Coconut water, the liquid found inside young coconuts, boasts a wide variety of health benefits. Coconut water has gained lots of popularity over the last several years, but it has been consumed for centuries all over the world.
As coconuts mature, the water inside transforms into the coconut flesh. The water found inside is not to be confused with coconut milk, which is a blend of coconut water and the flesh of the coconut. And you’ve likely heard of coconut oil, which is created out of an extraction process that involves the meat and water of coconuts.
It’s clear that the coconut can be turned into many tasty things, but we’re going to focus here on the coconut water. Both a sweet substitute for tap water and a hangover cure that some swear by, coconut water has many uses and health benefits. We’ve gathered nine of them to help show just how versatile coconut water can be.
Coconut Water Nutrition
One serving of coconut water (one coconut’s worth, about 200 grams) contains:
- Calories: 39 grams
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7.64 grams
- Sugars: 5.38 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams (0.6% recommended daily value)
- Fiber: 2.27 grams (7.5% recommended daily intake [RDI])
- Calcium: 49.4 milligrams (4.9% RDI)
- Magnesium: 51.5 milligrams (13.5% RDI)
- Potassium: 515 milligrams (18.4% RDI)
Coconut Water Health Benefits
1. Keeps You Hydrated
Coconut water is just that – water! Coconut water contains 94% water and very little fat. Coconut water comes from young, green coconuts, and each young coconut provides around one cup of coconut water. It’s a great way to stay hydrated, as it is packed with electrolytes! In fact, it has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to help aid digestion and promote hydration. The natural sweetness is also a nice change of pace if you’re bored with water but looking to stay hydrated.
2. Aids Digestion
Just one serving of coconut water contains nearly 14% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium, a critical mineral for proper digestion. Magnesium helps muscles contract, and food is brought into the body through a series of muscle contractions in the digestive tract. Magnesium also activates enzymes that help the body absorb and use the macronutrients from foods, such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
3. Promotes Healthy Skin
Dehydration can lead to dry, tight, flaky skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and all organs need water to function optimally. Drinking coconut water can contribute to your daily water intake, and help your skin stay looking youthful and supple. Some coconut water brands also fortify their products with vitamin C, which stimulates the production of collagen, an important player in younger-looking skin.
4. Boosts Weight Loss
Just as plain water has been shown to promote weight loss, so too can coconut water. Proper hydration can help optimize your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the rate at which your body burns calories just by being alive. As noted in the study linked above, participants’ BMR increased by 24–30% within 10 minutes of drinking water. If you’re looking for something sweet but are being mindful of your sugar intake, coconut water is a great option.
Choosing a sweet drink like coconut water ‒ which is low in calories and high in nutrients ‒ helps to crowd out soda and other sugary foods. Crowding out is the IIN concept of adding healthier options into your diet, leaving less room for the not-so-healthy options you may have reached for before.
5. Supports Heart Health
Coconut water has been found to decrease risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Two older studies ‒ one from 2008 and another from 2005 ‒ found that drinking coconut water decreased cholesterol and blood pressure levels, respectively, in participants. More research needs to be done, however, since the bulk of studies has been done on rats ‒ including the 2008 study, which also would require that the average human adult consume 91 ounces of coconut water per day to achieve the same results.
Coconut water contains high levels of potassium, which contributes to heart and circulatory health. Studies on potassium have shown that it can help lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. One serving of coconut water contains a little over 18% of the RDI of potassium (that’s more than one banana’s worth).
6. Helps with Workout Recovery
During and after an intense workout, many of us reach for the standard sports drink to help with recovery and to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Studies have shown that coconut water can work just as well as sports drinks at keeping you hydrated and replenishing fluids and important minerals lost during exercise. Keep in mind that coconut water contains less sodium than traditional sports drinks, so if you’re exercising vigorously for more than an hour, try adding a little bit of salt to your coconut water!
7. Is Full of Micronutrients
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you need only a small amount of daily ‒ but they’re important enough that you should make sure you’re meeting your needs! Coconut water is a great source of calcium, iron, and phosphorus, all of which support your body’s cellular processes and maintain physical health.
8. Can Support Lower Blood Sugar Levels
In a 2015 study, researchers found that when rats with diabetes were treated with coconut water, they maintained better blood sugar levels than the control group and kept their levels more stable in the long term. Another study, from 2021, found that coconut water reduced blood glucose levels and retina damage in diabetic rats.
One reason for this is that coconut water is a good source of magnesium, which is active in the breakdown of glucose during digestion, improving insulin sensitivity in those with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
9. Helps Cure Hangovers
Ever wake up with a pounding head and a dry mouth after a night out? Coconut water to the rescue! These hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration (alcohol is a diuretic, which can cause you to lose more water than you take in). Because coconut water is 94% water and contains electrolytes, it can help expedite recovery time.
Coconut Water Recipes to Try
Double Coconut Rice with Green Lentils
From the Food Network
- 1 cup long-grain brown rice
- 3 cups coconut water
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- ½ cup green lentils
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine brown rice, coconut water, coconut milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and then cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add lentils, stir, and cover again; cook for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
- Turn off heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork and serve immediately.
From IIN grad Marina Sassman
- 1 small apple
- ½ cup of diced mango
- 3 handfuls kale
- The juice of one lemon
- 1 slice green pepper
- 1 tablespoon baobab powder
- 1 tablespoon wheatgrass powder
- 3 ashwagandha capsules
- 4 cups coconut water
- Cut all whole ingredients into small pieces.
- Add fruits and vegetables to blender, along with coconut water.
- Blend to desired consistency.
- Serve as a smoothie; over ice, as a juice; or as a smoothie bowl.
The Bottom Line
Coconut water is a sweet, natural beverage full of electrolytes and essential micronutrients. Drinking coconut water can support you in reaching a variety of health goals, whether it’s keeping your heart healthy, regulating your blood sugar, helping you recover after a workout, or improving your digestion. It’s also a great alternative to both plain tap water and drinks with added sugars.
While coconut water is mostly water, it still contains sugar and carbs that plain water doesn’t. You shouldn’t completely swap out regular water for coconut water – enjoy it in moderation.