Is Coconut Water Good for You?

Coconut water is the clear liquid found in green coconuts. Here's what registered dietitians think about its nutritional value.

coconut waterHere Asia/Shutterstock

Alternatives for plain water are trending—but that doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon for every new water craze. There’s everything from mineral water to alkaline water. Coconut water is another common and popular water variety, but is coconut water good for you? Here’s what science says so far about the benefits of coconut water.

What is coconut water?

Coconut water is the clear liquid found in green coconut fruit centers, according to Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center and professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. As the coconut ages and turns brown, the water solidifies turning into coconut meat. No matter your water of choice, you can still use these 13 genius tricks to guarantee you’ll drink enough water.

Is coconut water good for you?

Asking, “Is coconut water good for you” is a misnomer or kind of a trick question. Coconut water does have two main science-backed health benefits—it provides electrolytes like potassium and sodium, and it’s good for rehydration after physical activity or after illnesses that cause vomiting or diarrhea, says Ali Webster, PhD, RD, the Associate Director of Nutrition Communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation. Still, there is very little human research on the benefits of coconut water over plain, run-of-the-mill H20. One study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that coconut water replaced bodily fluids as efficiently as sports drinks and only slightly better than water. The athletes, however, preferred the taste of sports drinks—meaning you have to like the taste of coconut water to reap the benefits.

Although it’s an acquired taste, if you do want something healthier than a sports drink, coconut water could still be a good albeit unnecessary option. Most people aren’t professional athletes and don’t exercise long or intensely enough to really need the extra electrolytes from coconut water, Webster says. That’s why Dr. Apovian says it doesn’t replace her regular water intake because she doesn’t want the extra calories. Even though coconut water has less sugar than some of the unhealthiest things at the supermarket like regular soda or juices, the calories still add up, Dr. Apovian says. As for the benefits, there’s also plenty of other ways to get potassium from foods such as potatoes, bananas, beans, spinach, and legumes, Webster says. “These foods provide other beneficial nutrients that coconut water doesn’t, like fiber and other vitamins and minerals,” she says.

When should you drink coconut water?

Coconut water could be a healthier alternative for other non-water beverages. For example, Dr. Apovian doesn’t drink alcohol and instead uses coconut water—like this one—to make tasty mocktails. “When I’m looking to relax on my own or with friends, I like to mix coconut water, pomegranate juice, or small amounts of tart cherry juice, and something fizzy like sparkling water,” she says. So feel free to dip your toes into this trend, and note that there are only a few potential benefits of coconut water.

Sources
  • Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center and professor at the Boston University School of Medicine
  • Ali Webster, PhD, RD, the Associate Director of Nutrition Communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation
  • Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "Post-Exercise Rehydration with Coconut Water"

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.