In recent years, coconut water has become a very trendy beverage.
It’s tasty, refreshing and also happens to be good for you.
What’s more, it’s loaded with several important nutrients, including minerals that most people don’t get enough of.
Here are 8 health benefits of coconut water.
1. Good Source of Several Nutrients
Coconuts grow on large palm trees known scientifically as Cocos nucifera. Despite the name, the coconut is botanically considered a fruit rather than a nut.
Coconut water is the juice found in the center of a young, green coconut. It helps nourish the fruit.
As the coconut matures, some of the juice remains in liquid form while the rest ripens into the solid white flesh known as coconut meat (1).
Coconut water forms naturally in the fruit and contains 94% water and very little fat.
It should not be confused with coconut milk, which is made by adding water to grated coconut meat. Coconut milk contains about 50% water and is very high in coconut fat.
Coconuts take 10–12 months to fully mature. Coconut water typically comes from young coconuts about 6–7 months of age, though it’s also found in mature fruit.
An average green coconut provides about 0.5–1 cups of coconut water.
One cup (240 ml) contains 46 calories, as well as (2):
Carbs: 9 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI
Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
Manganese: 17% of the RDI
Potassium: 17% of the RDI
Sodium: 11% of the RDI
Calcium: 6% of the RDI
Coconut water is found in young coconuts and a good source of fiber, vitamin C and several important minerals.
2. May Have Antioxidant Properties
Free radicals are unstable molecules produced in your cells during metabolism. Their production increases in response to stress or injury.
When there are too many free radicals, your body enters a state of oxidative stress, which can damage your cells and increase disease risk (3).
Research on animals exposed to toxins has shown that coconut water contains antioxidants which modify free radicals so they no longer cause harm (4, 5, 6, 7).
One study found that rats with liver damage showed significant improvement in oxidative stress when treated with coconut water compared to rats that received no treatment (6).
In another study, rats on a high-fructose diet were treated with coconut water. Free radical activity decreased, as did blood pressure, triglycerides and insulin levels (7).
So far, no studies have investigated this antioxidant activity in humans.
Coconut water contains antioxidants that protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
3. May Have Benefits Against Diabetes
Research has shown that coconut water can lower blood sugar levels and improve other health markers in diabetic animals (8, 9, 10).
In one study, diabetic rats treated with coconut water maintained better blood sugar levels than the control group (9).
The same study also found that the rats given coconut water had lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, indicating good long-term blood sugar control (9).
Another study noticed that providing coconut water to rats with diabetes led to improvements in blood sugar levels and reductions in markers of oxidative stress (10).
However, controlled studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Nevertheless, with its 3 grams of fiber and a digestible carb content of only 6 grams per cup (240 ml), coconut water can easily fit into a meal plan for people with diabetes.
It’s also a good source of magnesium, which may increase insulin sensitivity and decrease reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (11, 12).
Studies on diabetic animals suggest that coconut water may improve blood sugar control. It’s also a good source of magnesium, which may increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.
4. May Help Prevent Kidney Stones
Drinking enough fluids is important for kidney stone prevention.
Although plain water is a great choice, one study suggests that coconut water may be even better.
Kidney stones form when calcium, oxalate and other compounds combine to form crystals in your urine (13).
These can then form stones. However, some people are more susceptible to developing them than others (13).
In a study in rats with kidney stones, coconut water prevented crystals from sticking to the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. It also reduced the number of crystals formed in the urine (14).
Researchers believe that coconut water helped reduce free radical production that occurred in response to high oxalate levels in urine.
Keep in mind that this is the first study examining coconut water’s effects on kidney stones. More research is needed in this area.
Early animal research suggests that water from coconuts may prevent kidney stones by reducing crystal and stone formation.
5. May Support Heart Health
Drinking coconut water may be helpful to reduce heart disease risk.
In one study, rats that consumed coconut water had reductions in blood cholesterol and triglycerides. They also experienced significant decreases in liver fat (15).
In another study, the same researchers fed rats a similar diet supplemented with the same dosage (4 ml per 100 grams of body weight) of coconut water.
After 45 days, the coconut water group had a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels that rivaled the effects of a statin drug used to lower cholesterol (16).
Keep in mind that this was a very high dose. In human terms, it would be equivalent to a 150-pound (68-kg) person consuming 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of coconut water per day.
Nevertheless, the finding that it reduced cholesterol as effectively as a statin drug is very impressive and should be further investigated.
Animal studies suggest that coconut water may have powerful cholesterol-lowering properties.
6. May Reduce Blood Pressure
Coconut water may be great for controlling blood pressure.
In one small study in people with high blood pressure, coconut water improved systolic blood pressure (the higher number of a blood pressure reading) in 71% of participants (17).
Additionally, coconut water contains an impressive 600 mg of potassium in 8 ounces (240 ml). Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with high or normal blood pressure (18, 19).
What’s more, one animal study found that coconut water has anti-thrombotic activity, which means it may prevent the formation of blood clots (8).
Coconut water may help lower blood pressure and potentially decrease the risk of blood clots forming in your arteries.
7. Beneficial After Prolonged Exercise
Coconut water may be the perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise.
Electrolytes are minerals that play several important roles in your body, including maintaining proper fluid balance.
They include potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.
Two studies found that coconut water restored hydration after exercise better than water and equal to high-electrolyte sports beverages (20, 21).
The participants also said that coconut water caused less nausea and stomach discomfort (20, 21).
However, another study comparing high-electrolyte beverages found that coconut water tended to cause the most bloating and stomach upset (22).
Coconut water is effective at replenishing fluids and electrolytes after exercise. It is comparable to other sports beverages.
8. Delicious Source of Hydration
Coconut water is slightly sweet with a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s also fairly low in calories and carbs.
The water is freshest when it comes directly from the coconut. Simply press a straw into the soft part of a green coconut and start drinking.
Store the coconut in your refrigerator and consume it within two to three weeks of purchase.
You can also buy bottled coconut water at most grocery stores.
However, be sure to read the ingredients to verify you’re getting 100% coconut water. Some bottled brands contain added sugar or flavoring agents.
This tropical liquid can be used in smoothies, chia seed pudding, vinaigrette dressing or substituted for plain water whenever you want a bit of natural sweetness.
Coconut water can be consumed directly from green coconuts or bought in bottles. Avoid brands with added sugar, sweeteners or flavors.
The Bottom Line
Coconut water is a delicious, nutritious and natural beverage that’s extremely good for you.
It may benefit your heart, blood sugar, kidney health and more.
Although controlled studies are needed to confirm many of these qualities, the research to date is encouraging.
If you start sipping away at this tropical drink, just be sure to avoid products with added sugar.