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The Truth About Coconut Water

June 26, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Whenever I visit a local health food store, I make it a point to walk down all of the aisles and scan for products that are new or beginning to take flight. Yesterday I stopped at the refrigerated beverage section and noticed quite a few coconut based drinks. I recently became interested in coconuts mainly because of my experimentation with their fiber (coconut flour) and the unique oil contained in the flesh of these tropical fruits. However, the milky liquid found inside Cocos nucifera is the one part that I hadn’t yet tried.

The first question that popped into my mind was whether coconut water is just another character in the seemingly neverending parade of trendy foods and supplements. From my perspective, the determining factor would be found in the medical literature. Here’s a collection of material that I discovered while researching the merit and utility of this line of products.

  • Several studies indicate that coconut water can lower cholesterol levels in an animal model. In one instance, the lipid reducing effect was comparable to that of the cholesterol lowering drug lovastatin (Mevacor). The cardiovascular benefits weren’t isolated to the reduction of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. There was also a decrease in triglycerides and an increase in the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Another animal study from 1995 demonstrated a 46% increase in HDL cholesterol, a 26% decline in total cholesterol and a 41% reduction in the overall “atheroslerosis index”. (1,2,3)
  • A very important aspect of cardiovascular health is proper management of blood pressure. There is preliminary evidence that coconut water may lower hypertension. A 2005 study published in the West Indian Medical Journal found that 71% of volunteers with high blood pressure saw improvements after drinking coconut water twice-daily for 2 weeks. 29% of the coconut water participants exhibited “significant decreases” in their diastolic blood pressure readings. (4) One reason why coconut water may help to reduce hypertension is because of its high potassium content. Commercially available coconut water often contains in excess of 600 mg of naturally occurring potassium per 11 oz serving. The “water” is also low in sodium and high in antioxidant vitamin C, with one brand claiming an impressive 230% of the RDA for this vital nutrient. This is particularly relevant because higher dosages of vitamin C have been linked to lower blood pressure. (5,6,7)
  • A brand new study on young coconut juice (YCJ) also opens up the door to further research with regard to women’s health. A group of Kuwaiti scientists recently examined a proposed estrogen-like effect of coconut water in several groups of “postmenopausal” rats (having no ovaries). The rats that were administered coconut water over the course of 10 weeks demonstrated estrogen levels comparable to or higher than rats that still had their ovaries. Another interesting finding was that the ‘coconut water rats’ were afforded protection against “neuronal cell death”. In fact, the brain protecting effect of coconut water was even greater than in rats receiving hormone replacement therapy (estradiol benzoate injections). The authors of this groundbreaking research concluded that, “This study confirms the argument that YCJ has estrogen-like characteristics, and it also adds more evidence to the observation that hormonal imbalance could induce some brain pathologies in females”. (8)

Health benefits aside, one the most promising applications for this tropical beverage is as a premium mode of re-hydration. Many studies attest to this fact, including one from 2007 that found that coconut water may be superior to standard “sports drinks” for post exercise hydration. (9,10,11) Some doctors go so far as to recommend this nutritional liquid in cases of diarrhea or other situations were re-hydration is a medical necessity. (12) But there are a few caveats worth noting. Caution should be used in people with: a) poor kidney function; and b) those who require higher glucose and sodium content as part of the re-hydration process. (13) The relatively low levels of sodium and sugar in coconut water are generally considered positive attributes, but may not be ideal in all circumstances.

Based on what I’ve learned, I think coconut water can play a meaningful role in some health routines. The choice about whether or not to use it regularly should depend on your individual circumstance. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to try it instead of a conventional sports drink. Or, if I needed some additional potassium, which many people lack, I’d certainly prefer drinking a can of coconut water to eating a high-carb baked potato. In my opinion, the real value of coconut water is that it offers yet another nutritious and tasty alternative to support various aspects of good health.

Be well!

JP

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61 Comments to “The Truth About Coconut Water”

  1. Christina Crowe Says:

    Great post! I will definitely look out for more coconut drinks.

    Thanks for the information.

  2. JP Says:

    You’re welcome, Christina.

    I hope you benefit from them!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Ryan Says:

    I knew about the re-hydration value of coconut water, its really valuable insight to the other inherent positive factors associated with coconut water. I am excited with the lowering of LDL.

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks, Ryan.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. MMA Bart Says:

    Just wanted to chime in on coconut drinks – while traveling down to Brazil I learned that the natives prescribe drinking coconut water if you get dehydrated. It’s cool that a natural remedy is getting some science cred.

  6. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Bart.

    The use of coconut water as a re-hydration source runs deep in parts of the world where coconuts are plentiful. In fact, it’s not unheard of for coconut water to be used intravenously in remote regions where it’s occasionally a necessity. It may sound unusual but it’s clearly documented in medical texts and in select journals!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. anne h Says:

    I visited Brazil last year. Little guys would scale up a tree, chop down a green coconut, cut off the top, and stick a straw in it! Everyone was drinking them. Very awesome! And good for you in the heat!

  8. JP Says:

    Anne,

    I would guess there’s no better way to drink it than that! Fresh and pure.

    I mentioned to my wife that a diet that uses coconut and fish as it’s core foods must be very healthy indeed. I guess I was thinking about this because I watch so many “survivor” type shows on the Discovery and Travel Channels. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    For what it’s worth, I read somewhere that most canned coconut milk comes in cans lined with BPA plastic.

  10. JP Says:

    Iggy,

    That’s probably the case. Unless a canned product states that it’s BPA-free … it most likely isn’t. There aren’t too many BPAless canned products out there – not even the organic ones sold at health food stores.

    Be well!

    JP

  11. michael Says:

    Thanks for this information.I see a lot of coconut in town but always hesitant to buy. I will start buying some now that I know the helth benefits of coconut water. Thanks.

  12. JP Says:

    You’re most welcome, Michael.

    Please let us know how it works out for you.

    Be well!

    JP

  13. su Says:

    This is from my own experience on drinking young coconut water. I found out that it did affect hormonal system. After drinking only coconut water for two weeks, I found out that my period cycle got shorter, i.e., two weeks after the previous cycle. Besides, other physiological related to menstruation e.g. the swallen of the breast, brighten skin etc, also happened. It is proved to me that there is hormonal component in coconut water. Infact, coconut water is part of the component that is used in plant tissue culture.

  14. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Su! Very interesting indeed! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  15. Julie Says:

    Is there a difference between young coconut juice and coconut water? Or are they the same thing referenced by another name?

  16. JP Says:

    Julie,

    My understanding is that they’re the same. Younger coconuts are better sources of the water and older coconuts are best suited for the “meat” and oil.

    Be well!

    JP

  17. mac Says:

    Have you seen Vita-Coco yet? Not providing link because I don’t know much about it yet, but they’re supposedly sending me a sample to try out and review. Will let you know how it goes. Great Blog by the way. Thanks for following me ! fitmacdaddy

  18. JP Says:

    Good day, Mac.

    I’d be interested in knowing your impression of Vita-Coco. Most of their products are too high in sugar for my own health routine. But the pure coconut water (without the added fruit juice) might be suitable for low carbers such as myself – perhaps as a post workout electrolyte replacement drink.

    Thank you for visiting. Come back anytime!

    Be well!

    JP

  19. Samantha Says:

    It was recommended people with kidney problems do not drink this, just wondering why?

  20. JP Says:

    Samantha,

    Coconut water is rich in the essential mineral potassium. People with poor kidney function are generally advised against consuming large amounts of potassium without the guidance of a physician who understands their particular health condition.

    Be well!

    JP

  21. Marisa Says:

    I agree with this article that coconut water is one of the healthiest drinks out there. However, Vita Coco is clearly the best one, as it’s completely pure and comes in great tasting flavors.

  22. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing your feedback, Marisa!

    Be well!

    JP

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  24. Warutta Pipattikanan Says:

    Have you ever tried Coconut syrup to be your sweeteners?
    Coconut sugar has a nutritional content far richer than all other commercially available sweeteners.
    It has long been a staple for South East Asia culinary heritage and herbal medicine.
    It is naturally low on the Glycemic Index (GI), which has benefits for weight control and improving glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2).

    Best Regards,
    Warutta Pipattikanan

  25. JP Says:

    Warutta,

    I’ve seen it a few of my local health food stores but have yet to try it. I seem to recall a rather substantial sugar content according to the product labels I’ve encountered. That’s of concern to me.

    Products with high sugar content but a low GI are often rich in fructose. This is highly undesirable in my opinion.

    Be well!

    JP

  26. EnriqueL Says:

    Wow my friends kept telling me to drink coconut water but I never really listened to them. This article was a true eye opener though. I had no idea it was this good for you. I’ve just ordered a couple packs of vita coco from amazon!

  27. JP Says:

    I hope they do your body good, Enrique.

    Please let us know how it works out for you.

    Be well!

    JP

  28. PattoT Says:

    I love my Vita Coco! Best coconut water brand out there.
    Exudes health and well-being.

  29. JP Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Patto!

    Be well!

    JP

  30. Warutta Pipattikanan Says:

    Luckily, fructose in coconut syrup is only 3-9%. Then, it is still good for your health

  31. SugaMama Says:

    Vita Coco is the best coconut water out there!! I love it. Completely obsessed!!!
    Healthy, tasty and lots of different flavors so you never get enough!

  32. AnhTuan Says:

    about a month ago i had been diagnosed with pre-hypertension (140/80). i started drinking vita-coco; one drink every other day, along with my normal routine of competative tennis, occasional running and strength training. today my blood pressure was 122/73.

  33. JP Says:

    Wonderful news, Anh! Congratulations and continued success! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  34. JER0EN R0LAND Says:

    Potassium should not be given to kidney patients and risk to get a overdose Potassium from drink young Coconut water or consume Parkia speciosa! Overdose Potassium is deadly to kidney patient!

  35. JP Says:

    Jeroen,

    Anyone being treated for kidney disease needs to be aware of the appropriate diet for their specific situation. This may include limiting many foods that are rich in phosphorous, potassium and sodium.

    Be well!

    JP

  36. Buzz Says:

    Have been wondering how the pasteurization process affects the quality of the electrolytes. It does great damage to the nutrients in dairy products. If the same occurs with the Coconut Water, are we drinking ‘dead’ nutrients?

  37. JP Says:

    Buzz,

    I believe the damage re: dairy has more to do with the fat and protein components that can be “denatured” during processing. The minerals don’t appear to suffer. As an example, the calcium in dairy is relatively well absorbed.

    I suspect the electrolytes are accessible in pasteurized coconut water. That would explain the observed benefits some people find while using it as a sports recovery drink.

    As a side-note, there are certain advantages to consuming some foods in a cooked state:

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/313/raw-food-diet-revolution/

    The biggest issues re: coconut water is looking out for added sweeteners and opting for an organic source, IMO.

    Be well!

    JP

  38. MUSTAFA NAJIB KHAMBATY Says:

    lot of thanks for usefull information

  39. JER0EN R0LAND Says:

    Hi JP, thanks for asner. I always feel me much better when I drink Foco coconut juice. before i’m not drink coconut water feel me completely worn out. I believe that coconutwater it’s a panacea, coconut water has kills all bad bacteria in the urinary tract and body and my mother say her hair is growing.

  40. Jen Says:

    Hi JP!

    I love the info in your blog! I want to try Coconut Water, and I’ve visited a few health food shops already, but am appalled about HOW MUCH SUGAR is in just one can!!!

    Outside of using my own machete on a fresh coconut, do you have any suggestions on a brand you know is more organic, less sugar/sodium??

    Thanks so much!
    Jen

  41. JP Says:

    Thank you, Jen. :)

    There’s a certain amount of naturally occurring sugar in coconut water – even if you cracked it open yourself. Most of the products I’ve seen contain approximately 12 – 15 grams of carbs per 12 oz serving. The only way to reduce the carb count would be to dilute it.

    Sodium really shouldn’t be an issue. The potassium-to-sodium of coconut water is excellent.

    I haven’t seen too many organic brands out there. In fact, the only one I’ve spotted at my local health food stores is made by a company called Nature Factor.

    Be well!

    JP

  42. Jay Says:

    Just checked your site to see if coconut water would be ok for my wife with high cholestoral. She was so excited to hear it would be ok. We live in Brazil and have coconut trees on our property. Just yesterday we cleaned out the tree and gave away over 200 coconuts! We saved some of the juice but now we know not to just give this stuff away!

  43. deanne thompson Says:

    I recently had open heart surgery. Not for any blockage. The PA told me that i should not drink coconut water, something that i love very much. I want to know if this is permanently or just until i heal? Can it be bad for your heart?

  44. JP Says:

    Deanne,

    You’ll need to consult with your physician to be sure.

    You may be taking certain medications which call for a potassium-controlled diet. If this is the case, coconut water may not be appropriate while using said drugs.

    Be well!

    JP

  45. P.V.Chidambaram Says:

    Hi,
    I live in country where plenty of coconuts are available.I plan to establish an industry for poor people especialy women to start a co conut drink production unit of International Standard.
    Can any one advise me on this area .
    Thanks
    P.V.Chidambaram

  46. JP Says:

    P.V.,

    If anyone with technical knowledge chimes in, I’ll make sure to e-mail you their replies.

    Be well!

    JP

  47. jerry Peralez Says:

    I have two questions, First, is coconut true helpful in fat burning?? I recently lost 40 plus pounds with Paleo diet and crossfit but now i’m stuck with in my fat burning!! Help!
    Second I read that coconut water was good for brain stimulation, My mother was in a almost fatal car crash where she was comatose for almost months. After ignoring Dr’s suggestion 3 times to take her off life support, she came to and has brain trauma her short term memory is pretty much gone but her long term is all there, aside from slurred speech and sometimes aggression she recovering good. would coconut extract help in her neuro recovery

  48. JP Says:

    Jerry,

    Coconut oil and it’s medium chain triglycerides may reduce body fat stores.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/02ngg2413wm2w630/

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11033985

    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09637481003702114

    The link below may be of interest re: your mother.

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/208/coconut-oil-and-alzheimers-disease/

    I wish you both all the best.

    Be well!

    JP

  49. regina Says:

    Just want to know how much coconut water do you need to drink per day to get the full benefit to help with weight loss and lower blood pressure?

  50. JP Says:

    Regina,

    It’s hard to say because there are many variables involved.

    Some people begin experimenting with a low dosage, perhaps 4 to 6 oz twice-daily, and work their way up as needed.

    Be well!

    JP

  51. blueraven Says:

    tnx for the info.. i always dringking of coconut here in my province.. itz really cool especially for urinal cleaning…its really nice..

  52. Neil Says:

    Hi JP,

    Do you have additional information regarding the effects of Coconut Water on the kidneys for folks witha poor kidney function? Is this just because of the higher levels of Potassium in Coconut Water or are there other underlying problems? You would think that the other benefits mentioned would help support a healthy kidney function.

    I happen to be a kideny patient that participates in a Bikram Yoga class (105F for 90 mins) four times a week. That cold Coconut Water after class is a must for me.

    Neil

  53. JP Says:

    Hi Neil.

    As you noted, the primary concern is the potassium content of coconut water. I couldn’t find any human studies that specifically addressed this issue. Therefore, I think it would probably be prudent to treat coconut water just like any other dietary potassium source.

    Be well!

    JP

  54. Karl Says:

    Does Coconut Water/Juice raise your bad cholestral levels?? I drink Rockstar energy drink with coconut water and my Dr says it does raise your bad cholestral,, but doing some research it says it helps reduce bad cholestral… please can i have your opinon!!! Thanks

  55. JP Says:

    Hi Karl,

    I haven’t seen evidence to support your doctor’s statement.

    PS – I thought you might find my most recent column useful. It’s all about heart health and it addresses the issue of coconut oil.

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/1062/dr-jonny-bowden-interview-part-one/

    Be well!

    JP

  56. Cynthia D'Auria Says:

    Hello JP,

    This is so strange! I have recently had a GI condition, for which I could only have lots of water, low residue diet very limited. I knew I was lacking potassium since my muscles were very sore. I ate a banana or two and said this is not enough!

    I searched for Vita Coco and found just what I needed.

    I had some this morning, pineapple flavored and it is very delicious. The amount of sodium is 60mg, sugar is 16mg, potassium is 515mg.
    It is just exactly what I needed.

    I am sorry I did not see your article before today.

    Very informative and maybe you have some updated info.

    Thanks JP!

    Take care.

  57. JP Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia. I hope you feel 100% better soon!

    Here’s the latest good news about coconut water:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1995764512600388

    But, not all of the recent is as positive:

    http://www.jissn.com/content/9/1/1

    Be well!

    JP

  58. j Says:

    Hey, found this informative, but just a heads up, there’s a type error. Last paragraph, “potassium, which may people lack”. Not by any means trying to be hateful, just wanting to help you out, since you seem very committed. Take care :)

  59. JP Says:

    Thanks, J! Added an ‘n’. The typo is officially fixed! Much appreciated!

    Be well,

    JP

  60. Diaura Contreras Says:

    Dear JP
    Great, informative article. I have been drinking coconut water for about a month now. I am one of those weird people that don’t like water, hence probably don’t drink enough and are constantly dehydrated. Since I found coconut water I have been well hydrated. I thought it tasted salty to begin with, due to high potassium, however with continued drinking I got accustomed to it, and now it tastes very pleasant. It is my main drink and I have found it very beneficial. I prefer the plain 1 ltr. carton of Zico from Trader Joes. I am almost to the hypoglycemic stage, last time I had blood work done. It is hard for me to say whether my overall benefits are from the coconut or just being better hydrated. However, I have noticed that after drinking coconut water consistently, it seemed to regulate my blood sugar drops and spikes, thus allowing me to not be as hungry through out the day. It, also, made it easier for me to make better eating choices when I did eat, as I wasn’t famished and just grabbing junk. Some days, by the time I got home from work, I realized I really hadn’t eaten too much, because the coconut water had helped to keep me full. It has really helped control my appetite- interesting. On a side note, I am in the health and healing business, as a massage therapist, and am writing an article-yeah, you guessed it- on coconut. I would like to use your photo, but didn’t see any identifier for it. Do you know if it would be ok for me to use in a free health magazine? Thanks and be well.

  61. JP Says:

    Hi Diaura,

    Thanks so much for sharing your positive coconut water experience with us! I’ll email you about the photograph.

    Be well!

    JP

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