One fruit, two different drinks? At what stage of growth does the coconut offer its most nutritious water? What health benefits are available from drinking either forms of the coconut liquid? Well, let’s crack open this tropical fruit and find out just how nutritious these yummy tasting fluids are and how they differ. Article links are below where Dr. Axe shares numbered resources.
Coconut Water vs. Coconut Milk – Many people confuse coconut water with coconut milk. Higher in fat and calories, coconut milk is extracted from the flesh of the coconut and is thicker, sweeter, and more dense. It also is packed with nutrition and healthy saturated fats, but it is also very high in calories. A cup of coconut milk is about 552 calories compared to a cup of coconut water which is only about 46 calories! Whew!
What is coconut water? – Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside a young, green coconut which is usually about the size of a basketball. Ideally, young coconuts are harvested at 5-7 months of age, to contain the most water. As the coconut matures, the liquid is replaced with coconut “meat”. The greatest nutrient health benefits of coconut water comes from drinking the water of the young coconut, not the mature coconut milk, which is generally lower in nutrients.
Coconut water has been consumed for centuries in tropical countries and is believed to treat a variety of health-related ailments. In Sanskrit, coconuts are called “kalpa vriksha” which means “tree which gives all that is necessary for living”. People all over the world enjoy coconut water for its multiple benefits and sweet taste.
Coconut Water Nutrition Facts – The liquid inside the coconut contains approximately 46 calories per cup, 10 grams of natural sugar, with little protein and it is fat free! It contains multiple vitamins, minerals, and phytochemcials that are ideal for human health. (1) The primary nutrient in coconut water is potassium. It contains approximately 600 mg (12% DV) making it a high electrolyte beverage. Coconut water also contains a small amount of sodium, about 40mg and up to 10% of your daily calcium and magnesium needs. (2) Electrolytes are critical to maintain blood volume, heart health, and well as to prevent dehydration. Maintaining electrolyte levels can help reduce fatigue, stress, and help maintain muscle relaxation.
- Electrolyte Replacement: Coconut Water vs. Gatorade – Because coconut water is high in potassium, and such a great electrolyte replacement, it has even been used for IV hydration in certain emergency situations as it is sterile if used directly from the inside of the coconut. (4) Overall, coconut water can be an alternative to sports drinks, but it may depend on the type of sport and the intensity. Some long-distance endurance athletes may need more specialized products that contain more sodium and carbohydrates. But, for most casual exercisers, coconut water is a great option.
- Lower blood pressure – A 2005 study found that when subjects were given coconut water for two weeks, their systolic blood pressure was 71% lower and their diastolic blood pressure was 29% lower than those who drank plain water. The high potassium content of coconut water has led researchers to investigate the potential benefits for reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
- Cleansing / Detox – Our bodies have an amazing natural ability to cleanse and detox on their own, if provided the correct nutrients and hydration. Inadequate hydration leads to the build-up of toxins in our bodies because the liver and kidneys, the detoxifying organs, are unable to function properly without adequate water. Coconut water contains a similar electrolyte profile to human blood, making it an ideal beverage to replace fluids and help remove toxins from the body. The electrolyte potassium, specifically, can help counteract some of the negative effects of a high sodium processed diet.
- Reduce stress and muscle tension – It’s almost as good as a massage! Some of the electrolytes found in coconut water, specifically calcium and magnesium, may help with stress and muscle tension. Many of us are missing these critical minerals in our diets, making stress management even more challenging. Other than maintaining strong teeth and bones, calcium helps with smooth muscle relaxation. Adequate calcium intakes may help keep our all our muscles relaxed, including our heart muscle, lowering the risk of heart attacks. (10)
How does coconut milk differ?