water is the liquid found inside of coconuts and should not be confused with coconut milk, which is derived from the fleshy fruit. The drink was traditionally popular in tropical countries such as Thailand but the United States quickly adopted the drink as a health food. Over the past few years, coconut water sales have skyrocketed in Western countries. This sudden surge in popularity has led to some pretty outrageous health claims.

One particularly ambitious claim is that coconut water is more hydrating than regular water, with some people claiming that coconut water even beats out sports drinks. There are electrolytes in coconut water but they make up very little of the drink and aren’t balanced. Due to incorrect marketing claims, the Food and Drug Administration has warned companies against advertising coconut water health benefits (some companies were even labeling the drinks as having antiviral properties!). A class-action lawsuit was taken against one company because they had claimed that their product contained more electrolytes than sports drinks, was more hydrating than water, and was “packed” with nutrients. All of these claims were proven false.

Coconut water does contain one important nutrient—potassium. The drink can be rich in the mineral assuming it hasn’t been watered down too much (a problem with many brands). This sounds good for athletes, who benefit from drinking beverages that can replace electrolytes lost during exercise, including potassium. The problem is that they’ve lost other important electrolytes in the same process. Coconut water only contains potassium, not sodium, and isn’t balanced like commercial sports drinks. One author suggested that this makes coconut water dangerous as a sports drink replacement. Another research group found that coconut water provided the same benefits to athletes as drinking regular water. Potassium levels aside, coconut water doesn’t seem to be much of a health drink.

Granted, drinking a glass of coconut water is healthier than grabbing a can of soda. It’s misleading to purport the drink as a health product, however, since there is zero scientific evidence to back those claims up. Athletes are better off drinking regular sports drinks and non-athletes will be just as hydrated with plain old water. Coconut water is a sugary beverage and that’s about it, it’s not a health food.

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Image: Ian Go (cc)

Sources: statista.com, lexology.com, usda, nrcresearchpress.com, worldcat.org, biomedcentral.com

 

Entry filed under: Food and Drink, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , .

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