The health benefits of coconut water are vast yet widely unknown.
When you think of “drinking” and “coconut” in the same sentence, fitness and health might not be the first things that spring to mind. Instead, you might picture yourself sipping a tropical drink from a coconut!
However, this exotic and versatile fruit contains a liquid high in electrolytes, amino acids, and vitamins, that can easily be incorporated into an everyday diet.
Before you jump in to find out more about the coconut water health benefits, have you ever thought about pursuing a career within the fitness and nutrition industry? Take a look at OriGym’s level 4 advanced sports nutrition course or download our FREE course prospectus for more information on all our courses.
This guide will focus on the benefits of drinking coconut water, along with the following topics:
- What Is Coconut Water?
- How Is Coconut Water Made?
- Coconut Water Nutritional Information
- Health Benefits of Coconut Water
- How Often Should You Drink Coconut Water
- Coconut Water Side Effects
- Coconut Water When Pregnant
- Coconut Milk vs Coconut Water
- Is Coconut Water Better Than Water?
- How To Make Coconut Water
- Where To Buy Coconut Water
What is Coconut Water?
Coconut water has been a popular drink for centuries in tropical countries, but has evolved and developed to reach popularity around the world, with varieties of products that include canned and bottled options.
Fresh coconut water straight from the fruit is also a healthy and refreshing option.
Coconuts are naturally grown on palm trees in hot climates, with coconut water simply being the liquid found in young, immature, green coconuts; as the coconut ages, this liquid eventually solidifies and turns into the coconut flesh.
The younger coconuts have softer outer shells which makes accessing the coconut water simple, and the more youthful liquid also tends to be more flavoursome and in higher quantities within the fruit.
Drinking coconut water, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, can have some pretty incredible health benefits. Coconut water is absolutely packed with vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients for your body, and it’s as useful for post-workout refuelling as it is for helping a hangover!
How is Coconut Water Made?
Coconut water is often an organic product, going through as little alteration as possible from palm tree to the shop and to you. Organic coconut water products are increasingly popular at the moment, however there are also non-organic forms of coconut water available, but these can be made with potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides.
The industry-leading coconut water products are more often than not developed from countries with warm or hot climates. When you buy coconut water in the UK, these products are most likely produced in countries such as Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and the Philippines.
In its most basic form, pure coconut water is just the liquid from inside a green coconut aged around 6-9 months: this simplicity and lack of added ingredients contributes to the many health benefits of coconut water.
A common misconception about coconut water is that it is made with just water with coconut flavouring added in.
However, coconut water is actually water absorbed by the palm tree’s roots, where it is stored inside the coconut. Eventually, this water begins to turn into the creamy, harder tissue known as coconut meat. The water is extracted from the coconut before this process can begin, and there we have it: pure coconut water!
After this water has been extracted, different companies and brands deal with it in a range of different ways. However, the coconut water is nearly always put through a process of microfiltration, or heated to extremely high temperatures to remove any tiny unwanted particles or microbes.
Then, aside from any other filtering processes, the coconut water is essentially ready to be consumed.
Whilst you can get different varieties of coconut water like sparkling, flavoured or high protein, most of the organic coconut water on our shelves is pure and unadulterated, with a minimum of intervention and human involvement. This is probably why it’s so healthy!
Aside from guaranteeing a healthy product, many coconut water producers have socially responsible practices. They promise to pay their suppliers a fair wage: all the more reason to buy coconut water.
By law, to be marketed as “coconut water”, the product can’t have significant amounts of sweeteners, fruit juice or water added to it. Products with these additives are usually called coconut “nectar” or “soft drink”. So, if the product says “coconut water”, rest assured you’re most likely getting the real deal with all the associated health benefits of coconut water.
The low level of additives and processing are key to the health benefits of coconut water: all the good stuff is retained.
So, what does coconut water taste like, with all that good stuff in there? Like most coconut products, coconut water is quite sweet, with a bit of nuttiness and creaminess in there. Overall, its tasty and healthy!
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Coconut Water Nutritional Information
The nutritional information of coconut water provided here is based on one cup (240ml), but may vary depending on brand. All statistics have been provided by the USDA (the American farming regulator).
Firstly, the calories in coconut water measure at around 45 calories per 240ml serving.
It has around 0-1 grams of fat per serving, which works out at less than 1% of the recommended maximum, and the carbs in coconut water work out at 9-10grams per serving. There are fairly high levels of potassium and vitamin C in coconut water, as well as fibre.
All three of these nutrients are really important to keeping the body running healthily and effectively. It is also packed full of electrolytes, which will help keep you hydrated and keep your muscles functioning well. No wonder coconut water is sometimes called “nature’s energy drink”!
If you want more sources for energy then check out our list of the best natural energy drinks.
As you can see, coconut water is a low fat, low calorie drink, which provides a lot of important nutrients.
So if you were wondering “is coconut water good for you?”, then the nutritional values definitely point to yes!
What Are The Benefits of Coconut Water?
So, why is coconut water good for you?
We’ve talked a lot about what’s inside the coconut, and how coconut water is produced; but what actually are the benefits of drinking coconut water?
As we’ve previously touched on a little bit, coconut water is full of good nutrients, minerals, vitamins and electrolytes. The health benefits really are quite extensive: here are 9 of the top advantages of coconut water.
#1 - A Versatile Drink
Coconut water is a versatile liquid: it can be enjoyed on its own as a healthy and refreshing drink, or as a nutritious ingredient in a range of recipes.
It is a flavoursome addition to a range of cocktails, from pina coladas to sangria; not only will it give a burst of tropical flavour, but its nutritional content will help to reduce a hangover or headache later on.
If you’re looking for a healthier option then coconut water can make a sweet and nutty addition to smoothies too.
It's not limited to drinks, either. Coconut water can be added to a whole host of recipes to add a low calorie, flavourful punch. You can add it to a delicious curry, or use it as a substitute for normal water in cooking. For example, you can use it when cooking rice, or as a base for a marinade: both your tastebuds and waistline will thank you!
Coconut water powder is another available option: this is simply dehydrated, powdered coconut water, that you add to any liquid for a healthy, nutritious drink. Coconut water powder can also be added to foods like smoothies or baked goods to add flavour and nutritional value.
Furthermore, coconut water has benefits when used on the skin and hair, so you don’t always need to drink it to gain its advantages (we’ll explain more about coconut water for hair and skin later on).
#2 - Aids Post-Workout Recovery
The benefits of drinking coconut water also include helping muscles recover after exercise, and this is due to its high levels of electrolytes.
Electrolytes are essential minerals that the body needs to function properly. Basically, electrolytes are particles with either a positive or negative charge which are used for a number of processes.
Some of the key processes that need electrolytes include:
- Communication of the nervous system
- Maintaining correct pH levels
- Contraction of muscles
- Regulation of fluid levels, ensuring hydration
- Building tissue
- Blood clotting
Electrolytes are lost through loss of bodily fluids, such as when you sweat or when suffering from an illness, and replacing them is important. If your electrolyte levels are unbalanced then you can suffer from some serious side effects, including dehydration and kidney disease.
Fortunately, there are some obvious symptoms that mean you need to increase your electrolyte intake:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Feeling confused
- Muscle weakness
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
Luckily, coconut water is a great alternative to other sugary sports drinks; coconut water electrolytes include sodium and potassium, which are crucial to maintaining hydration and ensuring your muscles are working well.
A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition stated that:
“The use of coconut water has been considered by many, as this beverage provides a natural source of carbohydrate and electrolytes. Specifically, coconut water has been reported to provide sugar (~1 g ∙ dL-1), potassium (~51 mEq ∙ L-1), sodium (~33 mEq ∙ L-1), and chloride (~52 mEq ∙ L-1); however, this may vary depending on species of coconut palm. Coconut water has been reported to provide hydrating effects similar to those of carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drinks.” (Kalman et al., 2012)
The nutritional value of coconut water is advantageous in replenishing lost electrolytes after a workout, which means your muscle recovery will be expedited.
For more post-workout drinks take a look at our article on the top electrolyte drinks here.
#3 - Encourages Healthy Hair
The excellent nutrition content of coconut water not only helps your body internally, but it is also hugely beneficial for your hair.
As we now know, it's incredibly hydrating and coconut water’s electrolyte and nutrient content is advantageous to biological processes within the body. However, this also applies to your hair, too.
Coconut water contains a high number of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin c 10% rdi
- Amino acids
- Lauric acid
We’ve discussed the importance of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium) internally, however they also benefit the hair due to the replenishment of hydration. Hydrated hair means less brittleness and dryness.
Coconut water also contains some lauric acid, similarly to coconut oil. Lauric acid is particularly beneficial for hair as it can permeate the hair shaft, providing nutrients and fatty acids to the hair which ultimately strengthens it.
As well as helping your hair to look nourished and healthy, the uses of coconut water also extend to help with dry, itchy scalps. Washing and massaging the scalp with coconut water can help stimulate blood flow to the area, thereby stimulating hair growth. The coconut water will also provide further hydration which will help reduce the dryness and itchiness of the scalp.
Applying coconut water can help prevent dry hair and a dry scalp, and can even reduce dandruff. If your problem relates more to loss of hair then perhaps the benefits of taurine will be more applicable to you.
There are a range of suggestions for applying it, but simplicity can often be key: massage some coconut water into your scalp, and leave for 20 minutes. Thoroughly rinse it out, and enjoy your glossy and rejuvenated hair!
#4 - Healthier Soft Drink Alternative
Coconut water can be a tasty and healthier option for people aiming to reduce their sugar intake. This might be if you’re looking to lose some weight, or if you’re monitoring your diet due to illnesses such as diabetes.
Coconut water in its natural untreated form contains around one-third less sugar than a cola drink, with one cup of coconut water (240g) containing only 6g of sugar. In comparison, one cup of a cola drink (250g) has roughly 20-25g of sugar, and one cup of orange juice (250g) also has around 20g of sugar!
The benefits of coconut water for diabetes mainly come from its ability to act as a lower sugar alternative to soft drinks (but always check the sugar and carbohydrate content, and monitor blood sugar levels).
However, the high magnesium and amino acid content is also beneficial to diabetics as they can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Additionally, its low calorie content can further help those looking to lose some weight. Coconut water can provide a nutrient packed, low sugar alternative.
For another hugely beneficial low-sugar drink that's great for diabetes, check out OriGym's guide on the benefits of green tea!
However, if you’re looking at incorporating this into your diet then make sure you buy unsweetened coconut water: some brands' coconut water sugar content is higher than others, meaning it won’t be suitable for those trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
#5 - Maintain Healthy Skin
The benefits of coconut water for acne and the skin are probably not as well known, but are definitely worth looking into.
The nutritional value of coconut water is the key here, and this has encouraged a range of coconut water based products to enter the skincare industry, from moisturisers to face wipes and more.
It’s a really effective and gentle makeup remover, and is great for people who find other makeup removers a bit too harsh on their skin.
Coconut water has both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which will effectively hydrate your skin, and also help soothe inflamed areas of acne, which is great for those suffering from dry and tight skin.
You can use it by simply rinsing your face with coconut water, or rubbing some onto dry areas of skin on your face or body.
Drinking coconut water regularly will also help your skin. The high concentration of vitamins in coconut water can improve your skin’s elasticity. Plus, its high antioxidant content will reduce the effects of aging. Antioxidants are proven to do this through its prevention of free radicals in the body, but we’ll go into more detail on that later on.
Plus, the added hydration will boost the overall health of your skin. Another health supplement that is proven to improve the health of skin is milk thistle: our guide details all the benefits, uses, and side effects of milk thistle here.
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#6 - Rich in Potassium
Bananas tend to be the first fruit that comes to mind when it comes to high potassium content, but coconut water is also a great source of this particular electrolyte.
One cup of coconut water (240g) tends to include around 600mg of potassium which is more than a medium sized banana. This high level of potassium in coconut water is generally good news for the body, as it can aid in a whole host of different areas.
Potassium is an important mineral that is converted into an electrolyte once inside the body. As we discussed before, once electrolytes meet water the ions are dissolved which produces an electrical charge. This is then used for a variety of essential functions in the human body.
This mineral is key in regulating the levels of fluid within the body, specifically the amounts of water within the cells. When the fluids aren’t balanced correctly the body becomes dehydrated.
Additionally, potassium helps regulate the heartbeat and supports muscle contractions through its support of the nervous system. The brain communicates with the body via nerve impulses, which tell the body to perform critical functions, such as regulating the heart.
Potassium is also key at balancing sodium levels within the body. By doing this it can help lower blood pressure (and in some cases cholesterol) by removing the sodium from the blood.
If you’re looking to switch up your fruits for another great source of potassium, give coconut water a go! Plus, check out our article on superfruits to find some other great foods you should have in your diet.
#7 - Antioxidant Properties
The high content of antioxidants might be one of the most important health benefits of coconut water: antioxidants are crucial to ridding your body of free radicals.
Free radicals form when an atom’s outer shell isn’t complete with electrons, and it binds to another atom to complete the shell. Free radicals are unstable and volatile, reacting with other compounds within the body.
This becomes more dangerous for the body when it is oxygen molecules that split and form free radicals: the effect of this is called oxidative stress, which causes damage to other cells and is a big contributor to a whole host of diseases.
Consuming foods high in antioxidants is really important for reducing the damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, and whilst coconut water hasn’t had as much academic research when compared to other fruits and vegetables, it has been found to be a natural source of antioxidants. One particular study explains that:
“Antioxidant compounds from plants, particularly flavonoids and other polyphenols, have been reported to inhibit the propagation of free radical reactions, and to protect the human body from disease. Moreover, antioxidant activities have been associated with acids, aromatic compounds, aldehydes, and esters. Coconut water also possesses antioxidant properties.” (Fonseca et al., 2009)
Coconut water contains polyphenol antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from these free radicals. However, the more processed coconut water is, the fewer antioxidants remain, so look out for this.
If you want some other great sources of antioxidants, then check out the benefits of blueberries; they contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidants, and also have a huge range of other health benefits!
#8 - High in Calcium & Magnesium
Whilst coconut water doesn’t have quite as much calcium in as a glass of milk, it's still a good source of this essential mineral, as well as providing magnesium too.
For one cup of coconut water (240g) there is approximately 57mg of calcium. The recommended daily amount is 700mg: while you may not think that's a lot, it’s actually better than a lot of other common drinks. For example, one cup of coffee (240g) only has 4.7mg, one cup of water (240g) only has 7.1mg, and one cup of orange juice (250g) has 28mg of calcium.
Calcium is an essential mineral that the body cannot produce itself, and is key to having strong, healthy bones, as well as strengthening your teeth. Calcium is also necessary for biological processes such as blood clotting, muscle contractions, and regulation of the heartbeat.
Additionally, coconut water is also rich in magnesium, another essential mineral for the body. Similar to calcium, magnesium is also key for healthy and strong bones, and it is also used to regulate calcium levels.
Another natural source of vitamins and minerals is the aubergine, or eggplant. This common fruit has a whole range of health benefits: take a look at our guide on the eggplant here to find out what they are.
Magnesium also has an essential role in the health of muscles, and particularly the heart, with doctors supplementing patients with magnesium after suffering heart attacks.
It helps your organs function properly, and magnesium helps transport other key nutrients, like calcium and potassium, around the body.
Again, one cup of coconut water (240g) contains 60mg of magnesium, with the recommended daily amount of magnesium being around 400-500mg.
You’ll soon notice the benefits of drinking coconut water daily in your general health from consuming these essential minerals.
If you find that learning about nutrition and health really interests you then you could become an accomplished nutritionist! For more information about this role take a look at our nutritionist job description guide, as well as the nutritionist salary guide by OriGym too.
#9 - Source of Amino Acids
Amino acids are more chemical compounds that are crucial to the proper functioning of the human body, and coconut water is a good source of some of the essential amino acids.
Amino acids are often labelled as the ‘building blocks of protein’: this is because their dominant function is the synthesis of protein. Protein is key to the maintenance of tissues, the production and transportation of hormones, the regulation and balancing of fluids, supporting the immune system, and providing and transporting nutrients and energy around the body.
Ensuring that your diet contains the right levels of amino acids is imperative to good general health and proper bodily functions! Fortunately, coconut water is a good source of some of the essential amino acids. This study stated that:
“Coconut water is also rich in many essential amino acids including lysine, leucine, cystine, phenylalanine, histidine, and tryptophan.”(Campbell-Falck et al., 2000)
These all have their own individual functions, which include regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, maintaining energy throughout the body, the production of collagen and elastin, and more!
The coconut water health benefits extend to providing a natural source of essential amino acids, which is a great alternative to the usual sources of poultry, meat, and dairy products.
How Often Should You Drink Coconut Water?
Coconut water is generally considered safe for consumption everyday which also means, like most things, to drink it in moderation.
If you’re also wondering “how much coconut water should I drink?” then three or four servings of coconut juice might be considered a maximum for your daily intake. It’s a great drink to start the morning with, getting your metabolism going and providing you with plenty of nutrients and fibre to take you through the day.
Just be aware of the sugar content when drinking coconut water daily, as this can soon add up and become much less healthy. Similarly, be sure to check the coconut water nutritional information of each brand that you buy in case that other ingredients, such as additives or extra sugar, are added in.
Coconut water is great for rehydrating after a workout, as we’ve already touched upon, and it’s also fantastic for when you’re hungover (thanks to the electrolytes!).
A glass a day will keep you refreshed and your nutrients topped up. Plus, coconut water can actually relieve constipation!
Coconut Water Side Effects
There are very few things that don’t have side effects or consequences when excessive amounts are taken, and coconut water is no different, so you should always drink it in moderation.
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of coconut water, and how good electrolytes are for you, but too many electrolytes can be bad for your body. If you drink large amounts of coconut water, or anything rich in electrolytes (specifically potassium), you risk developing a condition called hyperkalemia.
This can cause irregular heart rhythms, and can be really serious. If you aren’t drinking or eating excessive amounts of high potassium foods then the risk of hyperkalemia is low.
Similarly, the high levels of potassium in coconut water can be harmful to those with kidney issues.
Other issues can arise from the potassium in coconut water, with diarrhea and stomach ache being occasional side effects.
When discussing coconut water disadvantages, it’s important to remember that most of these come from drinking really excessive amounts of it. If you drink moderate amounts of coconut water, it’s simply a refreshing, healthy drink!
What Are The Benefits of Coconut Water During Pregnancy?
As you can imagine with such a healthy drink, the benefits of coconut water in pregnancy are pretty extensive.
However, pregnant women can face side effects when exposed to unpasteurised, or unsterilised foods: for example, sushi and soft cheeses are usually avoided.
The majority of coconut water is safe for pregnant women, as they go through pasteurisation or filtration processes. However, some products may not, so it’s always worth checking for this when you buy coconut water during pregnancy.
However, coconut water is an effective drink for hydration, which is very important during pregnancy. It’s high electrolyte content is also great, as many of these can be lost and need to be replaced after morning sickness.
Coconut water is also rich in nutrients which should help the baby’s development. It contains good levels of calcium, helping with bone development.
Coconut water is also great for making non-alcoholic mocktails with, especially when you’re craving a pina colada!
Coconut Milk vs Coconut Water
A very common misconception is that coconut water and coconut milk are the same thing: they’re actually very different!
When it comes to coconut water vs coconut milk, the key difference is that coconut water is the actual liquid from a coconut, while coconut milk is a processed product.
The flesh of the coconut is usually shredded or grated and then mixed with hot water. The fat, or coconut cream, then rises to the top of the mixture and can be removed, and is usually used in desserts.
The thinner liquid that is left is then strained through muslin in order to separate the milk from the grated flesh. This is the coconut milk, and repeating this separation process will thin down the milk even further.
The product of this process is a white, “milky” liquid that is used in cooking, and is found in the UK in canned products.
While the two liquids are different, coconut water and coconut milk do have a few similarities: they both have high levels of potassium, good amounts of vitamin C in, and similar amounts of sugar.
However, the difference between coconut milk and coconut water is notable. Coconut milk has a higher calorie content, as well containing more fat and protein. One cup of coconut milk (240g) has around 552 calories, whereas the same serving of coconut water only has approximately 45 calories.
They both have a sweet and slightly nutty taste, yet have different uses: coconut milk is used in cooking a lot to make sweet, rich dishes like curries. Coconut water is more prominent in the beverage industry!
Actually, coconut water can make a great drink for runners. To find out how, and for some other options, check out our guide on the top running supplements here.
Is Coconut Water Better Than Water?
This is another common question asked when people realise just how beneficial coconut water is, and especially how hydrating it can be. However, there is little to no evidence to suggest that coconut water is better than water.
While it does have a more varied nutrient profile with additional electrolytes and vitamins, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better for your overall health than standard water. Don’t forget that the coconut water sugar content is higher than that of water, and the calories can soon add up too.
Instead, it is recommended that incorporating both into your regular diet is better than just one or the other.
How To Make Coconut Water
To make pure coconut water with no additives or other ingredients, the process is actually simple enough! Although we explained how coconut water is usually made at the beginning of this article, you can make it at home as well.
All you need is a young green coconut and a coconut opener (if you don’t have one of these then a hammer and another strong metal tool such as a hex wrench will work).
Open the coconut with the coconut opener - or stick the hex wrench into one of the eyes of the coconut and hammer it until the wrench breaks through the shell. You can repeat this in the other eyes as well to make the removal easier.
Once you have a big enough hole in the coconut you’ll be able to extract the water by pouring it into a glass or jug.
This is a process that will need a strong grip. Have a look at OriGym's favourite grip strengtheners: you'll be cracking open those coconuts in no time!
Where To Buy Coconut Water
Coconut water is pretty popular nowadays, and so is usually available in most supermarkets, and even smaller shops that sell drinks like newsagents.
If you want to buy coconut water, supermarkets are probably your best bet. They often stock established brands like Zico or Vita coconut water. These brands are a good option, as they’re pretty reliable. They usually don’t add any extra sugar, and put the water through rigorous filtering to get any unwanted microbes out.
Also, many of these brands commit to Fair Trade practices, meaning they commit to paying their workers a fair wage and are worth spending your money on.
If you’re looking to buy coconut water in larger amounts, however, supermarkets might not be the best option. Instead, go directly to the brand’s website or go to specialist health shops like Holland and Barrett: they usually offer multipack options that the supermarkets usually don’t stock.
All this talk of exotic fruits and warm climates has probably got you craving a trip away: check out the best active holidays for some healthy relaxation, or for something a bit closer to home there's also some great fitness festivals available!
If you landed on our page because you were wondering, “why is coconut water good for you?” then by the time you read this you’ll have all the answers you need and more. It maintains healthy skin, it’s a tasty fizzy drink alternative, it’s chock-full of electrolytes which can help after a workout and after a night of too many cocktails.
No matter what you’re drinking it for, the benefits of drinking coconut water daily are available to everybody.
Health and nutrition are huge parts of human life. Does learning more about these subjects interest you? Check out our level 4 advanced sports nutrition course to learn more, or download our course prospectus to find out about our other courses and diplomas.
- Campbell-Falck, D., Thomas, T., Falck, T.M., Tutuo, N. and Clem, K. (2000). The Intravenous Use of Coconut Water. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 18(1), pp.108–111.
- Fonseca, A.M. da, Bizerra, A.M.C., Souza, J.S.N. de, Monte, F.J.Q., Oliveira, M. da C.F. de, Mattos, M.C. de, Cordell, G.A., Braz-Filho, R. and Lemos, T.L.G. (2009). Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Two Varieties of Coconut Water (Cocos Nucifera L.). Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia, 19(1b), pp.193–198.
- Kalman, D.S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D.R. and Bloomer, R.J. (2012). Comparison of Coconut Water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte Sport Drink on Measures of Hydration and Physical Performance in exercise-trained Men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1).