Coconut water is one of the biggest wellness fads in the last 10 years. But is it everything it claims to be: a great source of potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, amino acids, and even cytokinins (a hormone with hypothesized antiaging, cancer-fighting properties), plus low in calories, and an excellent hydration tool? I can definitely speak to the last claim based on personal experience in my gastroenterology practice.
Growing up in Jamaica and drinking coconut water right out of the coconut, I was excited when coconut water hit the U.S. market. As a gastroenterologist, I began using coconut water as a form of oral rehydration therapy in patients who struggled to stay hydrated because of diarrhea, which can be a problem for people with inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) or in those who’ve had their colons surgically removed because of cancer or disease. While sports drinks are often the go-to hydration tools for patients suffering from diarrhea, they’re also full of additives like citric acid, sodium citrate, and tons of sugar. They’re also very concentrated, which can lead to worsening of diarrhea. Coconut water is great in this setting because it’s already diluted and of course, natural.
Coconut water also contains electrolytes, which can give it some advantage over water in certain settings, but it’s not a magic pill by any means. Because of its sugar content (6 to 8 grams per cup), coconut water should be consumed in moderation and shouldn’t completely replace water for rehydration.
With my patients, I often recommend using 8 to 10 ounces of high quality coconut water in their daily green smoothies. While water is fine to use, coconut water adds a little sweetness and flavor that can balance out the more bitter taste of the greens so you may not need to add any additional fruit. Which kind should you use? Organic, never processed with heat, and as close to raw as possible.