How Healthy is Coconut Water?

Vita Coca Coconut Water

Another lawsuit filed against a food manufacturer for bogus health claims ended recently with in a settlement. Vita Coco, a brand of coconut water that is supposedly “super hydrating,” ”nutrient packed” and “super water”, could not support these claims scientifically.

The manufacturer, All Market Inc., agreed to pay up to $5 million in refunds AND to change its labeling in order to reflect more accurately the electrolyte levels and nutrients in the beverage.

What exactly is coconut water, and are there any real health benefits?

What you need to know:

Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a coconut. It is not to be confused with coconut milk or cream, which is a liquid puree of the coconut meat. Coconut water is extracted from young, green coconuts, when the proportion of water to meat is highest.

The drink is very popular in central and south America, the Pacific Islands, and other tropical regions. Fresh coconut water is served directly from the fruit by cracking a small hole on top for the insertion of a straw.

In recent years, coconut water has caught on strongly here in the US, with several popular brands being distributed in large metro areas. The packaging is no longer a coconut though.

Coconut water is actually a juice containing a small amount of natural sugars and other nutrients. A single cup serving of coconut water contains 45 calories, 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, zero fat, and 500mg of potassium (similar to a banana). The various brands of coconut water tout themselves as all-natural energy drinks. They listing health benefits such as alkaline balance, kidney cleansing, and others. Some brands, like Vita Coco, also add vitamin C (probably for its preservative qualities as Ascorbic Acid).

Whether all the health benefits mentioned above are true or not, coconut water sure beats Gatorade – less ingredients, less chemicals (colorings), and less sugar. But water trumps them both – for most people. Unless you are working out for more than an hour, water and and a banana will do you just as good as any coconut water drink. So pay no attention to the marketing claims by company A or company B. The truth is always much less sexy.

To see the grades of various Coconut Waters on Fooducate – CLICK HERE.

What to do at the supermarket:

Tap water trumps all for hydration. If you want a sweet treat that is slightly exotic – check out coconut water.

Get Fooducated

  • James Purdy

    I spent the first 9 years of my life in Panama, and I had all the coconuts I could stand for a lifetime. The least bit of coconut in a food revolts me, and I’ve never been tempted to try coconut water. How many other people hate coconuts?

  • Celestialpetunia

    I’ve gone back & forth about buying this and giving it a test drive.  Thanks, Fooducate, for saving my wallet again.  Bananas are cheap, and water’s practically free.  I’ll put my money to better use.

  • LMD, MS, RD

    It is often aimed at endurance athletes as a substitute for gatorade, which drives me crazy. Not because I love gatorade, but because when you are exercising for long periods of time, you are losing sodium in large quantities, not potassium. Why doesn’t anyone ever point out the obvious fact that unless you add salt to coconut water, it isn’t the proper electrolyte replacement beverage?

  • http://www.palateworks.com/ Carol

    Vitamin C is more likely added so it will show as at least a good source (10%+ DV) on the Nutrition Facts… this allows the product to be called “healthy” (in this case, anyway, because fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium are all below FDA’s criteria limits for use of the term). Without the added vitamin C, this product couldn’t make a “healthy” nutrient claim.

  • Tmrkup

    Thanks for the information.  I’d be interested in knowing more about coconut in general, especially about using coconut oil and if it’s o.k. to use (as paleo followers seem to think) even though it’s high in saturated fat.

  • http://www.meyouhealth.com/ Alicia B.

    I love coconut water! I like knowing that I’m getting a little more magnesium in my day by adding a little coconut water to my morning smoothie.

  • Cmthomas66

    I would love you to take a look at this product made in St. George, Utah.  When I stayed at a resort there last spring, the head chef was encouraging it as a better alternative to Gatorade:  ISO-5 found here:  http://www.drtimsjuices.com/iso-5.php  I bought some to take home to my son, but TSA took it at the dinky little airport :(

  • ME

    I am very surprised with some of the grades for the coconut water. I come from South America and used to drink direct from the coconut (over there is costs 0.75 cents) almost daily.  I was very happy to see coconut water around here – yes it is packaged – but better than not having it. There are potential problems on packaged coconut water, but bringing the coconut directly here would be almost impossible.  Would like to understand the C grades given…

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      We don’t encourage consumption of any caloric beverage. Water should be the hydration choice for almost any occasion. That said, coconut water rates among the best in the juice category.

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  • silly*bee

    I work in the food industry. When the coconut water craze was starting to hit its stride we looked into bringing in this product into the US. What we learned was that coconut water is extremely difficult to process and package safely. Coconut water drunk straight from the nut is healthy and safe. But there’s a high risk of contamination with coconut water that needs to be packaged. Several companies we know, who are very conscious about food safety, outright refused to process it because of it’s high risks. I’m not saying not to drink coconut water at all. It’s certainly a better option than sugary drinks. But this type of information is not readily available to the general public and it’s better to be aware than not.

  • silly*bee

    I work in the food industry. When the coconut water craze was starting to hit its stride we looked into bringing in this product into the US. What we learned was that coconut water is extremely difficult to process and package safely. Coconut water drunk straight from the nut is healthy and safe. But there’s a high risk of contamination with coconut water that needs to be packaged. Several companies we know, who are very conscious about food safety, outright refused to process it because of it’s high risks. I’m not saying not to drink coconut water at all. It’s certainly a better option than sugary drinks. But this type of information is not readily available to the general public and it’s better to be aware than not.

  • Alex

    I just have a V8; its just a fraction of the cost.

  • overseaschinese

    Where’s all the coconut coming from? There sure isn’t a coconut farm… ;)