We are seeing sports enthusiasts, celebrities, teenagers, health nuts, and now even the ‘average Joe’ drinking from coconuts but are they that good for us? These young green coconuts are being marketed as the panacea for everything from kidney stones to hangovers.
Because we love facts, getting the low down on coconut water took at bit of time because unlike their nutrient dense cousins, coconut milk and coconut oil, coconut water has only been in the health spotlight for approximately 12 months.
Let’s consider the facts…
1. They are sweet and refreshing but are they full of sugar?
The size and age of the coconut will determine how much sugar is in the coconut water. However, it is important to note there approximately 2.95ml of sugar per 100 ml of sugar in coconut water. Inside a young green coconut, which is usually between 4-6 months old, there is approximately 300 ml of coconut water and this is also the same volume of the organic coconut waters that we can readily purchase in cans or tetra packs.
As a nutritionist, I advise my patients to be having not more that 4.7 ml of sugar per 100ml, so coconut water fits this requirement.
2. Is it the sugar in coconut water a fructose, glucose or sucrose?
A young coconut sugar breakdown is approximately-glucose 50%, sucrose 35%, and fructose 15% .
Fruit juice and soft drinks are primarily fructose and not liver friendly.
If you are drinking coconut water straight from the coconut, go for it.
If you are drinking it from a can, watch for added fruit or flavors which increase the fructose.
2. Are young coconuts a source of good electrolyte replacement after training?
‘Mother Nature’s sport drink”? Personally I think these young coconuts give sports enthusiasts a wonderful alternative to water. I am not a big fan of Gatorade or PowerAde. I do believe endurance and high performance athletes need to replace their electrolytes but this is not who we typically see drinking these sugary, chemically created, high sodium sports drinks.
Coconut water with a fresh, sweet, nutty taste contain potassium. An average size banana has about 378mg of potassium, and most coconut waters I have found range from 328 to 733mg of potassium. Fruit and vegetables are also a natural source of potassium, which is essential for heart health and blood pressure regulation. Hmmm, low in calorie, tasty, high in potassium and very hydrating…. yes, this is a wonderful, occasional alternative to water particularly after a 60 minute plus training.
3. Are they just a fad?
Is getting healthy, feeling good, taking charge of your body and your brain a fad? I don’t think so. We are more interested in ‘preventative wellness’ in the last 18 months than ever before in history. We have alarming rates of diabetes, dementia, obesity, autoimmune conditions and Australians want to know why and how to prevent these illnesses. Anyone reading this understands that quality nutrition underpins quality mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Coconut water … low sugar meals, high quality proteins…. fad? No simply smart nutrition.