People often ask me about coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut water.
When I attended the Fancy Food show in January of 2013 in San Francisco, there were close to 40 producers of coconut water beverage. The sale people told the attendees of all these benefits of coconut water that I thought were a bit far-fetch. Dubbed “nature’s sports drink” and “life-enhancer” by marketers, it’s no wonder why celebrities have replaced their acai berry drinks with anything-coconut-water. Well, marketing dollars were well spent since many people are buying into many “benefits” of coconut water.
We have coconut everywhere in Asia. You can walk down the street of Saigon on a hot day and see coconut water stands everywhere. The vendors will crack open the fresh green coconut and pour the fresh coconut water into a glass for you. They even scoop up the soft, delicious coconut meat for your to enjoy (that is my more favorite part). So, one must wonder, do the Asians know the wonderful benefit of coconut water for the past thousands of year? The truth is, they are just coconut water. Nothing more, nothing less. So, here are what coconut water is NOT and Sharon Denny, MS, RDN agreed with what Asians know all along. Here is what she said:
Coconut water is NOT an ideal post-exercise drink.
You may see gym-goers guzzling coconut water on the treadmill because it contains electrolytes, which you lose when you sweat. But for the average light-to-moderate exerciser, “If you’re consuming enough fluids and eating healthfully the rest of the day, having coconut water after a workout is not going to significantly benefit you any more than hydrating with water,” says Marjorie Nolan, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Unflavored coconut water is low in sugar and calories and is not the perfect sports drink. Sports drinks are meant to replace fluids, supply energy, and replace sodium and potassium lost through perspiration.
Coconut water DOES NOT hydrate you better than H20.
While coconut water does boast electrolytes, says Beth Thayer, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there’s no scientific proof that for the average person it hydrates better than plain old water. And a bonus to water: Zero calories, as opposed to 46 calories per cup of coconut water.
Coconut water has ZERO anti-aging properties.
Being well-hydrated does help you look and feel better, says Nolan, but water works just as well for this. And as to the online claim that coconut water “significantly increases plant cell proliferation without increasing the number of undesirable mutations,” and that it therefore protects your cells—there’s been no research to show that this plant-specific action makes any difference in an actual human being.
Coconut water is healthier than fruit juice.
If you’re looking for a drink with some flavor but want to save on calories, coconut water can be a better choice than juice, says Thayer; fruit juice often has double the calories of coconut water. Thayer adds that coconut water has more potassium than many types of fruit juice. Just be sure to opt for unflavored coconut water—once you add sugar, the calories start mounting.
Coconut water DOES NOT help prevent stroke and heart attack.
You may have seen coconut water touted as a heart-healthy beverage. The potassium in coconut water helps counteract the blood pressure-boosting effects of sodium, so in theory drinking coconut water could help prevent heart disease. However, says Thayer, “Your body’s not going to differentiate between the potassium from coconut water, the potassium from a banana, or the potassium from a potato.” In other words, potassium is good, but coconut water is not a miracle heart disease cure.
Coconut water DOES NOT speed your metabolism.
When we’re dehydrated, our metabolism slows down, says Nolan, so anything you drink will help keep your metabolism speeding along. And anything you eat or drink will give a temporary boost to your metabolism because your body has to digest the food. But “There’s no food that you can eat or drink that’s going to increase your metabolism [permanently],” says Thayer. “Exercise increases your metabolism, but food and beverages don’t.”