Coconut Water: Nature's Sports Drink

Although coconut water has long been a staple in South East Asian diets, it has only very recently become the focal point of a mass marketing campaign in developed Western markets like the U.S. Courtesy of large businesses looking to cash in on the new breed of health conscious consumers in the U.S., coconut water has been packaged and pushed as nature’s sport drink and the fountain of youth. It has very quickly grown into a multi-millionaire dollar industry, taking a very small slice of the pie traditionally dominated by sports drink kingpins like Gatorade and Vitamin Water. Is coconut water just the latest in a long line of pop health food trends that will crash and burn as soon as the next big thing hits the market, or can we expect to see our favorite superstar athletes on television sipping branded coconut water in the very near future? Let’s first take a look at what coconut water isn’t, and then we will discuss what it is and if you should be drinking it.

What It Isn’t
Unfortunately, coconut water is not the fountain of youth. The companies behind the coconut water mania in the U.S. have marketed it as a cure for diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and even the common hangover. They have dubbed it a “life-enhancer” with anti-aging properties able to prevent strokes and heart problems. While it is not entirely impossible that coconut water can offer some of these miracle benefits there has not yet been any conclusive studies done to prove it. The research is still out, and so I wouldn’t count on coconut water to be your savior after a night of heavy drinking just yet.

What It Is
Coconut water is an all natural, fat free, cholesterol free, low calorie, nutrient rich, hydrating drink filled with electrolytes. The primary nutrient in coconut water is potassium, and the water of a single coconut contains as much potassium as approximately 2 bananas. It is also high in cytokinins, an antioxidant linked with anti-aging and cancer prevention. However, the science is still out on cytokinins so we will just mention that it is in coconut water and hope it turns out to be as beneficial as we think. The one negative of coconut water is the high level of sugar. Yet, when viewed in comparison to the levels of sugary high fructose corn syrup found in most sports drinks, it is actually not too bad. All in all, coconut water is a very healthy drink.

Should I Drink Coconut Water?
Although coconut water may not quite be worthy of the moniker “miracle water”, there is no doubt it contains many great health benefits. When given a choice between sugary soft drinks filled with artificial coloring and preservatives and all natural coconut water, the latter is an infinitely better choice every time. As a post-workout rehydrating drink, coconut water is rich in potassium, one of the main nutrients we are depleted of during strenuous exercise. However, it is also deficient in sodium, the other key nutrient our bodies are depleted of during exercise. You will find that sports recovery drinks like Gatorade have a much higher sodium content. Thus, for the recreational athlete coconut water is a great option, but for the most serious athletes subject to extremely intense workouts coconut water can only be part of the recovery equation. That being said, coconut water is about as close as you can expect to come to nature’s perfect sport drink. It is a great, healthy choice, and an excellent replacement for soft drinks. So the answer is yes, put down the soda, and pick up a coconut water.

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