In most tropical countries with long coastlines where coconut palms grow in abundance, coconut water has always been used as a refreshing drink and a health enhancer. The people of the Pacific Islands respect the coconut and use all of its parts for food and medicine.
It is only recently that this humble natural beverage has started receiving the attention it clearly deserves in North America. If you are not familiar with this drink, coconut water is the nearly colorless liquid contained within a coconut. Although it used to be referred to as the milk of coconut, or coconut milk, earlier, it is not to be confused with the white milky liquid extracted from coconut meat.
In its natural form, coconut water is a light, mildly sweet drink with a very slight nutty taste and astringent feel. It cannot compete with sodas or sports drinks in sweetness, but this pure drink is surprisingly satisfying. Coconut water from fresh, tender coconuts is the best, but it is now available bottled, with or without added sugar and flavors. The best, of course, is the 100% natural, with no added sugar or other preservatives or coloring.
Here are just ten reasons why you will want to learn more about this amazing tropical gift from nature…
Coconut Water Is A Clean Natural Drink
Coconuts are not nuts; they are the fruit of a tall palm Cocos nucifera with large, spreading fronds. The actual edible part is the seed kernel inside the fibrous fruit. What is unique about this seed is the large quantity of edible liquid contained within the kernel. What’s more: it is hermetically sealed in several protective layers that keep moisture, mold and bacteria from contaminating this nature’s bounty. The people of Hawaii call it “neolani” for good reason. It literally translates to “dew from the heavens.”
The tops of fresh tender coconuts are usually cut open with a sharp machete to access the goodness inside, which includes both the water and the jelly-like meat. But did you know that there’s another way to get the coconut water? When a machete is not available, native islanders remove the outer husk by hitting the coconut on a rock to loosen it off the inner shell.
This hard shell of the coconut has three eyes, and the largest among them is softer than the others. You can actually poke a hole in this eye with a stick and then upturn the shell over your mouth or insert a straw to suck up the water. It looks like nature designed this soft eye specifically for accommodating a drinking straw. Actually, it is to help the baby plant come out easily when a mature coconut sprouts.
When you drink coconut water directly from a freshly cut coconut, It is as clean and pure a drink as you can get. It does not contain any artificial preservatives, nor does it need any additives to make it palatable. It is a far cry from the sodas and juices your palate is familiar with, but most people who get to taste fresh coconut water fall in love with it. Although mild in taste, it satisfies thirst and refreshes the body.
When you cannot get fresh coconuts, the next best thing could be bottled coconut water, but always remember to check the label. Get the brand that gives pure, organic coconut water without additives.
It Rehydrates You Very Quickly
Coconut water has the ability to rehydrate you very quickly because it is readily absorbed into the body. In fact, coconut water is recognized as more hydrating than pure water. Coconut water is identical to human blood plasma and was used for transfusions during World War ll.
In places with hot and humid climates where coconut trees naturally grow, people get dehydrated very often due to heavy sweating. Locals and tourists alike find that coconut water is more hydrating than plain water or fruit juices ( which are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients). In addition, the mineral salts naturally occurring in coconut water speed up the absorption of water through the gut wall.
People who have lost a lot of blood are given coconut water, so are those who are dehydrated because of frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Coconut water is usually well-tolerated by people who suffer from nausea and aversion to food due to metallic taste in the mouth. It is often given to women who cannot keep down any food during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is also common for those who undertake severe fasting for extended periods to break it with a drink of coconut water.
Coconut Water Resolves Dyspepsia (Upset Stomach)
An upset stomach is often thought to result from indigestion, but it can be caused by any number of things, including mild gastrointestinal infections and food allergies. Whatever the reason for the upset stomach, the lining of the stomach is inflamed, and this can cause common symptoms such as nausea, bloating, uneasy feeling and loss of appetite. Coconut water works in a variety of ways to soothe the stomach lining.
An inflamed stomach lining cannot absorb even water and sugars from food. It is often accompanied by loss of essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Coconut water contains tannins, which are known to reduce inflammation.
‘Brat,’ (which stands for banana, rice, applesauce and toast) has been a traditional remedy for upset stomach. Coconut water can take its place as it contains more potassium than bananas. It also provides other minerals, vitamins, and some natural sugar in an absorbable form.
Coconut water can even handle mild infections. It contains lauric acid which is abundant in human breast milk. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a compound with proven antimicrobial properties. If a stomach problem is the result of bacterial or protozoan infections or stomach flu, frequent drinks of coconut water can help. The tannins in the water also have antibacterial properties.
Coconut Water Is Great For Replenishing Electrolytes
Electrolytes are essential minerals and mineral salts that regulate muscle and nerve function in our body. Blood pressure and blood pH are also regulated by electrolytes. Sodium (Na+), Potassium (K+), Magnesium (Mg++), Calcium (Ca++), Chloride (Cl-), Phosphate (HPO4–) and Bicarbonate (HCO3-) are the seven major electrolytes in the body. The positive and negative charges carried by these ions are responsible for the electrical activity within muscle fibers and nerve cells.
The body gets these important substances from food and employs different mechanisms to maintain them at optimum levels. But excessive sweating, bleeding, and loss of bodily fluids from the gastrointestinal tract can cause imbalances and deficiencies, throwing the normal functions like heartbeat, and muscle contraction out of gear. For example, deficiency of potassium and magnesium affects muscle contraction and causes muscle cramps. This is why high potassium foods like bananas are recommended after bouts of exercise and sports practice.
A cup of coconut water not only has more than 600 mg of potassium, which is one and a half times of what you get from a banana, but has over 250 mg sodium, about 60 mg magnesium, 58 mg calcium and 48 mg phosphorus. So whenever there’s a possibility of developing electrolyte imbalance, coconut water is what you can turn to for a quick fill up.
Coconut Water Is A Great Post-Workout Drink
As mentioned earlier, strenuous activities that require constant muscular movement use up minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. It is important to replace them as early as possible to avoid muscle breakdown and electrolyte imbalance. This is the reason why people always reach for mineral-rich foods and health drinks right after workouts. We know that coconut water has these minerals to offer. But what makes it even more special is that its composition and salt concentration are very similar to that of tissue fluids. Therefore, coconut water is readily absorbed into the body.
Some people point out that our body requires a lot more of sodium than what coconut water provides. This is true only if too much sodium has been flushed away through excess perspiration. Nevertheless, this can be easily remedied by adding a pinch or two of sea salt to your coconut water drink.
A lot of water is also lost as a result of profuse sweating during workouts. Every tissue and organ in the body requires minimum levels of hydration for their proper functioning. Severe dehydration can have far-reaching consequences, including dangerous drops in blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. Coconut water can quickly restore fluid volume in the blood as well as in the tissues due to its isotonicity with interstitial fluid and blood plasma.
According to John Isner who successfully played the longest match ever in the history of professional tennis, it is coconut water that kept him going and prevented muscle cramps all through the three days that saw him play a total of 11 hours of intense tennis.
Coconut Water Promotes Regularity of Bowel Movements
According to the traditional wisdom of ancient yoga practitioners, bowel regularity is the foundation of physical health. Food entering the body contains many indigestible and undesirable elements, including toxins. They should be eliminated as soon as possible.
Any obstruction in this natural process can result in the accumulation of these toxic substances in the digestive tract. The origin of most diseases can be traced back to our gut. The soluble fiber in coconut water helps regulate bowel movements. In fact, many yogis (practitioners of the traditional health system of yoga) start their day with fresh coconut water.
It Promotes Weight Loss/Maintenance
The weight loss claim of coconut water is under the radar, not because of any doubt regarding its efficacy, but because of apprehensions about how it is achieved. To state it more clearly, some people think that coconut water consumption leads to weight loss by causing diarrhea.
It is highly probable that one would get loose/frequent motions if coconut water, or almost any food for that matter, is taken in excess. It just an example of how “too much of a good thing can be bad” for you. When it comes to weight loss diet, people tend to overdo it.
Coconut water is a low-calorie thirst quencher that is both highly filling and satiating. Merely replacing your regular high-sugar drinks with coconut water makes it a valuable weight loss tool.
Coconut water contains fiber that keeps you feeling full for longer periods. If you have a glass of it half an hour before a meal, you will eat less. The diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut water also may be responsible since they both reduce water retention and bloating.
Coconut Water Helps Kidney Function
Most diets are high in sodium and low in potassium. Sodium puts a lot of stress on the kidneys because it promotes fluid retention. When sodium is high, kidneys have to work harder to eliminate excess water. On the other hand, potassium acts as a diuretic, helping the kidneys flush out water.
A single cup of coconut water can provide enough potassium to keep the kidneys in good health. Its diuretic effect is beneficial in preventing kidney stones. The arginine in coconut water increases blood circulation to all organs including kidneys.
Coconut Water Helps Reduce Blood Pressure
When you think about the blood pressure lowering capacity of coconut water, what comes to mind first is its high potassium content. This natural drink indeed is an excellent source of potassium; you get over 600 mg of this mineral from an 11 oz. can of coconut water. Compare that to the 400 mg potassium that you get from a banana. This mineral balances out the sodium content in the body that causes water retention. When water accumulates in the body, it increases blood volume and raises blood pressure. As we discussed earlier, when your diet has more potassium, it acts as a diuretic, helping the kidneys flush out excess water, thus reducing blood pressure.
However, potassium is not the only blood pressure lowering agent in coconut water. It also contains argininewhich is known to relax blood vessels and improve blood circulation. This is the result of a slight increase in nitrous oxide levels brought about by the action of this amino acid. Some people take arginine supplements for its cardiovascular benefits. However, it is always best to turn to whole food/drinks for the vitamins and minerals we need.
Every cup of coconut water contains about 0.283 mg. of arginine. It is not a lot, but still sufficient for an appreciable reduction in blood pressure when you regularly drink one or two glasses. Even if you do not have hypertension, it is a great idea to drink a glass of coconut water before bed to improve your blood circulation while you sleep.
Coconut Water Is A Health Enhancer
Coconut water is an excellent general health tonic. It is treated as such in countries where it is available locally. Young children suffering malnutrition, pregnant and lactating mothers who require extra nutritional inputs, elderly people and convalescents who cannot derive sufficient nutrition from food, all benefit from coconut water. It is not just because it contains minerals, B-complex vitamins, amino acids, cytokines and many other beneficial phytochemicals. The bioavailability of all these substances makes this natural health drink far better than any other health drink formula around.
Even if you don’t have a specific condition, you should consider adding pure coconut water to your daily diet for improved overall health and energy. It is truly a gift from nature that should be respected.
How To Buy The Best Coconut Water
There’s nothing better than drinking fresh coconut water directly from the shell of young coconuts, but unfortunately that’s not possible for all of us.
To ensure you are drinking the finest quality bottled coconut water, here are some things you should avoid courtesy of Food Babe:
- Using a concentrate instead of fresh juice
- Taking water from mature coconuts
- Adding “natural flavors” or sweeteners
- Pasteurizing it with heat
- Dipping whole coconuts in formaldehyde or sodium metabisulphite
Harmless Harvest Coconut Water is widely regarded as the closest thing to sipping coconut water from a fresh coconut. It is sometimes available from this page on Amazon or can be found at Whole Foods.
To see a wonderful chart showing the best and worst bottled coconut waters available on the market, visit FoodBabe.com