Hot, tired, and thirsty? If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know better than to reach for a soda to break the heat. In your search for a substitute, you may have noticed a trendy new product – coconut water.
Coconut water is the liquid found inside a young, green coconut. It is marketed as a healthy alternative to popular artificial sports drinks because of its carbohydrate and electrolyte content. One cup of coconut water has 46 calories, 252 mg sodium, and 9 g of carbohydrate per cup. It is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Don’t confuse coconut water with coconut milk; the latter is derived from the meat of a mature coconut and is extremely high in saturated fat and calories (about 550 calories in one cup).
Coconut water may trump your average sports drink in terms of health because it does not contain artificial additives, yet most of us don’t need to be consuming sports drinks at all. Researchers from the University of Oxford recently concluded that exercise performance in the general population does not seem to be improved by these drinks. In fact, for those hoping to see weight loss resulting from their workouts, sports drinks of any kind may “cancel out” the calories burned due to their carbohydrate content. If your workout lasts longer than 90 minutes, or if you are exercising at an extremely high intensity, you may be a good candidate for an electrolyte-replenishing sports drink, but for most of us, drinking water before, during, and after a workout works just fine.
What else can coconut water do? Claims about the newest “miracle juice” include improved energy and heart health, protection against cancer and aging, reduction of stress reduction, mental acuity, kidney cleansing, smoother skin, less dandruff, relief of gastrointestinal problems, and, of course, weight loss. Whoa! What we do know for certain is that coconut water is a good source of potassium, a mineral that is essential to many bodily functions. But keep in mind that most fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium…and when you eat a whole fruit, you get the added benefit of additional fiber and satiety.
Coconut water has a mild, sweet flavor and is being featured lately in recipes for smoothies, soups, marinades, and desserts. If you find the taste appealing and don’t mind the price, experiment with coconut water in your cooking; just remember that you will be contributing some extra calories as well as additional vitamins, minerals, and flavor.