For as long as humans have inhabited or traveled to tropical environments where coconut trees grow, they have been drinking the water or juice inside of the shell. For sailors and travelers, coconut water proved to be an excellent source of hydration on long voyages. Doctors in the tropics have also used it for medical purposes, replacing the saline for IV fluids with the juice when the salt solution was not available. Over the last ten years in Western countries, coconut water has risen in popularity as a health and wellness drink with consumers who are looking to boost their hydration levels with beverages offering electrolytes.
Rise in Popularity and Health Benefits
The electrolytes that occur naturally in coconut water have made it an increasingly popular alternative to sports drinks. These electrolytes include potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus, nutrients that are needed for maintaining proper hydration levels.
Also, the continued rise of health and wellness trends has also contributed to coconut water’s popularity, since it is considered a healthy, natural beverage option.
Beyond improving hydration after physical exertion and exercise, the other health benefits coconut water offers include potentially reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood sugar for those with diabetes, preventing kidney stones, and alleviating the effects of a hangover.
What is Coconut Water?
Coconut water or coconut juice is the opaque liquid found inside of coconuts; it’s a natural, low-calorie beverage that is commonly consumed in tropical regions. Coconut water is often referred to as "Nature's sports drink" due to its naturally occurring electrolyte content. That is what makes it a popular choice for replacing fluids after exercise or physical activity.
Differences between Coconut Water and Coconut Milk
Sometimes consumers confuse coconut water with coconut milk, but the two liquids are very different from one another. The first difference is how they are sourced. Coconut water occurs naturally inside the coconut, while coconut milk is created by blending or grating the coconut meat which is dense and fibrous with water. Coconut water is a relatively thin, opaque, low-calorie beverage which is typically consumed as a drink, while coconut milk is a thick, creamy liquid with a high fat content that is used as an ingredient in food items like curry or as a dairy-free milk alternative. For consumers looking for a sports beverage, coconut water is the item to choose of the two given its consistency, its nutrients, and how low-calorie it is! One cup of coconut water contains 60 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of carbohydrates on average.
Nutritional Benefits of Coconut Water
Coconut water is a low-calorie beverage containing essential nutrients including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, known as electrolytes. It also contains antioxidants and cytokines that have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties.
Coconut water is naturally low in sugar and fat, which makes it a healthy option as the base for sports drinks, compared to drinks which have been naturally or artificially sweetened.
Comparison to Other Sports Drinks and Fruit Beverages
When compared to many of the traditional sports beverages on the market, coconut water drinks generally contain far less sugar and fewer artificial ingredients or additives.
When compared to fruit juices or smoothies consumers can find in the grocery store, coconut water is typically lower in sugar and calories. For example, 12 ounces of orange juice contains 28 grams of sugar and is 154 calories, whereas 12 ounces of coconut water typically contains 9 grams of sugar and is 68 calories, depending on the source.
Electrolytes and hydration benefits
Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, which are essential for hydration and maintaining proper fluid balance in the body. Because of its high electrolyte content, it is often consumed by athletes and active consumers after exercise or physical activity. It’s also been proven to be effective in preventing dehydration during intense exercise or when traveling in hot climates.
How to Choose Your Coconut Water
Factors to Consider When Selecting Coconut Water
Taste: Brands of coconut water can taste different from each other.
- While some brands taste more like plain water, others are sweeter or nuttier.
- Whatever taste you prefer, the flavor should be enjoyable and palatable to you.
Packaging: Coconut water comes in tetra packs, bottles, cans, and cartons.
Each type of packaging has its benefits and drawbacks.
- For on-the-go use, cartons and tetra packs are more eco-friendly, but they may not last as long.
- Glass bottles are eco-friendly but are generally heavy.
- Cans are generally more durable and have a longer shelf life, but they can also contain traces of BPA from the lining.
Origin: The origin of the coconut water can affect its taste and quality.
- When coconut water is extracted from mature coconuts, the taste is more sweet and nutty compared to the water extracted from young, green coconuts.
- As is true with other fruit, the region where the coconuts are grown will impact the taste and quality.
Additives and sugar content
- Some beverage brands may sweeten or add flavoring to their water, and it’s important for consumers to know that additives can decrease the health benefits. When choosing a brand of coconut water to purchase, make sure it is low in sugar with minimal additives.
Single Strength vs Coconut Water From Concentrate
- It's always best to find coconut water that is single strength or cold pressed vs from concentrate. Coconut water from concentrate means that it was heated, thus all of the valuable nutrients are destroyed long before it even reaches the shelf for purchase.
Uses for Coconut Water
Refreshing Drink Options
- For a refreshing beverage during the day, plain coconut water either chilled or at room temperature is a healthy, good-for-you option when tap water isn’t doing it for you.
- It can also be used as a base for homemade electrolyte drinks by adding a pinch of salt and citrus juice.
- Coconut water also makes a great base for flavored drinks by adding fruit like watermelon or pineapple to it.
Cooking and Baking Ingredient
- For added flavor and nutrition, coconut water can be used as a liquid for cooking rice, quinoa, or other grains.
- To add a subtle tropical flavor to a dish, it can also be used in marinades for meat or fish.
- In baking recipes that call for water, milk, or other liquids, it can be used as a replacement in items such as muffins or cakes for added moisture and flavor.
Smoothies and Cocktails
- Coconut water makes a great base for smoothies with the bonus of adding hydration and electrolytes to the drink.
- In cocktails, It can be used as a mixer or ingredient, such as in a Coconut Mojito or a Piña Colada.
- Coconut water can be frozen in ice cube trays, then added to drinks for a refreshing twist on the traditional ice cube.
Benefits for Athletes and Active Individuals
- Improves athletic performance and recovery
- Provides a natural, healthier alternative to sugary sports drinks
- Contains essential electrolytes and natural sugars that provide a quick source of energy for the body
- Recommended timing and amount of consumption vary based on individual factors such as body weight and exercise intensity
- Choose a brand without added sugars or artificial ingredients/additives
- Consult with a healthcare provider before consuming if you have kidney or heart disease
Where To Start: Adapt Brand’s Best Coconut Water Based Sport Drink
Of the many fruit-based beverages on the market, one of the healthiest is coconut water, given that it’s high in electrolytes and low in sugar. For active, healthy-conscious consumers, it’s the perfect beverage to drink during or after a workout, a drink that won’t leave you worrying that you may have just consumed too much sugar.
When Adapt Brands started, former athlete CEO/Owner Richie Harrington chose coconut water as the base for his beverages given all of its health benefits. His goal was to produce a high electrolyte, low sugar beverage that athletes would want to drink during and after workouts, a drink that would marry hemp with the other functional ingredients like mango and pomegranate. The result is two flavorful options that can help boost immunity and aid in recovery post workout.