It’s that time of year, particularly for those in the colder northern climates, when people dream about relaxing on the beach on some remote tropical island with a fruity cocktail in hand. One of the more popular images is of drinking from an open coconut on the patio of a beachfront hotel.
If you have ever opened a fresh coconut, what you saw was a thin, opaque liquid that has a slight almond flavor. Coconut water, not to be confused with coconut milk, is the clear liquid inside young (green) coconuts.
As the coconut matures, the coconut water is gradually replaced by the coconut meat. Coconut water is consumed fresh, because once it’s exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its nutritional value, and begins to ferment.
Coconut water is marketed by some companies as a sports drink substitute. It contains water, sugar for energy, and electrolytes to replace what’s lost from sweating. In the drink below, as compared with Gatorade, the potassium levels are far greater and sodium levels are significantly lower.
Gatorade: 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams sugar, 3.75 mg potassium, 13.75 mg sodium
Zico: 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 mg potassium, 5.45 mg sodium
However, Amy Jamieson-Petonic, director of wellness coaching at the Cleveland Clinic, says that some health benefits are unsubstantiated, including diabetes control, fighting viruses, boosting metabolism, treating kidney stones, smoothing skin, stopping dandruff, and even preventing cancer.
Coconut water does have some other positive benefits going for it:
- It has no cholesterol and is low in calories.
- It is identical to human blood plasma, and can be used in an IV to save lives.
- It is naturally sterile.
- It contains monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial. Monolaurin is sold as a supplement, when extracted from coconuts, for cold and flu.